Courageous faith asks God for something because it trusts in his promise; it receives its final, decisive, and effective motivating power from obedience to God’s gracious but very serious commandment. (Martin Luther)
Last week I began a short series of posts on prayer. We are starting with a proper theology of prayer (orthodoxy) before we move into a proper practice of prayer (orthopraxy). Last week I wrote about Praying in Christ Alone and explored the truth that we relate to God in prayer as our perfect Father and that this relationship is made possible because of Christ’s finished work on our behalf.
Our topic for this week, praying by faith alone, is built on the foundation of praying in Christ alone. The Gospel runs like a rich scarlet thread throughout the tapestry of the Christian life and if we remove that thread, the entire tapestry loses its cohesion and falls into tatters.
In his writings and teachings, Martin Luther explores motivations for prayer. Each of them spring from faith and it is a faith that is firmly rooted in the work of Christ.
We pray because God commands us to pray.
God has made it clear to us in many places throughout Scripture that He expects us to pray. Followers of Christ are to be people of prayer. Prayer was the habit of Christ, it was the habit of the early church, and it is to be our habit as well. As Paul tells us in Colossians 4:2, “devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
Obedience to God’s will in this matter is itself and act of faith. We pray believing that what God commands us to do is right and good and that it will work for His glory and our enjoyment of Him.
We pray because God promises to answer our prayers.
In Psalm 50:15 we read; “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you.” Jesus promises in Matthew 7:7-8 that if we ask, God will give. Surely these promises, and many others like them, awaken within us a desire to pray. But why would we pray if we didn’t have faith that God will indeed answer our prayers?
I have spoken with people who do not pray. When I ask them why they tell me that they don’t see the point. This is a person who does not believe that God is who He says He is and that He will therefore do what He said He would do. I wonder how many of us would never say with our mouths that we don’t have faith in God, but yet our prayer lives prove that we don’t.
We would do well to heed the warning in James 1:5-7;
5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
We have absolutely nothing to offer God. Nothing. Our best efforts are worthless. Our purest motivations are made filthy by selfishness and sin. Our greatest strengths are complete foolishness and weakness. We pray because we are too weak and too unworthy not to pray. We cannot make it through this life on our own. The sooner we realize this and throw ourselves into God’s hands, the better off we will be.
The very fact that we are unworthy to pray and yet that we dare to pray confidently based on who God is and our relationship with Him through Jesus Christ is an act of faith. Christ makes us worthy to pray because when we come before God’s throne and He looks at us, He sees the glorious righteousness of His Son. That is why we can approach Him in faith.
As Luther wrote;
Your worthiness does not help you; and your unworthiness does not hinder you. Mistrust condemns you; but (faith) makes you worthy and upholds you.