Grace and Prayer
In this post, we will tackle an important question that many Christians ask when they are introduced to grace and prayer. Grace posits that everything that we receive from God is because of God’s grace and not because of anything that we do. Everything good that God does, he does because of his grace and because he finds pleasure to do so. He doesn’t do anything because of our great obedience or our great prayers or any other thing that the Christian does. That is a true understanding of God’s grace. But it begs the question that is often asked “If God does what he wants because he wants to do it and not because of anything that a person does, is it important to pray at all?”
The answer is a resounding yes. It is not only important for the believer to pray, but it is critical. Your life depends on prayer, either yours or someone else’ prayer. To live a profitable Christian life, you must first be a person of prayer.
To answer this question thoroughly, we should look at examples of people in the scriptures who preached grace and yet preached praying all the time also. Our understanding of grace comes from the writings in the Bible. If we see that the people that wrote and taught about God’s grace in the Bible also themselves prayed a lot and taught others living under grace to pray, it gives us an idea that grace and prayer must go together. It will not completely answer the question but it will help to point us in the right direction. The two people we should look at here are Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul. We could have looked at other characters featured in the New Testament, but Jesus and Paul are the major ones.
John 1:17 says “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Jesus is in deed the expression or personification of God’s grace to us. God wanted to show us what Grace is so he sent his son to come because Jesus Christ is grace personified. Instead of describing grace in writing through prophets or sending some sort of picture of what Grace is, God sent Jesus, who is the Grace of God so that we can know Grace. So if you want to know the Grace of God, look at Jesus. Examine him carefully, study him if you want to know the Grace of God. So how did Jesus view prayer?
Jesus prayed a lot. He prayed frequently and even sometimes spent the whole night praying to God. Luke 6:12 records one of those instances.
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” In Luke 11:1, Jesus taught his disciples to pray. In John 17, Jesus prays what is often called the priestly prayer.
There are at least 27 different references in the New Testament of the Bible where Jesus prays. Prayer was Jesus’ way of life.
Grace came through Jesus Christ who is God’s grace personified. However, the mystery of the gospel of grace to the gentiles (non-Jews) was given to Paul. He wrote 2/3 of the entire New Testament and is the apostle who expounded grace more than everybody else. How did Paul view prayer? Since he taught grace to us, it’s important to see if he thought prayer was important for him to continue to pray even when he was living under grace as we are. If it was important for him, it should be important for us since we are all living under grace. Of all the characters in the New Testament, Paul talks about prayer more than all of them. Paul also talks about grace more than all of them.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Paul commands believers to “pray without ceasing”
In Ephesians 6:18, he writes “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people”
There are many other instances where Paul prays for others and where he asks others to pray for him. He talks about praying all the time in his letters.
Just to note, the word “pray” occurs 49 times in the New Testament and 109 times in the entire bible according to the New American Standard Bible. That is quite a bit and all those appearances are there to teach us something.
Now that we have established that those who taught grace in the Bible also taught us to pray and also prayed themselves, we now turn to the question and take a second look at it.
Why pray if God does everything by grace? Now, we know that both prayer and grace are necessary and they go together. Grace doesn’t preclude prayer. But for our understanding, we still need to know why these two seemingly paradoxical expressions go together.
We pray not because our prayer puts pressure on God to act but because God in his freedom chose and established that prayer is the means by which he works in the earth. Without prayer, God does nothing in the earth. Everything God does is done through prayer, not out of weakness, but because in his sovereignty, he established that order. That’s why it is true that “no prayer equals no power, little prayer equals little power, much prayer equals much power”