Prayer Is No Substitute

Phil Grear

Jesus said prayer has the power to move mountains. (Luke 17:6) “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16) So, nothing in this article should be understood as diminishing the power of going to our heavenly Father in prayer.

However, many want to use prayer as a substitute for obedience to God. Recently an erring brother assured me that while he no longer “goes to church,” he still maintains his relationship to God. “I still pray regularly,” he said. Certainly it is good when a child of God prays, but he seemed to think that praying relieved him of the responsibility to assemble with the church for worship. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.” Prayer is one thing, and attendance at worship is another. They cannot replace each other.

Some try to substitute prayer for holy living. They believe they can callously do as they please, ask God to forgive them, and nothing has to change. They seem not to understand that God placed conditions on His answering prayer. “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” (1 John 3:22) Clearly, if we do not keep His commandments and do what is pleasing to Him, we will not receive what we ask. Prayer is no substitute for holy living.

Others have ignored Jesus’ teachings on divorce and remarriage, involved themselves in relationships of which God does not approve (Matthew 19:9), and, then, convinced themselves that everything is fine because they pray every day. As powerful as prayer is, it will not make a sinful marriage relationship right in God’s sight. Why would we think that we can disregard what the Bible says, and then make it all right by talking to the God we disrespected? Prayer, no matter how diligent, is no substitute for humble obedience.

Some make allowances for lost friends and loved ones because they pray regularly. Brethren, lost is lost, and prayer does not save the alien sinner. God will not hear those who are lost in sin. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear: but your sins and iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2, emphasis mine, PLG) Even the good man Cornelius was not saved because he “prayed to God always.” (Acts 10:2). Although an angel told him, “Your prayers … have come up for a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4), he was still told to send for Peter who would “tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.” (Acts 11:14). Prayer has its place, but it is not a substitute for obeying the Gospel.

So, the conclusion is clear. Prayer contains amazing power, but it is no substitute for obedience to God. We should not expect more of prayer than God promises. -2863 East High St., Springfield, OH 45505.

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