I have found that even though most Christians believe prayer is important, many do not understand why prayer is really necessary. Many question: If God is sovereign and able to carry out His will, why do we need to pray for Him to do what He already wants and plans to do anyway? Some reason that prayer is primarily for our benefit, but God is still going to do what He wants whether we pray or not. The idea is popular that it is a “privilege” to pray, but not really a necessity for God to carry out His will on earth. The truth of the matter is, it is necessary for God’s children to pray. Why else would Jesus tell us to pray that God’s will be “done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). If believers do not pray, God’s desires will not be carried out in this earth. In this article we will see why this is true.
Prayer is as essential to our Christian life and the work of God on earth as breathing is to everyday living. If one refuses or is unable to breathe his life ceases. If one refuses to pray for himself, he will be very weak spiritually and ultimately cease to be a Christian. If believers neglect to pray for the lost, their efforts to win them to Jesus Christ will be of no avail. It requires prayer to bring life to ourselves and to those who are spiritually “dead.” Prayer is required to sustain spiritual life and advance God’s kingdom.
I am sure many Christians - at least those living in these last days – have asked themselves: “Why is prayer so important? Isn’t God going to do what He wants to do whether I pray or not?”
Satan wants to confuse the believer concerning prayer. He wants to keep us from understanding the vital role prayer plays in the work of God in this earth and in saving the lost. Satan knows that if he can get the Christian to be negligent in the area of prayer he has little to fear concerning the believer’s spiritual growth in Christ or his effectiveness as a laborer for God in His work on earth.
I believe God’s Word teaches that prayer is necessary for an individual and church to experience revival. Prayer is necessary for the “strongholds” of Satan to be cast down, and for the saving of the lost. Prayer is necessary for a Christian to remain strong in the Lord. Prayer is necessary for the latter rain of the Spirit to be poured out. I find it amazing that prayer, which seems so powerless and insignificant to the natural man, is so necessary and powerful for the spiritual man. Why is prayer so important and necessary in the Christian’s life and God’s work? Let’s look at the creation of mankind to find the answer.
Why Prayer Is Necessary
When God created Adam He created man in His own “likeness” and “image”, (Genesis 1:26-27). The Hebrew word translated “likeness” is “damah”, which means “similar to.” The Hebrew word translated “image” is “tselem” and means a “resemblance” or “representational image.” The word is used when referring to an idol, which represents a god. When God created man He created him in many ways like Himself.
God did something else when He created man. He gave man “dominion” on earth (Genesis 1:26-27). The Hebrew word translated “dominion” is “radhah”, which means “to rule” or “reign” over. Adam was to be the ruler of this world as God’s representative. He was to “keep” the earth (Genesis 2:15). The Hebrew word translated “keep” is “shamar”, which means to “guard against intruders”, “to preserve and keep safe.” Adam was to be God’s authoritative representative on earth. He was to be the earth’s watchman or guardian. He was to “re-present” God on this earth.
The psalmist further describes the position God gave man at creation. David was inspired to write that God crowned man with “glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5). Looking again at the original Hebrew words translated “glory” and “honor” we find that man was given “majesty” similar to a king’s reigning authority. Hence, we see that at creation the earth was put under Adam’s authority. What happened on earth depended on Adam.
Adam’s authority and ruler-ship on earth was so complete that Adam was in a position to give this authority away to another. We know the sad story of Adam’s fall as recorded in Genesis chapter three. Adam gave the authority of this earth over to God’s archenemy, Satan. Satan well knew what he had gained when Adam yielded to his temptations to disobey God. When tempting Christ in the wilderness, Satan showed Him all the “kingdoms of the world” and stated: “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” (Luke 4:6). Jesus never disputed Satan’s claim to have authority and dominion over this earth. In fact, three times Satan is called the “ruler of this world” in the New Testament (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).
Christ, the Second Adam, Regained What the First Adam Lost
Even though Satan gained dominion over this earth through Adam’s fall God did not change his decision to work through humans to carry out His will on this earth. So complete was this decision that it was necessary for God to become man to win this world back (John 1:1-3, 14). The first Adam gave man’s authority over this earth away. The second Adam, Christ, won it back and brought deliverance to Satan’s captives (Romans 5). At the creation of this world God established the principle that humans were to forever be His means of exercising His authority and activity in this earth.
This brings us to the main focus of this article on why prayer is essential for the Christian’s spiritual growth, for the advancement of God’s kingdom on earth and for the latter rain of the Spirit to be poured out. Prayer is necessary because from the beginning God intended to work through humans, not independent of them, in carrying out His will on earth. God works through the prayers of His people.
When God wills to do something in this earth it is necessary for man to pray that God do it. Many examples of this are seen in both the Old and New Testament. We are to ask for “God’s will be done on earth” (Matt 6:10). We are to ask for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11). We are to pray “laborers be sent into the harvest field” (Matthew 9:38). Paul asked believers to pray for the advancement of the gospel (2Thessalonians 3:1). All these things are God’s will. However, it is necessary for man to pray for them because prayer releases God’s power to carry out His will in this earth. Remember, it is God’s plan to work through man, not work independent of him.
We see a very clear example of this in the experience of Elijah. God told Elijah there would be a drought for three and one half years. In order for the drought to happen it was necessary for Elijah to pray that it occur (James 5:17). Three and a half years later God promised to send rain and end the draught (1Kings 18:1, 41-44). Again Elijah knew it was necessary for him to pray for the rain if rain were to come even though it was God’s will to send the rain. We are told that Elijah had to pray seven times before the rain came. Elijah knew if he stopped praying for God to fulfill His promise to send rain the rain would not come. Ellen White points out the necessity of Elijah’s persistent prayer when she states:
“Had he given up in discouragement at the sixth time, his prayer would not have been answered, but he persevered til the answer came.” SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p.1034
Persistent prayer is often required in releasing God’s power in this earth. When God desires to do something He moves upon the heart of His children to pray for it. However, we are always free to refuse to yield to His call to prayer.
That is why Satan is more afraid of the praying Christian than the active, working Christian. That is why Satan will do all in his power to keep you from becoming a Spirit filled, Spirit directed prayer intercessor for God.
Ellen White wrote:
“There is a mighty power in prayer. Our great adversary is constantly seeking to keep the troubled soul away from God. An appeal to heaven by the humblest saint is more to be dreaded by Satan than the decrees of cabinets or the mandates of kings.” In Heavenly Places, p.82
Prayer for the Latter Rain
Zechariah 10:1 is a call to pray for the latter rain of the Holy Spirit. Since prayer has always played a vital role in enabling God to carry out His will on earth it should be no surprise that prayer is also necessary for the latter rain of the Spirit to be poured out on this earth. Of this necessity Ellen White wrote the following.
“But near the close of the earth's harvest, a special bestowal of spiritual grace is promised to prepare the church for the coming of the Son of man. This outpouring of the Spirit is likened to the falling of the latter rain; and it is for this added power that Christians are to send their petitions to the Lord of the harvest ‘in the time of the latter rain.’ In response, ‘the Lord shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain’ (Zech. 10:1). ‘He will cause to come down… the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain.’ (Joel 2:23). (emphasis added)
The prayers of God’s people remain before God and will be answered according to His divine providence. John describes this in the book of Revelation where the prayers of the saints are pictured as being in “golden bowls.”
"…Each one (four living creatures & 24 elders) had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." Revelation 5:8 NIV
God's people have been praying for the latter rain for many centuries. God today is calling for His end time people to join with the saints of past generations in praying for latter rain power for the finishing of God's work. Not one of those prayers of the past or present generation will be lost. All are accumulating in the "golden bowls" before the throne of God. In answer to those prayers God will pour out His Spirit (of fire) in latter rain power. John depicts this great event in chapter eight of Revelation.
"And I saw the seven angles which stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake." Revelation 8:2-5
Ellen White understood this when she wrote:
"The revenue of the glory has been accumulating for the closing work of the third angels message. Of the prayers that have been ascending for the fulfillment of the promise – the descent of the Holy Spirit – not one has been lost. Each prayer has been accumulating, ready to overflow and pour forth a healing flood of heavenly influence and accumulating light all over the world." Manuscript Release, Vol. 21:155
The day will come when the final prayer surge filling the bowls to over flowing will bring about the great out pouring of the latter rain of the Spirit. The hope we have of this mighty out pouring of the Spirit is also a call to prepare for that great event. The truth is; if we are not spiritually prepared by daily receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit we will receive no benefit from the latter rain when it falls. Therefore, as we continue to pray for the latter rain I encourage all to daily seek the Lord that our hearts and lives may be fully surrendered to God.
For a further study on the necessity of prayer, and the importance of understanding and experiencing the baptism of the Holy Spirit I recommend my books, Spirit Baptism & Prayer and The Baptism of the Holy Spirit.