Principles of Prayer
by Francis Foulkes ©


2. God as Creator and Sustainer

"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth"

Although the world has many atheists who deny the reality of God completely, and many agnostics who suggest that we cannot know whether there is a God or not, countless people have found it hard to imagine that this amazing universe in which we live could exist as it is apart from an incredibly wise and powerful Creator. In Law and Prophets and Psalms in the Old Testament the conviction is expressed that the God who has addressed humanity in his word and who is to be addressed in prayer is indeed Creator of all things. Prayer is constantly addressed as to the One "who made heaven and earth,. the sea, and all things is in them" (Ps.146:6). We read in Isaiah 37:15-20 of Hezekiah's prayer when the country faced the Assyrian invasion, and he lifted his heart to the one whom he knew as the Creator of heaven and earth. Isaiah 40:27-28 speaks of him as the Creator who never faints nor grows weary, but "gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless". When the early Christians prayed in a time of threatened persecution with strong forces against them, they addressed God as "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them" (Acts 4:24).

Nor is this God simply the One who made all things from the beginning. He is the One who continues to be the Sustainer of all and Provider for all. He is the Giver of every good gift (Jas. 1:17). And because he is Creator and Sustainer of all that is, there is no limit to his power. In this spirit we have the words of Jeremiah 32:27, "See, I am, the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me?" Many of the names of God in the Bible in fact express both his power and his beneficence. He is refuge and strength, a stronghold for those who rely on him (Jer.16:19). He is the hope of his people (Jer.17:13).

The conviction is also expressed in the Scriptures in relation to prayer, that God is the Lord of history, ultimately in control of the world that he has made. When Daniel (2:20-23) prayed to God for wisdom to tell the king's dream, he was conscious of the reality of praying to the Lord of history, the Giver of all wisdom and power. His kingdom he knew to be an everlasting kingdom (Daniel 4:3, 34, 6:26 and 7:14). Moreover, all his ways are truth and justice (Dan.4:37). No human forces are able to prevail against God, and so his people can come to him with confidence (2 Chron. 20:6, 32:7-8). To rely on the Lord is to realise the way to prevail against whatever odds there are opposed to the will of God (2 Chron.16:7-8). Many prayers begin with the acknowledgment of who God is, how great his power, both as Creator of all and as Deliverer. Jeremiah 32:17-19 is a sustained example of this, as the prophet recalls what God has done in the past, but first he says, "Ah Lord God! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. You show steadfast love to the thousandth generation ---. O great and mighty God whose name is the Lord of hosts, great in counsel and mighty in deed; whose eyes are open to all the ways of mortals --."

It follows in particular in the Old Testament that because God is Creator and Sustainer, prayer can be made for God's blessing on the land (as in Deut.26:15, 33:13-16). In this spirit we today can pray for seasonable weather and for the rain that our country needs, but in relation to these things we must put ourselves in the hand of God for him to provide as and when he sees best. The lessons of Scripture are that we should never fail to recognise our dependence on God for the gifts of creation, whether we think of ourselves as individuals or belonging to a people or nation. Prayer for blessing on an individual's life (as in Ruth 2:20, :11-12) is a looking to God as the Creator and Giver of every good gift. We should see in the same way the prayer for the gift of children (as in 1 Sam. 1:11, 17 and 2:20), and behind this also we should see the prayer for the provision of a marriage partner (as in Ruth 1:8-9).