Prayer: Boldly Approaching God's Throne

3 - Do You Understand That You Often Do Not Know How to Pray?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
The Christian can no more pray without the direct enabling of the Holy Spirit than he can create a world.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part three of a series of selections from Profiting From the Word by A. W. Pink. Read part two.

Edited by Dr. Paul M. Elliott, president of TeachingTheWord Ministries

The Christian can no more pray without the direct enabling of the Holy Spirit than he can create a world.

In the first and second articles in this series, Arthur Pink dealt with the problem of prayerlessness among Christians. He next turns to a critical fact that every believer must understand as we come before the throne of God: "We know not what we should pray for as we ought." He writes:

We are profited from the Scriptures when we are made to feel that we know not how to pray. "We know not what we should pray for as we ought" (Romans 8:26). How very few professing Christians really believe this! The idea most generally entertained is that people know well enough what they should pray for, only they are careless and wicked, and so fail to pray for what they are fully assured is their duty [i.e., that which is due them as a matter of debt].

But such a conception is at direct variance with this inspired declaration in Romans 8:26. It is to be observed that that flesh-humbling affirmation is made not simply of men in general, but of the saints of God in particular, among which the apostle did not hesitate to include himself: "We know not what we should pray for as we ought." If this be the condition of the regenerate, how much more so of the unregenerate! Yet it is one thing to read and mentally assent to what this verse says, but it is quite another to have an experimental realization of it, for the heart to be made to feel that what God requires from us He must Himself work in and through us.

I often say my prayers,
But do I ever pray?
And do the wishes of my heart
Go with the words I say?
I may as well kneel down
And worship gods of stone,
As offer to the living God
A prayer of words alone.

It is many years since the writer was taught these lines by his mother - now "present with the Lord" - but their searching message still comes home with force to him. The Christian can no more pray without the direct enabling of the Holy Spirit than he can create a world. This must be so, for real prayer is a need awakened within us by the Spirit, so that we ask God, in the name of Christ, for that which is in accord with His holy will.

Pink next makes the point that it is truly unfitting for the Christian to ask for something that he clearly knows is contrary to God's will. For this reason we must be continually "increasing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:10) through the study of His Word, so that our praying may be increasingly conformed to its revelation of His nature, and of His heart for His people.

"If we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us" (1 John 5:14). But to ask something which is not according to God's will is not praying, but presuming. True, God's revealed will is made known in His Word, yet not in such a way as a cook book contains recipes and directions for preparing various dishes. The Scriptures frequently enumerate principles which call for continuous exercise of heart and Divine help to show us their application to different cases and circumstances. Thus we are being profited from the Scriptures when we are taught our deep need of crying "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1), and are actually constrained to entreat Him for the spirit [i.e., the activating principle] of prayer.

Next: Do You Seek the Holy Spirit's Help in Prayer?

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