Prayer Is Not Enough!
If I regard iniquity in my heart,
the Lord will not hear. Psalm 66:18
It is not how many people pray and how many hours they spend praying that is given the emphasis in Scriptures. Rather, the emphasis is on who is praying and how he is praying!
"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." (Matthew 6:5-8)
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. (James 5:16b-18)
...who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear ... (Hebrews 5:7)
Moses and Aaron were among His priests, and Samuel was among those who called upon His name; they called upon the Lord, and He answered them. He spoke to them in the cloudy pillar; they kept His testimonies and the ordinance He gave them. You answered them, O Lord our God; You were to them God-Who-Forgives, though You took vengeance on their deeds. (Psalm 99:6-8)
As this passage shows, it is not so much how many people pray - which is so often where the stress is placed in calls for prayer and intercession today; neither is it on how many hours are set aside for this.
The emphasis is on who is praying. And even then, the Lord once had to say:
"Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people. Cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth." (Jeremiah 15:1)
As these verses so forcefully show, the scriptural weight is placed, not on the length and number of prayers, but on the intensity and quality of them; not on how many pray, but rather on who is praying.
The fervent prayer of the righteous avails much; the emphasis is on the character of the one who is praying and the fervency and quality of his prayer, not on the quantity as is emphasized so much all over the world nowadays.
Yet prayer, however important, is not the only solution to the world's problems - righteous living is!
"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear my prayers" writes the Psalmist. And Isaiah says:
"When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies-- I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.
"Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow." (Isaiah 1:12-17)
"Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet; tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching God.
'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?' "In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exploit all your laborers. Indeed you fast for strife and debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, to make your voice heard on high. Is it a fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? "Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' "If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail." (Isaiah 58:1-11)
As someone once told me: for many Christians, prayer has become an escape from, or substitute for, doing something about the very situation they pray about so much! We heap up prayer upon prayer, establish prayer houses, host prayer conferences etc, and then think we have done what we can to change the situation.
This is far from the reality presented in the Bible. Prayer should not be an escape from our own responsibility or a substitute for acting under the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit and command. Rather, prayer should lead us into the very acts and exploits for our God.
May God use us all more and more to be the trusted worshipers and warriors who seek Him in spirit and in truth; that we may see His mercy prevail both in our lives as well as in our nations and communities, and especially on His beloved nation Israel!
Jan Willem van der Hoeven, Director
International Christian Zionist Center