Prayer and the Word of God: Two Things Mentioned Together

 •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Prayer and the Word of God are frequently mentioned together in the gospels and epistles. Their importance cannot be too forcibly impressed upon the saints. The writer does not doubt that very many are far more diligent in this respect than himself, but he is encouraged to make the following remarks, being assured that those who are the most earnest in prayer and the study of the Word will be the foremost to approve of and have communion with anything that may tend to remind the saints of the importance, or lead them on to the more diligent observance, of these things.
They are, as remarked above, often mentioned together in Scripture. When the Word of God joins together things in themselves distinct the one from the other, it is not only important to notice the things themselves, but also to notice the connection in which they are found. Thus it is with faith and love—the former to the Lord, the latter to the saints. There may be those who believe they are walking in the path of faith who are aware that their actions are not those which result from love to all the saints. Scripture in joining faith and love together, as in Eph. 1:1515Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, (Ephesians 1:15), Col. 1:44Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, (Colossians 1:4), 1 John 3:2323And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. (1 John 3:23), and other passages, teaches us the value of having this relationship ever present to our thoughts. The two are set together in the Word, and cannot be separated.
When a person is converted, the fruit resulting from the divine nature is manifested by this love, as in 1 John 3:1414We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. (1 John 3:14); "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." All is simple and happy when there is the first love; Christ Himself occupies the heart, and love to those whom He loves is the result of the heart being thus occupied. The fruit of this love is the service which the believer so joyfully renders to his brethren for the sake of Christ; but after a time when there are trials and sufferings which result not only from our position here as strangers and pilgrims, but also from our relationship with the saints, the believer, while continuing in the service to which the Lord had originally called him, is in danger of losing the freshness of this love to the saints. But love to the saints cannot be separated from faith in the Lord; neither is there danger of the former being confounded with brotherly affection, while 1 John 5:22By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. (1 John 5:2), "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments," is abiding in us.
In like manner as faith and love are joined together, so also prayer and the Word of God are joined together. From among the passages where prayer and the Word thus occur, I quote the three following; namely, Acts 6:44But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:4); Luke, end of chapter 10 and commencement of chapter 11; and Eph. 6:17, 1817And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; (Ephesians 6:17‑18).
The first occurs at a memorable epoch in the history of the assembly of God here upon earth. Acts 6 makes mention of the first failure collectively of the saints. Individual sin had occurred in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, but now the change from the freshness and devotedness of chapters 2 and 4 begins to mark the saints in their collective character. How sad this scene! The blessed Lord had suffered, had been crucified, had risen from among the dead, and ascended on high; thence He had shed forth the Holy Ghost, the power that wrought in His disciples, so as to make them vessels of testimony in Jerusalem, both for the conversion of thousands and also for bringing home to the consciences of rulers and people that there was a power in these witnesses which was superior to all the power that was of the world; the apostles were faithful, the blessing was abundant, the proof that the Lord was working with them was manifested to the least as well as to the most spiritual (Acts 4:3131And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)), and yet, with all this grace and privilege before their eyes, there was murmuring among some as regarded the manner of serving the food. Even in early days how soon thoughts similar to those which influence man in his natural state entered into and had power over the minds of those who were the first fruits of the grace of God and the work of Christ.
The attack of the enemy, as is ever the case, was directed against those who were the foremost in the battle, for from verse 2 it is clear that the apostles themselves were to be taken from their hitherto glorious testimony to Christ in heaven in order to bestow their time and labor upon that which might serve to lessen the murmurings of saints on earth. Wisdom was given to the apostles to meet the danger and to still the murmurings: "Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables." v. 2. And again, "But we will give ourselves continually. to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." v. 4. If in these early days prayer and the ministry of the Word was needed for the work, how needful in these days that, although occupied in the daily business engagements of this life (engagements doubtless for the most part necessary), the earnest Christian will, when such engagements are fulfilled, find time for prayer and reading the Word. He is thus refreshed and strengthened, and keeps fresh in his own spirit, while performing that which appertains to his calling to perform; but when the energy of his first love is tested by time, there is a danger of his gradually ceasing this habit of prayer and study of the Word, and at length he may find himself passing day after day, and the Bible hardly looked at; and even where the reading and prayer with the family continues, he is aware that, though the form is the same, the freshness and power is gone. What is the remedy? Let him judge himself, and he will find he will again have recourse to prayer and the Word, the former making him humbly feel his dependence from moment to moment upon God, and the latter ministering to him refreshment and strength in his own soul. Again, as regards the assemblies of the saints: sometimes after years of testimony and blessing, the work in its active form ceases, the older saints leave the world, and their places are not supplied by others; the attendances at the meetings for reading the Word and prayer diminish, and the meetings themselves are at length discontinued. The light is no
longer the same in the village or town. And why is this? The answer given is, "Because there are
so few who attend." But this is no reason why the two or more who desire to go on with prayer and the Word of God should not habitually continue to meet together. The failure in such cases is owing to our thoughts being more occupied with the things which are seen than with the things which are not seen. Matt. 18:1919Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 18:19) shows us that two are enough for prayer, and experience has often shown the earnest Christian how much blessing can be obtained in reading the Word alone or with but one other Christian.
The second occasion of this joining together of the Word and prayer is in Luke 10 and 11. In Luke 10, while Martha serves, it is her sister Mary, who sits at the feet of Jesus and hears His word. When Martha complains of her sister's leaving her to do all the work alone, the Lord replies, "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." Immediately afterward, in chapter 11, the Lord is in prayer, and the disciples ask Him to teach them also to pray; thereupon He teaches them the prayer so well known to all: "Our Father which art in heaven," etc. This prayer commences with the desire for the glory of the Father before any mention is made of the wants of those who are the objects of His love; and thus we have another lesson as regards these things—first, that to listen to the Word is choosing the "good part," and second, that in our prayers the glory of the Father and the Son should ever take precedence of those things of which we have need while here.
The third and last portion of the Word referred to above, is Eph. 6:17, 1817And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; (Ephesians 6:17‑18). In Acts 6 it was the work upon earth; here it is the combat in the heavenly places. For this contest the Christian requires the whole armor of God; first, to escape the wiles of the enemy (v. 11), and afterward, to oppose him in the combat (v. 13). The different weapons for this warfare are enumerated in verses 14, 15, 16, and 17; all are defensive except the one mentioned last—'`The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." v. 17. But as soon as the saint, being completely equipped for defense, receives the Word of God, immediately prayer is mentioned. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." v. 18.
Thus we have the Word of God and prayer set before us in close
relationship together again and again in the blessed testimony which God has been pleased to give us. There are other passages where they are joined together, but I give only the number three, being the full number given by Scripture itself for testimony to the truth (2 Cor. 13:11This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. (2 Corinthians 13:1)).
I add some remarks, however, as to verse 105 of Psalm 119. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." This is sometimes wrongly quoted as a light to the feet and a lamp to the path. The difference is important, the Word of God being a light for the whole course of the believer, and a lamp for each particular step that he should take. The darker the night, the more valuable the light which a wayfarer sees in the distance, and to which his steps are directed, the more valuable also the lamp which gives him guidance for each step. The lamp warns him of dangers which are between him and the light, and it may be necessary for him to stop or alter the course for a time, to avoid some snare or pit in the path, but as soon as the lamp shows that the direct course toward the light may again be taken, the wayfarer makes straight for the light. But the light and the lamp are not valued except when there is darkness; on a clear moonlight night they may not be needed. But as regards the Word it is otherwise; for the Word is always needed by the believer, and the darkness is always here, whatever light the Christian himself may be given for his own path. Happily for us, the darkness is passing away, and the true light already shines (1 John 2:88Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. (1 John 2:8)), but now is the time when darkness is upon the world (1 Thess. 5:77For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:7)), and even the Christian may be in a state and a condition very similar to that of those who are in darkness (Eph. 5:1414Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. (Ephesians 5:14)). Hence the value of the Word as the lamp for our feet, and the light for our path.
But for the believer there is another thing needed; that is, dependence. Though he may have the lamp and the light, yet in a pathway full of snares, pits, and other dangers, he needs the aid and strength of Him who knows every portion of the path (Heb. 4:15, 1615For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15‑16)). Hence the importance of prayer.
Prayer is the expression of our dependence, and the Word is the weapon which overcomes the enemy (Luke 4:1-131And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. 3And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. 4And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. 5And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. 7If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. 8And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 9And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: 10For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: 11And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 12And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 13And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. (Luke 4:1‑13) John 2:1414And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: (John 2:14)).