Edwards and Prayer
Peter BeckPeter serves as assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University where he teaches church history and theology. While serving as senior pastor in Louisville, Ky., he completed his PhD in historic theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His dissertation, The Voice of Faith: Jonathan Edwards's Theology of Prayer, is soon to be published. He, his wife Melanie, and their two kids, Alex (12) and Karis (7), live near Charleston, SC. Peter's goal for his teaching and writing ministries is "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5).
- 2009 Apr 21
Prayer, its power or the lack of it, gives testimony to the vitality and reality of the Christian’s faith. “Prayer,” Jonathan Edwards announced, “is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life.” The Christian has faith. The Christian prays. Otherwise, he is no Christian at all.
For all the truthfulness of Edwards’s observation, many Christians today do not pray as they should. Whether publicly or privately, whether out of a lack of faith or a misunderstanding of it, their hearts remain silent as they withhold the very thing God demands of His people.
Why is that? Are we so embarrassed by the fact that someone else might hear our prayers? Are we concerned that our words are not as eloquent as others? Or, do we not really believe that prayer is such crucial element of the Christian faith? Do we not believe that God hears prayer? Or, do we believe that He doesn’t really answer it.
As in so many other areas of the Christian walk, the outward manifestations of our faith say much about the inward reality. For many Christians, their prayer life reveals a weak and anemic faith.
We would do well to hear the words of Edwards as he admonished his congregation to greater faithfulness in prayer.
“[Prayer] is one of the greatest and most excellent means of nourishing the new nature, and of causing the soul to flourish and prosper. It is an excellent means of keeping up an acquaintance with God, and of growing in knowledge of God. It is a way to a life of communion with God. It is an excellent means of taking off the heart from the vanities of the world and of causing the mind to be conversant in heaven. It is an excellent preservative from sin and the wiles of the devil, and a powerful antidote against the poison of the old serpent. It is a duty whereby strength is derived from God against the lusts and corruptions of the heart, and the snares of the world.
“It hath a great tendency to keep the soul in a wakeful frame, and to lead us to a strict walk with God, and to a life that shall be fruitful in such good works, as tend to adorn the doctrine of Christ, and to cause our light so to shine before others, that they, seeing our good works, shall glorify our Father who is in heaven.”
More than the blessings that prayer holds for believers, prayer is also an act of humble worship before God. In prayer we acknowledge that we are not God, that we are incapable of solving even the most basic of life’s problems. In prayer, we are forced to acknowledge that He alone is God in our lives.
To ignore prayer altogether is to “live like atheists or like brute creatures,” as Edwards saw it, to “live as if there were no God.” Such inaction and ingratitude belies the true nature of the soul and denies God the glory due him.
Let me encourage to redouble your efforts in prayer. Seek God’s face. Hide yours. Humble yourself and approach His throne with empty hands and full faith. Give Him the glory He deserves by allowing Him to be God over every circumstance in your life.