Requirements of True Prayer (1): An Introduction
Reformed Free Publishing Association
The following post was adapted from a sermon called "In the School of Prayer: The Requirements of True Prayer," preached by Prof. Ron Cammenga on March 26, 2023, at Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church. Listen to the whole sermon here, or read on for part one of three in this series. Click here for a list of RFPA books by Cammenga.
Read Psalm 50.
The Psalm you’ve just read, as well as many other scriptures, are the basis for the Heidelberg Catechism's teaching in Lord's Day 45, Question and Answer 117.
One of the most effective propaganda tools that Adolf Hitler created was the Hitler youth movement. At the height of its popularity, tens of thousands of German young people belonged to the movement. At their weekly meetings, the principles of the Nazis were drilled into the youth. Loyalty till death to Hitler was ingrained into them. At some point, after Hitler had gained absolute power in Germany, the members of the Hitler youth movement were informed that they were no longer to pray the Lord's Prayer. They were instructed to stop praying "Our Father, who are in heaven." Instead, they were instructed to kneel beside their beds at night before going to sleep and pray, "Adolf Hitler, you are our great Fuehrer. Thy name makes the enemy tremble. Thy Third Reich comes. Thy will alone is law upon earth. Let us hear daily thy voice and order us by thy leadership for we will obey thee to the end and even with our own lives. We praise thee, Heil Hitler." I cannot imagine a greater blasphemy, the ultimate sacrilege. Hitler banned the practice of every religion, but far worse than that, he demanded for himself the worship that was due alone to God, including the worship of prayer. In doing that, Hitler was a type of the coming Antichrist who will also ban every religion except the worship of himself.
Prayer, true prayer, is the spiritual activity of the regenerated child of God according to which he draws near to God in order to worship God, in order to fellowship with God, and in order to lay before God his needs for body and for soul. "Seek ye my face," says our heavenly Father to each one of us, and our Spirit-filled response is, "Thy face, O Lord, will we seek." And then, behold the child of God on his knees in prayer.
In 1 Corinthians 14:15, the apostle says, "I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding." It may be that the child of God prays aloud as the Lord Jesus did when he prayed in the Upper Room with his disciples the prayer that we know as the high priestly prayer (John 17). It may be that the child of God prays as Hannah prayed in the tabernacle according to 1 Samuel 1:13. "She spake in her heart," we read, "only her lips moved but her voice was not heard." Or it may be that we are being led in prayer by others—by one of your parents, by your teacher at school, by the minister or the elder before and after Catechism. No matter when the child of God prays, he must pray with understanding.
When we pray, therefore, it is essential that we pray with the clear understanding of how we ought to pray, not only that we pray but how we are to pray. That includes the requisites or requirements of prayer as they are set forth in Question and Answer 117. God does not only require that we pray but how we pray.
It is true of prayer what is true of the worship of God generally. God demands that we worship him, that is the first commandment of the law, but immediately after that first commandment comes the second commandment which tells us how we are to worship God. What is true of the Ten Commandments and the gratitude that we show to God by a life of good works is also true of prayer, the chief part of thankfulness. That was Jesus' word too to his disciples. They asked Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray," and Jesus' response was, "After this manner, in this way, pray ye therefore" (Matthew 6:9).
We are today in the school of prayer for a lesson on the requirements of true prayer. There are three requirements of true prayer: sincerity, humility, and confidence. Those three requirements we will explore in parts two and three of this blog series.
Interested in Scripture's teaching on prayer? Check out When You Pray by Prof. Herman Hanko by clicking the picture below. Also available as an audiobook!