Principles of Prayer
by Francis Foulkes ©


1. The character of God

"In your name we come"
(2 Chron.14:11)

On the basis of what we know of God we came to him. We come to God as children to a Father, as worshippers to a Deity, as subjects to a King, as servants to a Master, as beggars to a Benefactor, as sinners to a Saviour, as pilgrims to a Guide. What we know of the revealed character of God affects our thinking about prayer. On the basis of such understanding of God we pray. R.E.Clements puts it that prayer `is regarded as the most natural, and yet also as the most intensely personal and direct way in which the benefits and privileges of a knowledge of God impinge on human lives'.(4)

The grace of God, the power of God, the love of God, the wisdom of God, the holiness of God, the faithfulness of God, are at the heart of the understanding we have. Such is the basis of the biblical promises relating to prayer, and so those who pray can be regarded as those who remind the Lord of his promises (Isa.62:6-7). Those words "in your name we come" were the plea of King Asa facing powerful enemies (2 Chron.14:11) - `in the name' meaning `because of the known character of God', the One ready to help those who turn to him in humble dependence.

Sometimes we see as opposite ends of the spectrum the grace and the holiness of God. The Bible helps us to see both as equally parts of the character of God, and a growing understanding should help us to see the two not as opposites but as belonging closely together. His holiness - which spells both his apartness and his hatred of all that is evil - is not contradictory to his grace and love, even if only because it is for our highest good that we reject and are freed from all evil. Sometimes the Bible stresses the holiness, as Moses by Horeb was made aware of it (Ex.3:1-12), Isaiah in the temple (Isa.6:1-5) and Peter by the lakeside (Lk.5:1-10). So we need sometimes to be specially mindful of the holiness of the Lord to whom we come, but we can always do so with an awareness also of his grace. And when we are most aware of the grace that enables us to approach our God with boldness, we should remain mindful also of his holiness. The Bible speaks of Moses knowing an intimacy with God that could be likened to conversation "to a friend" (Ex.33:11), but there were times when he was deeply aware of the holiness of God (Ex.19).

From the standpoint of the Bible prayer to other deities is not true prayer, both because there is no revelation of their nature, and because there is only one living God and Lord who can hear and answer prayer. So the Old Testament contrasts repeatedly (as in such passages as Psalm 135:15-18 and Isaiah 44) the worship of idols and the attempt to depend on a plurality of gods on the one hand, and reliance on the living God as revealed to Israel on the other. Yahweh, whom Israel had been led to know, was a God utterly dependable and faithful, acting always according to his very nature, and not capricious as many other peoples saw their gods.