When answers to our prayers tarry, while the temptation to give up increases, it’s a great encouragement to read these words of the Apostle Paul reiterating the teaching of Jesus to “always pray and never give up!”
The call to watch and pray is strongly encouraged throughout the Bible as a safeguard against evil, particularly at times when there is a sense of urgency and/or an awareness of being vulnerable.
“In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” Psalm 5:3 NAS
David, the shepherd, psalmist and king of the Old Testament, is the author of this remarkable declaration. In it he reveals the secret to a consistent, energized prayer life. The secret is contained in his use of the word “order” to describe the manner in which he prays. There is something compelling about the way David ordered or arranged his prayer time that drew him back again and again with genuine expectancy. That coupled with his enjoyment of God’s presence led him to make a commitment to daily take his place before God to watch and pray.
So what is it about his choice of the word “order” to describe his prayer that led to such an eager commitment to daily watch and pray? The Hebrew word of order, “arak” means “to arrange” or “set in order.” In other places in scripture it is used to describe how they built an altar, arranged wood to light a fire and/or arranged the offering on the altar. It is also used to describe the way in which the showbread was to be arranged and presented to God on the table in the Holy Place. (Exodus 40:4) And it is used in reference to the setting forth in order of a legal case. (Job 13:18)
Order is one of the first principles instituted by God at creation. It is a means by which God initiates and establishes His purposes in the earth. Most notably we see it in His creation of day and night, seed time and harvest and His institution through the Sinai covenant of the tabernacle, system of sacrifices and prescribed approach of the High Priest into the Holy of Holies.
Given the thoughtful and logical way in which things can be ordered, what then does it mean to order ones prayer? I believe the ordering of David’s prayer had to do with his choice of key elements of prayer and an intentional arrangement of their sequence to bring him into the presence of God. From a study of his life we can identify at least five things that David did when he prayed that illustrate this intentional arrangement of his prayer time to insure its vibrancy.
The salient question “Why pray?” though not unfamiliar to a rational non-religious person, has also not surprisingly crossed the minds or slipped from the lips of a believer. Truth be told, because prayer in a measure is cloaked in mystery there are times when even the most devout believer can question its efficacy if not its necessity.
It is therefore worth documenting, from the life and teaching of Jesus, both for believer and unbeliever alike, the three main reasons why prayer is a non-negotiable necessity. Why pray? – here’s the answer.
And Jesus began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of robbers.’” Mark 11:17
The context in which Jesus said this was during His historic cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem which took place the very week leading up to His eventual betrayal and crucifixion. He had just driven out all the merchants and money changers. The teeming crowds gathered there in preparation for Passover were doubtless standing in stunned silence, astonished at the demonstrative way in which the great, revered teacher had underscored His point. He made two extraordinary statements. First He declared that the Temple was His house, a claim which if made by any other person would be blasphemy. And second He insisted that His house’s salient, defining purpose was to be a house of prayer.
Several days later, that agonizing night in the Garden of Gethsemane, He issued a similar call to prayer to His own disciples. “Could you not watch with me one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38)
The problem of prayerlessness, both in corporate worship settings and in the private devotional lives of individuals is very much with us yet today.