The Privilege of Prayer

“The idea that prayer is not essential is one of Satan’s most successful devices to ruin souls. Prayer is addressing the mind to God, the Fountain of wisdom, the Source of strength and peace and happiness. Prayer includes acknowledgment of the divine perfections, gratitude for mercies received, penitential confession of sins, and earnest entreaty for the blessing of God, both for ourselves and for others. Jesus prayed to the Father with strong crying and tears. Paul exhorts believers to ‘pray without ceasing’ (I Thessalonians 5:17). ‘In everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God’ (Philippians 4:6). ‘Pray one for another,’ says James. ‘The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much’ (James 5:16). God has a right to command our devotions; His authority is sacred and unquestionable. We are under obligation to pray because He requires it; and in obeying His requirements we shall receive a gracious and precious reward.” The Signs of the Times, August 7, 1884.

“Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!, That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne, Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief, My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the tempters snare, By thy return sweet hour of prayer.

“Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer! Thy wings shall my petition bear,
To Him whose truth and faithfulness, Engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since He bids me seek His face, Believe His word, and trust His grace,
I’ll cast on Him my every care, And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer.

“Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer! May I thy consolation share,
Till from Mount Pisgah’s lofty height, I view my home and take my flight.
In my immortal flesh I’ll rise, To seize the everlasting prize,
And shout while passing through the air, ‘Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer!’ ”

William W. Walford, 1845

When we think of the meaning of the words to this beautiful hymn above, we may well say it is no wonder that the apostle Paul exhorted us to “Pray without ceasing.” I Thessalonians 5:17. “Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him.” Steps to Christ, 93.

Prayer is a vital part of our religious privilege and duty. It is a privilege to be able to go into the presence of the Creator, the mighty Ruler of the universe. Though we are sinful and fallen, He reaches out His arms and invites us to talk with Him, to learn of Him, to listen to His instruction, to commune with Him. Yet, it is also a duty. Gospel Workers, 254, 255, states it like this: “Prayer is the breath of the soul. It is the secret of spiritual power. No other means of grace can be substituted, and the health of the soul be preserved. Prayer brings the heart into immediate contact with the Well-spring of life.” Jesus said in John 4:14, “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Prayer “strengthens the sinew and muscle of the religious experience. Neglect the exercise of prayer, or engage in prayer spasmodically, now and then, as seems convenient, and you lose your hold on God. The spiritual faculties lose their vitality, the religious experience lacks health and vigor.” Ibid., 255.

When to Pray –

“Pray without ceasing.” I Thessalonians 5:17. “Without unceasing prayer and diligent watching we are in danger of growing careless and of deviating from the right path. The adversary seeks continually to obstruct the way to the mercy seat, that we may not by earnest supplication and faith obtain grace and power to resist temptation.” Steps to Christ, 95.

First thing in the morning, before you do anything else, pray. “When you rise in the morning, kneel at your bedside, and ask God to give you strength to fulfill the duties of the day, and to meet its temptations. Ask Him to help you to bring into your work Christ’s sweetness of character. Ask Him to help you to speak words that will inspire those around you with hope and courage, and draw you nearer to the Saviour.” Sons and Daughters of God, 199.

“If we would develop a character which God can accept, we must form correct habits in our religious life. Daily prayer is as essential to growth in grace, and even to spiritual life itself, as is temporal food to physical well-being. We should accustom ourselves to lift the thoughts often to God in prayer. If the mind wanders, we must bring it back; by persevering effort, habit will finally make it easy. We cannot for one moment separate ourselves from Christ with safety. We may have His presence to attend us at every step, but only by observing the conditions which He Himself has laid down.” The Sanctified Life, 93.

“In the work of heart-keeping we must be instant in prayer, unwearied in petitioning the throne of grace for assistance. Those who take the name of Christian should come to God in earnestness and humility, pleading for help. The Saviour has told us to pray without ceasing. The Christian can not always be in the position of prayer, but his thoughts and desires can always be upward. Our self-confidence would vanish, did we talk less and pray more.” The Youth’s Instructor, March 5, 1903. As we attend to our daily activities we can be in an attitude of prayer.

How to Pray –

“Go to your closet, and there alone plead with God. … Be in earnest, be sincere. Fervent prayer availeth much. Jacoblike, wrestle in prayer. Agonize. Jesus, in the garden, sweat great drops of blood; you must make an effort. Do not leave your closet until you feel strong in God; then watch, and just as long as you watch and pray you can keep these evil besetments under, and the grace of God can and will appear in you.” God’s Amazing Grace, 318.

“God will be to us everything we will let Him be. Our languid, half-hearted prayers will not bring us returns from heaven. Oh, we need to press our petitions! Ask in faith, wait in faith, receive in faith, rejoice in hope, for everyone that seeketh findeth. Be in earnest in the matter. Seek God with all the heart. People put soul and earnestness into everything they undertake in temporal things, until their efforts are crowned with success. With intense earnestness learn the trade of seeking the rich blessings that God has promised, and with persevering, determined effort you shall have His light and His truth and His rich grace.” Our High Calling, 131. Make note of the words describing how we are to pray. We are to plead, to be earnest, be sincere, fervent. We are to wrestle in prayer, to agonize, and all this with patience. We are to ask in faith, to pray with all the heart, and with all the soul.

Where to Pray

“We should pray in the family circle. …

“Pray in your closet.” Steps to Christ, 98. To pray with our families includes our church families, and we are to pray by ourselves. But the principle goes even further. Steps to Christ, 99, gives us this instruction: “There is no time or place in which it is inappropriate to offer up a petition to God. There is nothing that can prevent us from lifting up our hearts in the spirit of earnest prayer. In the crowds of the street, in the midst of a business engagement, we may send up a petition to God and plead for divine guidance, as did Nehemiah when he made his request before King Artaxerxes. A closet of communion may be found wherever we are. We should have the door of the heart open continually and our invitation going up that Jesus may come and abide as a heavenly guest in the soul.”

What to Pray –

Yes, we are even instructed what we are to pray for. As our Creator, and with His deep love for us, He has left out nothing from His words necessary to lead us to salvation. This includes our prayers. “The whole being must hunger and thirst after righteousness. The soul’s desire must be to be drawn to God, to be bent in perfect conformity to His will. Then the cold, hard heart will be melted by the grace and love of God, which will appear in power.” The Southern Review, December 5, 1899.

“If you feel in no danger, and if you offer no prayer for help and strength to resist temptations, you will be sure to go astray; your neglect of duty will be marked in the book of God in heaven, and you will be found wanting in the trying day.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 364. We must see our need, and then pray for assistance.

“When we pray for earthly blessings, the answer to our prayer may be delayed, or God may give us something other than we ask, but not so when we ask for deliverance from sin. It is His will to cleanse us from sin, to make us His children, and to enable us to live a holy life. Christ ‘gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father’ (Galatians 1:4). And ‘this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him’ (I John 5:14, 15). ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (I John 1:9).

“No sooner does the child of God approach the mercy seat than he becomes the client of the great Advocate. At his first utterance of penitence and appeal for pardon Christ espouses his case and makes it His own, presenting the supplication before His Father as His own request.” Prayer, 238, 239. [Emphasis added.] Jesus is in the “true tabernacle” (Hebrews 8:2) of heaven, pleading for you, and we must approach Him there.

“Tell Jesus your wants in the sincerity of your soul. You are not required to hold a long controversy with, or preach a sermon to, God, but with a heart of sorrow for your sins, say, ‘Save me, Lord, or I perish.’ There is hope for such souls. They will seek, they will ask, they will knock, and they will find. When Jesus has taken away the burden of sin that is crushing the soul, you will experience the blessedness of the peace of Christ.

“As, seeing the sinfulness of sin, we fall helpless before the cross, asking forgiveness and strength, our prayer is heard and answered. Those who present their petitions to God in Christ’s name will never be turned away. The Lord says, ‘Him that cometh to Me I will in nowise cast out’ (John 6:37). ‘He will regard the prayer of the destitute’ (Psalm 102:17). Our help comes from Him who holds all things in His hands. The peace that He sends is the assurance of His love to us.” Ibid., 239.

“The Lord will recognize every effort you make to reach His ideal for you. When you make a failure, when you are betrayed into sin, do not feel that you cannot pray, that you are not worthy to come before the Lord. ‘My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’ (I John 2:1). With outstretched arms He waits to welcome the prodigal. Go to Him, and tell Him about your mistakes and failures. Ask Him to strengthen you for fresh endeavor. He will never disappoint you, never abuse your confidence.” Messages to Young People, 97. So even if we sin, Jesus wants us to come to Him. It is only through Him that we can gain the power to overcome.

We gain that strength through the power of prayer. “If you offer no prayer for help and strength to resist temptations, you will be sure to go astray.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 364.

Talk with God about daily needs. He cares for us. He loves us. He is concerned about everything in our daily lives. “Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. ‘The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy’ (James 5:11). His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. ‘He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds’ (Psalm 147:3). The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son.

“Jesus said, ‘Ye shall ask in My name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father Himself loveth you.’ ‘I have chosen you: … that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you’ (John 16:26, 27; 15:16). But to pray in the name of Jesus is something more than a mere mention of that name at the beginning and the ending of a prayer. It is to pray in the mind and spirit of Jesus, while we believe His promises, rely upon His grace, and work His works.” Steps to Christ, 100, 101.

To sum up this point, we are told to pray for help to resist temptation, for deliverance from sin, for pardon and forgiveness, and then we also have the privilege to pray about our daily, temporal lives. He invites us to tell Him our wants, joys, sorrows, cares, fears, our perplexities. And we have the promise, the divine, never-failing promise that He hears and will answer according to our best good. What a God of love.

Why Pray? –

There are too many reasons to cover them all, but first of all, we should give God thanks for all the things He has done for us, first and foremost of which is the great sacrifice made on our behalf. Is there anything that can compare with the plan of salvation? When we recognize where we would be without that, it should leave us in a position of heartfelt gratitude.

“If we keep the Lord ever before us, allowing our hearts to go out in thanksgiving and praise to Him, we shall have a continual freshness in our religious life. Our prayers will take the form of a conversation with God as we would talk with a friend. He will speak His mysteries to us personally. Often there will come to us a sweet, joyful sense of the presence of Jesus. Often our hearts will burn within us as He draws nigh to commune with us as He did with Enoch. When this is in truth the experience of the Christian, there is seen in his life a simplicity, a humility, meekness, and lowliness of heart, that show to all with whom he associates that he has been with Jesus and learned of Him.” Conflict and Courage, 30.

“Shall not the people of God more frequently have holy convocations in which to thank God for His rich blessings? Shall we not find time in which to praise Christ for His rest, peace, and joy; and make manifest by daily thanksgiving that we appreciate the great sacrifice made in our behalf, that we may be partakers of the divine nature?” Australasian Union Conference Record, November 17, 1913.

Another important reason to pray is for protection from the great deceiver, Satan. Even Jesus in His model prayer taught His disciples to say, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). We are no match for the prince of darkness without Divine help.

“The darkness of the evil one encloses those who neglect to pray. The whispered temptations of the enemy entice them to sin; and it is all because they do not make use of the privileges that God has given them in the divine appointment of prayer. Why should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence? Without unceasing prayer and diligent watching we are in danger of growing careless and of deviating from the right path. The adversary seeks continually to obstruct the way to the mercy seat, that we may not by earnest supplication and faith obtain grace and power to resist temptation.” Steps to Christ, 94, 95.

“Daily beset by temptation, constantly opposed by the leaders of the people, Christ knew that He must strengthen His humanity by prayer. In order to be a blessing to men, He must commune with God, pleading for energy, perseverance, and steadfastness. Thus He showed His disciples where His strength lay.” Counsels To Parents, Teachers, and Students, 323.

And the last “why” that we have is the need to pray for divine enlightenment to understand God’s word. Remember, Jesus said that spiritual things are spiritually discerned. “If men would but study the Book of God with earnest prayer that they might understand it, they would not be left in darkness to receive false doctrines. But as they reject the truth they fall a prey to deception.” The Great Controversy, 524.

Conditions of Answered Prayer –

“We give evidence of the sincerity of our prayers by the earnestness of our endeavors to answer them, to overcome the sins which strive for a place in the life. Our prayers will be ineffectual unless we continually strive to correct that which is wrong and unlovely in our lives. If we ask God to work for us, and then make no effort to conquer self, our prayers will rise no higher than our heads. God helps those who co-operate with him. We can obtain forgiveness only through the blood of Christ. His atoning sacrifice is all-powerful. But in the struggle for immortality we have a part to act. Christ will help those who pray and then watch unto prayer. He calls upon us to use every power He has given us in the warfare against sin. We can never be saved in inactivity and idleness. We might as well look for a harvest from seed which we have not sown, and for knowledge where we have not studied, as to expect salvation without making an effort. It is our part to wrestle against the evil tendencies of the natural heart.” The Youth’s Instructor, March 5, 1903. [Emphasis added.]

Alone, we are no match against evil and Satan. Recognizing our need we must pray for Divine help.

“There are certain conditions upon which we may expect that God will hear and answer our prayers. One of the first of these is that we feel our need of help from Him. He has promised, ‘I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground’ (Isaiah 44:3). Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, who long after God, may be sure that they will be filled. The heart must be open to the Spirit’s influence, or God’s blessing cannot be received.” Steps to Christ, 95.

“If we regard iniquity in our hearts, if we cling to any known sin, the Lord will not hear us; but the prayer of the penitent, contrite soul is always accepted. When all known wrongs are righted, we may believe that God will answer our petitions. Our own merit will never commend us to the favor of God; it is the worthiness of Jesus that will save us, His blood that will cleanse us; yet we have a work to do in complying with the conditions of acceptance.” Steps to Christ, 95, 96. [Emphasis added.] If we want our prayers answered, we must be certain that we have no sin standing between us and God. Make sure your record is clean before Him.

Pray with Faith –

“ ‘He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him’ (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus said to His disciples, ‘What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them’ (Mark 11:24). Do we take Him at His word?” Steps to Christ, 96.

Perseverance in Prayer –

“We must pray always if we would grow in faith and experience. We are to be ‘instant in prayer,’ to ‘continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving’ (Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2). Peter exhorts believers to be ‘sober, and watch unto prayer’ (I Peter 4:7). Paul directs, ‘In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God’ (Philippians 4:6). ‘But ye, beloved,’ says Jude, ‘praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God’ (Jude 20, 21). Unceasing prayer is the unbroken union of the soul with God, so that life from God flows into our life; and from our life, purity and holiness flow back to God. …

Diligence in Prayer –

“Make every effort to keep open the communion between Jesus and your own soul. Seek every opportunity to go where prayer is wont to be made. Those who are really seeking for communion with God will be seen in the prayer meeting, faithful to do their duty and earnest and anxious to reap all the benefits they can gain. They will improve every opportunity of placing themselves where they can receive the rays of light from heaven.” Steps to Christ, 97, 98.

Always remember, “Prayer is the breath of the soul. It is the secret of spiritual power.” Gospel Workers, 254.

Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She may be contacted by email at: