Jonathan Edwards and Prayer

Posted by: Peter Beck

The power of prayer in one’s life 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.” This means that a Christian who professes faith must also be a Christian that prays. Otherwise, he is no Christian at all.

For all the truthfulness of Edwards’ observation however, it remains a sad reality that many Christians today do not pray as they should. In fact, whether due to a lack of faith or sheer misunderstanding of the subject, many professing hearts remain silent, and withhold the very thing God demands of his people.

Why is this? Are we afraid that someone else might hear us? Are we concerned that our words may not be as eloquent as others during times of public prayer? Are we in doubt that God hears our prayers? Or simply that he has better things to do than answer them.

Whatever the reasons, our resulting silence reveals at least one thing for certain: many of us don’t really believe that prayer is such a crucial element of the Christian faith. Sadly, as often the outward manifestations of our faith says much about the inward reality, this neglect of prayer reveals a weak and anemic faith.

We would do well to hear Edward’s words 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, and are, in many cases, incapable of solving even the most basic of life’s problems. In prayer, we are forced to acknowledge that God alone must act if we are to expect any good.

To ignore prayer is, as Edwards saw it, was to “live like atheists or like brute creatures,” and, 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 you to redouble your efforts in prayer. Seek God’s face. Humble yourself and approach his throne with empty hands and full faith. Give God the glory he deserves by submitting to him every circumstance of your life.

To learn more about Jonathan Edwards and Prayer, be sure to check Peter Beck’s Voice of Faith: Jonathan Edwards’s Theology of Prayer.

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