Prayer: The Fuel for the Church

by | Aug 10, 2023 | Church Ministry

Editor’s Note: In this article, Murungi Igweta considers the centrality of corporate prayer in Scripture and explores what this should look like in our local churches. As a Kenyan pastor in the Reformed Baptist Network, we are grateful for his biblical encouragement to our churches and hope that his article will be helpful for us to cultivate prayer.

Permission to reprint this article (in Grace and Truth Magazine Issue 132) has been granted from the author. Grace and Truth Magazine is available online at this webpage.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42).

Is it not remarkable that God; the almighty God, the King of kings, the eternal Creator of all things visible and invisible, the infinitely holy God, has provided access for us into His throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need? Is it not a great wonder that God has time and space for such worms as we are? What is man, O God, that you are mindful of him? Who are we that you care to listen to our poor prayers? Yet, the Lord hears and answers our prayers. Therefore, this is a call to pray – ceaseless prayer.

The early church devoted themselves to the prayers. They knew that apart from God they could do nothing. Although they had been with Christ, and had seen the Holy Spirit descend upon them in the form of tongues of fire, yet they still devoted themselves to the prayers. They had the ministry of the apostles, who had been personally commissioned by the risen Lord, yet they devoted themselves to the prayers. How much more should we?

What is to devote? The word translated ‘devote’ means, to continue to do something with intense effort, with the possible implication of success despite difficulty. These dear brothers and sisters who constituted the early church, who met locally in Jerusalem, persisted in prayer.

What is it to pray? It is to make requests to God. To pray is to plead with God to act on your behalf. It is to ask God to undertake for you. It is to submit to God‘s will, power and grace knowing that He is able, He is God, He is worthy and He is near. He hears, He knows, He is willing and He is able. When the church gathers to pray, they are humbly looking to God to show them such favour as to act on their behalf, for His glory. John Bunyan, the 17th Century pastor has defined prayer this way:

Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to His Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God.

Why do we pray? We pray because of God. God commands and expects us to pray. Jesus taught us how to pray. In Matthew 6 He taught, “And when you pray… And when you pray… Pray then like this…” (vv. 5, 7, 9). The Lord himself prayed (Luke 11:1) and this gives us sufficient example and motivation to pray. His disciples prayed and he chided them when they did not pray. His church devoted herself to prayer.

We pray for our own good and advantage. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord encouraged his disciples to pray when he said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). The assurance that God answers prayer is enough motivation for us to pour out ardent prayers. “What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit! O what needless pain we bear! All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!” (Joseph Scriven, 1820-1886).

Yet, one of the sad characteristics of our prayers is that they are not saturated with God enough. They are full of petitions and very little of God. Clearly our understanding of what makes prayer is so wanting… and why so? Could it be because of ignorance of God‘s word?

I draw your attention to an Old Testament prayer, a prayer of David. Yet we know that David did not know as much Scriptures or revelation as we have now. He did not know of the immense privileges we have in Christ at this time. He greeted most of our blessings from afar (Hebrews 11:13, 39-40, 1 Peter 1:12). Yet the way he led the national prayer meeting cannot be compared with our church prayers today! We have to ask ourselves once more, ‘What is prayer?’ and ‘How may we pray?’

How may we pray? Biblical example: 1 Chronicles 29:10-19

Here is an inspired example of corporate prayer. Using this passage, I want to point out three characteristics of what corporate prayer is, in order to encourage our churches to be more prayerful. This is not a private prayer – it is a corporate and national prayer led by David. It is true, this prayer was not poured in the context of a local church. But there is a sense in which national Israel was the Old Testament church.

One of the aspects of our prayer is that many of us are content to pray at home and think that home-prayers or private prayers are enough – they are not! We have to spend time with people who pray well to be able to pray. This means that those who lead in prayer have to prepare well so that others may learn from them!


In this prayer David tell us what it means to pray and so He begins by beholding heaven. Yes David spoke with God, but it was not like a one-sided phone call. Heaven is opened up for him so that he could see God, the Lord of heaven who is worthy of worship and praise. Therefore, David beheld the throne of grace of God and outpours praise to God. He said,

Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.

David here celebrates with earnest reverence the attributes of God. He acknowledges that though he was a king, he was a subject of a greater King, the King of kings who has the world-wide and eternal kingdom to which everyone ought to belong. What a blessing to have such a leader of a nation who knows that the hearts of kings are in the hand of the Lord. In a language of memorable beauty, eloquence and propriety he reveals a heart of a man who truly loved the Lord and is not ashamed of pouring himself out before the Lord even in the assembly of his subjects.

From this David confesses the divine sovereignty, infinite dominion and absolute supremacy of God. God‘s sovereignty is neither delegated nor assumed. His dominion is not usurped or arbitrary. God is the only one who is sovereign and has sovereign control and determination of all things. He is the Father by right since everything originated from Him.

Therefore God is most blessed for greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty belongs to Him. This is heavenly worship, for this is what all the heavenly hosts sing to the Lord. See Revelation 4:8,11, 5:9-10 etc. There are no nobler words in which human reverence has found expression before the Divine Sovereign than in these. We ought to take these words and take them to our hearts and on to our own lips to express God‘s majesty. They perfectly voice our own hearts’ reverence. All joy before God should be profoundly reverential, and here David gives it simple but admirable utterance.

When we draw near to God, it is not simply to bring our sin, needs and wants before him; it is to bring His holiness and greatness and benevolence before our minds so that we are all consumed by the glory of His presence in order to worship Him appropriately. The Lord Jesus, in the Lord’s Prayer, has given us the same pattern of such adoration before presenting petition. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” This is the way Paul prayed when he gave a testimony of his own gracious conversion to Timothy (see 1 Timothy 1:17).

In this prayer David acknowledges God for who He is. God is the Creator of everything. Who is God? God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. In this we can behold God‘s incomprehensible greatness and his superlative transcendence. You notice that this language of seeking to describe the indescribable Almighty is the language of angels in offering worship to God:

“…saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen’” (Revelation 7:12).

This is where our Baptist forefathers did us such a great service in giving us such a solid Confession of Faith that lifts up God high and enthrones Him in heaven with the same Biblical language, and shall we confess less? Listen to this:

The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of Himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but Himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, and withal most just and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty (1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, chapter 2.1).

It is not until we realize that prayer is a window that God has graciously opened for His people to behold Him that we can truly turn our times of prayer into a time of sincere worship of God. Therefore, pray to God beginning with praise and worship to God. Worship to God is basically served in words, which tells us that words are so important. Is the time of prayer a time of worship and adoration? Are we tempted to leave worship to the time of singing? Prayer is worship. And so when you pray, begin by offering meaningful, substantial and reasonable worship to God. Worship the Lord in the splendour of His holiness.

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.


The second section of David‘s prayer is a description of his reflection of himself for who he truly is under the scrutiny of the glory of God. The radiance of the glory in His presence leaves us all humbled because of our unworthiness before God. His unapproachable light leaves us naked in our depravity. We see ourselves as ugly, dirty, sinful and completely unworthy to say anything to God. This is what David realized when he said,

But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you.

Genuine prayer before God will be accompanied with a sense of our own littleness and unworthiness in the presence of the infinite God. Whatever angelic, heavenly piety may be, that of man on earth always includes humility. In the conscious presence of God we must feel

  • our own nothingness
  • the exceeding smallness of our brief span of life, “We are strangers before you and sojourners,” etc.
  • our unworthiness to do anything for the holy and eternal One, “Who am I?”

The sense of our own insignificance is one of those marks of genuineness which we should see with satisfaction in ourselves and others, the absence of which may well lead us to ask serious questions as to the genuineness of our Christianity. This is where modern Christianity has failed miserably, in teaching people that they are ‘gods’ instead of impressing upon them that true piety is assessed in humility before God. This humility is seen in two ways in the life of this man, who though a king, yet had nothing to claim before the Almighty about his own worthiness:

a) God expects us to acknowledge that everything we possess is from Him

We notice that David acknowledges that God owns everything universally, absolutely and eternally. Therefore God has exclusive rights over all that exists both in heaven and on earth so that He can give to any creature whatever He pleases and can withdraw from any creature in any way or at any time whatever He thinks best. For indeed the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be His name (Job 1:21).

b) God expects us to respond to his goodness with gratitude and generosity

Genuine prayer has to express itself in thanksgiving, and in thankful acknowledgment of the benevolence of God. God expects that we will be glad to receive from his gracious hand, and we shall also be eager to express gratefulness. Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be grateful, and worship acceptably with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28). It is the will of God for us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). How can we not give thanks when we come to pray?

How careless we can be before God in that we are sometimes so full of petitions and supplications without any thanksgiving (see Philippians 4:6)! We are to express to God that what He gave us previously was good, sufficient and undeserved before we dare to say we need more. In this way, we can be willing to give generously to God‘s work, His people and to the needy. We must always know what we have is from God and is better given away, because, if hoarded it will soon rot.

David himself stood “before all the congregation” and “blessed the Lord God of their fathers”. He and the national assembly thanked and praised God profusely. David freely and truthfully acknowledged that, in giving to God, they were but presenting to him that which was His own (v. 14). When we contribute to the cause of God we should bear in mind that God claims all that we have. And remember that at any time God may be pleased to receive it back. We are to willingly contribute to God‘s work from what He has entrusted to us for His glory and the well-being of his children. In the manner David gave thanks we have a lot to learn.


Finally prayer is also a gracious telescope that God has given His children to behold His riches so that they may request accordingly.

O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision.

David has two petitions that he presented before God at the close – one for the people (v. 18) and one for Solomon (v. 19).

1) Prayer for the people: It is worth noting that He did not begin with his son – He began with the assembly. He prayed for the congregation, that God would keep them ever in this frame of heart, of being willing, joyful, and in whole-hearted surrender of themselves and all they had to God. His desire is that the hearts of the nation of Israel might be ever set towards God himself, and not man, nor king, nor themselves nor anything else created.

2) Prayer for Solomon: David prayed that God would give him an undivided heart. And this whole-heartedness would show itself first in relation to God and his truth – “To keep your commandments, your testimonies, your statutes, and to do all these things”; and secondly, “to build the palace for You which I have made provision.” This is ever the Divine order in David’s mind – God and his truth first, and the work of God next. While David had Solomon in mind, yet this was fully realized in Christ.

In both he is neither interested in a form of religion, nor a short-lived religion but in a heart religion and a religion that is forever: “Keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people…”. You notice that while many kings would pray for people to be subject to their rule, David prayed that people‘s hearts may be directed toward God! You notice that David after prayer called upon the whole assembly to praise the Lord, which they did, bowing before the Lord and the king, and worshipping.

In order to seal their confession thus made in word and deed, they proposed a great feast on the following day, consisting of a thousand bulls, a thousand rams, and a thousand lambs, with drink offerings and thank offerings to correspond. Thus ended the consecration, the prayer and praise, in joy and “great gladness”. These are ever the results, and there never will be joy and gladness in the Lord without them.

Earthly Example: Prayer

Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of your covenant people and our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.

But who are we… but mortal, finite, unworthy and wretched sinners. You have opened up heaven for us to behold your glorious beauty yet we fail so miserably to come consistently to you. Clearly in this we see that we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding, and we know that our home is in your glory and so help us to delight more in prayer when we commune with you.

But Lord remember your church. The people whom you have redeemed at the cost of your Son. Help us in our weaknesses. Help us especially in our prayerlessness. Oh, loving Father, help us to pray and to pray aright with reverence and with fear. Give us the spirit of supplication. Let the people of God find prayer meetings and all opportunities for corporate prayer a sweet relief. Give us supple knees. Give us the strength to pray without ceasing. May the prayers of your people come to you as pleasing incense, with a sweet smelling aroma. May this fragrance never cease to come before you every second, every hour, every day, every week, every month and every year. And when we shall be in eternity, may our prayers turn to praise.

We acknowledge that we do not even need to ask for anything for in Christ you have provided all things – He is our Saviour, Mediator, High Priest, King of kings, Prophet, He is our Friend, our Brother, our Physician. Immortal praises belong to Him. We can be able to give nothing except to thank you for your kind and extensive, vast and unmeasured generosity in what we continually enjoy in Christ. Please guide our hearts to be kindled in love, honour and praise to you and your glorious grace in your Son, Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen!

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