By Brad Klassen, Mar 27, 2020
If you were to ask the average Christian what is most essential for a healthy prayer life, you would likely hear helpful answers such as an environment without distractions, discipline and determination, eager faith and expectancy, or humility and boldness. Indeed, each of these are critical to our life of prayer.
Jesus himself “would often slip away to the wilderness to pray” (Luke 5:16). He instilled in his disciples the need to “pray and not lose heart,” just like the determined widow before her judge (Luke 18:1–8). James instructs Christians to offer requests to God “in faith, without doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). And the writer of Hebrews reminds us to take advantage of our privilege as children of the King and “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
Listening Influences Our Prayers
But the most essential aspect of prayer is actually not the environment, attitude, or manner of our speaking to God. What contributes most to the health of our praying comes before we ever utter a word to the Almighty. It is our hearing—our listening to the words of God on the pages of Scripture—that influences our praying most.
In order to emphasize the primacy of God in all things, theologians refer to God as the foundation for existence (principium essendi ), the foundation for knowing (principium cognoscendi), and, most importantly for prayer, the foundation for speaking (principium loquendi ). While theologians typically refer to this third principle to emphasize that man could not speak about God if God had not first spoken to us, this principle also relates to prayer:
If God had not first spoken to us, we could not speak to him
Man’s speaking to God is directly dependent on God’s Word to man. Without God’s propositional revelation, prayer in any meaningful sense would be impossible.