“Power belongs to God” (Psalm 62:11), but all that belongs to God, we can have for the asking. God holds out His full hands and says:
Ask, and it will be given to you . . . If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7, 11)
The poverty and powerlessness of the average Christian find their explanation in the words of the apostle James: “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2).
Because You Do Not Ask
“Why is it,” a Christian may ask, “That I make such poor progress in my Christian life?” Neglect of prayer,” God answers. “You do not have because you do not ask.”
“Why is it there so little fruit in my ministry?” asks many a discouraged minister. “Neglect of prayer,” God answers again. “You do not have because you do not ask.”
“Why is it,” both ministers and lay people are asking, “that there is so little power in my life and service?” And again, God answers Neglect of prayer. “You do not have because you do not ask.”
God has provided a life of power for every child of His. He has put His own infinite power at our disposal and has proclaimed repeatedly in many ways in His word, Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matt. 7:7; Luke 11:9). Thousands upon thousands have taken God at His word in this matter, and they have always found it true.
The first century Christians were men and women of tremendous power. For example, what power Peter and John had in their lives! What power they had in their work! There was opposition in those days-—most determined, bitter, and relentless opposition that, in comparison, would make any that we might encounter appear like child’s play—but the work went right on. Read with me Acts 2:47; 4:4; 5:14.
The apostles themselves explained the secret of their irresistible power when they said, “We will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). But it was not only the leaders of that early church, who had power in life and service, so did the rank and file. What a beautiful picture we have of their abounding love and fruitfulness! (Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-37; 8:4; 11:19, 21). The secret of this fullness of power in life and service is found in Acts 2:42:
In the Lord’s Presence
God delights to answer prayer: “Call upon me in the day of trouble,” God says. “I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). There is a place where strength can always be renewed; that place is the presence of the Lord: “Those who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
How little time the average Christian spends in prayer! We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; there are many services, but few conversions. The power of God is lacking in our lives and in our work. We do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2).
Many Christians confess that they do not believe in the power of prayer. Some go so far as to contemptuously contrast the pray-ers with the doers—forgetting that in the history of the church, the real doers have been pray-ers. Without exception, those who have made the church’s history glorious have been people of prayer.
A Mighty Weapon
Of those who believe theoretically in the power of prayer, not one in a thousand realizes its power. How much time do you spend daily in prayer?
It was the strategy of the devil to get the church and the ministry to lay aside the mighty weapon of prayer. He does not mind at all if the church expands her organizations and her cleverly contrived machinery of conquest of the world for Christ if she will only give up praying. Satan laughs softly as he looks at the church of today and says under his breath: “You can have your Sunday school, your social organizations, your grand choirs, and even your revival efforts, as long as you do not bring the power of the Almighty God into them by earnest, persistent, and believing prayer.”
The devil is not afraid of organizations; he is only afraid of Christ, and organizations without prayer are organizations without God. The increase of man’s machinery and the decrease of God’s power sought and obtained by prayer characterize our day. But when men and women arise who believe in prayer and who pray in the way the Bible teaches us to pray, prayer accomplishes as much as it ever did. Today’s prayer can do as much as the early church’s prayer. All the infinite resources of God are at its command.
In His last hour, Jesus Himself said to His disciples: “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40). But the disciples did not heed His warning. They slept when they should have prayed, and when the temptation came in a few hours they failed utterly. But Jesus Himself spent that night in prayer. The next day when the fiercest temptation that ever attacked a man swept down on Him, he gloriously triumphed.
You can be victorious over every temptation if you will prepare for it and meet it with prayer. Many of us are led into defeat and denial of our Lord, as Peter was, by sleeping when we should have been praying.
Prayer Governs the Tongue
Prayer has the power to govern your tongue. Many Christians who have desired fullness of power in Christian life and service have found themselves kept from it by unruly tongues. They have learned by bitter experiences the truth of the words of James: “No man can tame the tongue” (James 3:8). But while no man can tame it, God can and will, in answer to believing prayer.
If you will earnestly pray with David: “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). God will do it. Many uncontrolled tongues have been brought into subjection through this prayer. Tongues that were as sharp as a sword have learned to speak words of gentleness and grace. True prayer can tame the unruly tongue by which man or woman was ever cursed because true prayer brings into play the power of Him with whom nothing is impossible.
Prayer Brings Wisdom
Prayer has the power to bring us wisdom. The Word of God is very explicit on this point: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). No promise could be more explicit. We can have wisdom, the wisdom of God Himself, whenever we ask for it. God does not intend for His children to grope in darkness. He puts His own infinite wisdom at our disposal. All He desires is that we ask, and “ask in faith” (James 1:6). Many of us are stumbling in our own foolishness, instead of walking in His wisdom, simply because we do not ask.
You can have the joy of knowing and walking in God’s way. It is His great desire to make it known to you. All you must do is ask. (Read Psalm 25:4; 86:11; 119:33; 143:10).