One Thing Is Needful

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. (Jeremiah 33:3)

             When considering the subject of prayer, all of us feel like failures. Though we pray, it seems we know so little about praying. However, God gives us an amazing promise in Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. 

            Our prayers may seem inadequate at times, but God is able to do so much more than what we could ask or even think. Dr. John R. Rice wrote a wonderful book about prayer explaining that prayer is simply asking and the answer to prayer is receiving. This may seem oversimplified for some people, but, at its core, prayer is asking.

             One of the greatest mistakes we make in the Christian life is getting the idea that increased activity will make us more spiritual. We get so involved in doing things that we forget that one needful thing. That needful thing is spending time with God, talking with Him, and allowing Him to speak to us.

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:38-42)

             We see from the passage above two sisters, Martha and Mary. Martha was a doer, a servant, always busy taking care of everything that needed to be done. At other times with other visitors, it’s safe to assume that Mary was also a willing worker and a good hostess. However, this visitor was different; this was Jesus, the Messiah, their Saviour. Martha got so busy that she complained to Jesus, telling Him to make Mary come help her. Jesus reminded Martha that, while there is nothing wrong with being busy serving, spending time listening to the Saviour and just being with Him was far more important than being a good servant.

             It is important to note that Jesus did not condemn Martha for her service, but rather for her placing so much emphasis on the things of this world instead of on the spiritual things that matter so much more. This message is for us as well. We must be wary of falling for the trap of “busyness equals spirituality.”

            The first step to having a better prayer life is admitting our failure to pray. In Luke chapter eleven, we see the disciples coming to Jesus with a strong desire in their hearts to learn to pray:

And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. (Verse 1)

            We instruct people by what we say. We inspire people to action through what we do. When the disciples saw the Lord Jesus praying, they knew it was the custom of His life to pray. They wanted Him to teach them how to pray. It wasn’t as if the disciple didn’t know how to pray; what they really wanted was motivation to pray.

             Some people have the idea that if we study prayer, we become more effective in prayer. Beholding a painting does not make a person an artist. It may create a desire to become an artist, but a person does not become an artist unless he puts a brush in his hand and starts to paint.

             Studying the subject of prayer will not necessarily make us more effective in prayer, but it should create within us an interest and a desire to pray.

             Many people speak prayers that seem to go unanswered. What really happens is that God will not hear some prayers, and He, therefore, says no. Many prayers go unanswered because God gives conditions in answering prayer.

            In the book of Malachi, chapter three, verses eight through ten, the Bible says:

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. 

             The condition to God’s opening of the windows of heaven is that we must be faithful in the matter of giving and paying the tithe to the Lord. Blessings are always attached to a condition; unless we meet the condition, God will not pour out the blessing. If we have prayers that we need God to answer, then we need to understand that God has conditions in providing those answers.

            God tells us why He will not hear certain prayers.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (Matthew 6:5)

             God says that if we pray just to be seen by men or if we pray just for people to hear our words, He will not hear our prayers. Occasionally, people pray as if they are trying to teach God something. They pray, “Lord, You remember when… ” or “Lord, You know… ” God already knows everything; we do not need to attempt to teach Him anything. What they are really doing is speaking to those listening, trying to impress them rather than trying to get ahold of God. We are all somewhat guilty of this.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. (Matthew 6:7)

             We often think of this verse as relating to false religions (Catholicism, Islam, etc.) that have habitual times of “prayer” during which the people may simply chant the same words or phrases repeatedly. The “Our Fathers” and “Hail Mary’s” in the Catholic rosary are good examples of this. Jesus was surely teaching against such empty praying, but did He mean more than those prayers of false religions?

             Sometimes when we pray, especially around mealtimes, our prayers are no more than vain repetitions. We should thank God for the food He provides and ask Him to bless it, but how often do we simply blaze through the same short prayer as a ritual without evening thinking about the words? Our prayers must come from our hearts and not be vain repetitions. God will know the difference.

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. (James 4:3)

             Many times, we want our prayers answered for ourselves and not for the Lord and His glory. We might as well be praying in our name and not His name. Most of us who have lived into adulthood can look at our lives in retrospect and thank God that He did not hear some of our prayers. If we had received everything we had asked for, we would be in bad shape. God will not hear prayers that are asked for our own lusts.

             Many people feel that the pastor should read the Bible and pray more than others read the Bible and pray. If it is something the pastor should do, it is something we all should do. We cannot separate prayer from our Christian lives; prayer should be at the very heart of our lives.

             Let us pray each evening, thanking God for His care and keeping of our lives through the day and seeking His aid for our sleep during the night. As we awake from sleep, let us pray and acknowledge that the day belongs to God. Pray before each meal. Stay in an attitude of prayer as you face the decisions that confront you during the day. Pray with those in need. God’s Word says in I Thessalonians 5: 17-18:

Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

             Though we profess to know the Lord Jesus as our Savior we really have no Christian life without the Bible and prayer; we only exist.

To purchase Dr. John R. Rice’s book about prayer and many other excellent books to help you in your Christian life, please click here.

Please click here to read more about what the Bible says about prayer.

While personal prayer and Bible reading time are the most important thing, corporate prayer time and worship are extremely important in the life of a Christian. Please click here for our service times so that you can join us for our next service.

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