Principles of Prayer
by Francis Foulkes ©


"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!"
(Ephesians 3:20-21)
'Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer the sublimest strains that reach
The majesty on high.

Prayer is the Christian's vital breath,
The Christian's native air,
His watchword at the gates of death;
He enters heaven with prayer.

O Thou by whom we come to God,
The Life, the Truth, the Way!
The path of prayer Thyself has trod;
Lord, teach us how to pray.'
(James Montgomery)

Any place is a place for prayer. Any time is a time for prayer. Prayer can be deeply personal, or one can joins hands with another to pray, or with a thousand others in praise and prayer. As soon as a little child can be taught of God, that child can be taught to pray. And how beautiful - and powerful - the prayers of a child can be. For when Jesus taught that we must become as children to enter the kingdom of God (Matt.18:3), at least part of his meaning was the call to us to have the simple trustfulness and the acceptance of help that a child displays.

Prayer is infinitely appropriate to all the stages of life. Happy the young person who goes through the stages of growth and the turbulence of teen-age years with the recognition of God as Source of life and meaning and purpose. The challenge and the decisions of manhood and womanhood are faced in no way comparable to the way of prayerful reliance on God and seeking to discover and carry out God's good and perfect will. When age deprives one of the more obvious opportunities of work and service, the way of prayer is still open. So 1 Timothy 5:5 describes the godly widow in her old age as one who "puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pay and to ask God for help". And in the end what better than to repeat the prayer that was on the Saviour's own lips as he died, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Lk.23:46).

In answer to Jesus' disciples question, "Lord, teach us to pray", greater lessons were given in that ten-clause prayer than in thousands of books on prayer written since (Lk.11:1-4). And his life bore out his teaching, a life lived from day to day in prayer dependence on "the Father in heaven" (1).

The early Church was born in prayer (Acts 1:14 and 2:42), and the Acts of the Apostles shows how it sought guidance and strength for its mission and courage in persecution by turning to God in prayer. Like the Psalms in the Old Testament, the prayers of the Epistles guide and inspire our praying. And when in the Book of Revelation we read of "a door opened in heaven" (Rev.4:1), we are permitted to hear the prayers of the church on earth transformed into the praise in heaven of the "great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language" ascribing salvation, and "wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength" to their God for ever and ever (Rev. 7:9-11).

Scripture, as we have seen, is replete with lessons on prayer, attitudes in prayer, objects of prayer, priorities in prayer. Ours is a great and gracious God who, through the messengers of his word, constantly invites us to pray, and has made our way of access through the redeeming work of his Son. Come humbly we must. Come penitently we must. Come frankly we may. And come trustfully we can, supported by the experience of men and women and girls and boys all down the ages and all over the world.

Negatively, we must recognise what vast potential for living we forfeit when we fail to turn to God in prayer. Positively, because God has so ordained, 'prayer moves the hands of him who moves the world.' We have a living and loving God who hears and answers prayer, and that "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." Moreover, he does this, not by forces external to ourselves but "according to his power that is at work within us." This is the greatness and glory of humanity in Christ. This is the potential and privilege of the Church. So "to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!" (Ephesians 3:20-21) Praise, all praise to our glorious God!