Chapter OnePrayers and Prayer in the
While the full revelation concerning the foundation, form and
fruits of prayer are before us in the New Testament, we have ample
evidence in Old Testament Scriptures of the efficacy of intercourse
with heaven. How those holy men of old could storm the battlements
above! When there was no way to look but up, they lifted up their
eyes to the God who made the hills, with unshakeable confidence.
At times their approach to God was both unusually familiar and
daring, but they were heard in that they feared.
Prayer, to the patriarchs and prophets, was more than the recital
of well-known and well-worn phrases - it was the outpouring of the
heart. Beset by perils, persecutions, pain and privations, they naturally
turned to God in their need, believing that He was able to
redeem them out of all their troubles. If they knew little of the
philosophy of prayer, they certainly knew a great deal about its
power, as our meditation upon the Word reveals.
Man has been described as "a praying animal." When did he commence
to pray? How did he originally approach God? What were
the first words to be uttered by the creature in conversation with
the Creator? In any phase of Bible study undertaken, attention must
be given to what Dr. A. T. Pierson calls, "The Law of First Mention."
The first reference of a Bible truth usually epitomizes any further
development of same. This is so as we come to the subject of prayer.
What is prayer? Simplified, is it not the desire, opportunity and
privilege of talking with God? Who could it have been, but to God
Himself, that Adam as soon as Eve was created said, "This is now
bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" (2:25, 24). Then the distressing
dialogue between God and our first parents reveals how early
man had learned to talk to God (3:9-13). At the outset, then, of
humanity's course we find that prayer is, as Robert Burns expressed
it, "A correspondence fixed with heaven." Family prayer evidently
began when the first family was formed.
We cannot be ignorant of the fact that the manner in which Adam
addressed God (3:12), and Cain answered Him (4:9), appears to be
lacking in the reverence due to Him as the thrice holy One. Sometimes
as we shall see more clearly as we proceed, prayer-language is
at times somewhat defiant.
Prayer History Begins (4:26)
Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord. - Genesis 4:26b
Several expositors refer to this verse as the first in the Bible in
which prayer is mentioned. "Then began men to call upon the name
of the Lord." But we cannot agree that it was only now in the 235th
year of the world, the date of the birth of Enos, that men began for
the first time since the Fall to worship God in prayer and adoration.
We believe that our first parents would naturally and instinctively
lift their voices to God. With the creation of man, prayer was a dictate
of nature, "a constitutioned instinct, inwrought by the Maker."
Learned Jews have given us the several forms of prayer, which Adam
addressed to God for pardon.
John Milton introduces Adam as proposing to Eve the appropriate
What better can we do, than to the place
Repairing, where He judged us, prostrate fall
Before Him reverent; and there confess
Humbly our faults, and pardon beg; with tears
Watering the ground, and with-our sighs the air
The reference in the text before us, then, cannot be the beginning
of individual prayer, but of social worship. The godly heirs of Adam
and Eve set out to develop "the deepest instinct of the soul of man,"
as Carlyle describes worship. The margin reads, "Then began men
to call themselves by the name of the Lord." With the coming of
Enos, men were conscious of their weakness, and, seeking refuge in
God, wished to be distinguished as men who feared Him, and who
desired to do His will. A sacredness, previously unknown, was now
attached to the name Jehovah. One writer suggests that this may
have given rise to the practice common to the Jews for centuries of
giving names to children in which the name of God is interwoven.
Prayer and Spiritual Progress
(Genesis 5:21-24; Hebrews 11:5, 6; Jude 14, 15)
And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And
Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred
years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch
were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with
God: and he was not; for God took him. - Genesis 5:21-24
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was
not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation
he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith
it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe
that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently
seek him. - Hebrews 11:5, 6
And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying,
Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to
execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly
among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly
committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners
have spoken against him. - Jude 14, 15
In eight verses the Holy Ghost gives us the brief yet blessed biography
of Enoch, who "walked with God." Amos asked the question,
"Can two walk together except they be agreed?" (3:3). With God
as his travelling Companion, Enoch must have maintained unbroken
communion with Him, although the Bible does not give us any of
the prayers the patriarch prayed. The same is also true of Noah,
who, like Enoch "walked with God" (6:9). In Genesis 6 to 9, God
is found doing all the talking. No reply from Noah is recorded unless
it be the curse and the benediction of chapter 9:25-27.
What a fellowship divine these two pre-Flood saints must have
experienced! The repeated statement about Enoch walking with God
suggests that he was a progressive saint, for walking implies progress
and spiritual progress is dependent upon unbroken communion with
heaven. The Hebrew word for "walking" signifies "to go on habitually."
Thus progress in holiness was the habit of this ancient saint.
Amid the cares of family life and the corruptness of their time, both
Enoch and Noah pleased God. It was Andrew Bonar who suggested
that God and Enoch; were in the habit of walking and talking daily
and then one day God said to His companion, "You have come so
far each day of our long pilgrimage together, now come all the way
home with Me." Thus, "he was not, for God took him."
Prayer and the Altar
Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that
I will shew thee. - Genesis 12:1
And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I
give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who
appeared unto him. And he removed from thence unto a mountain
on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on
the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto
the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord. - Genesis 12:7, 8
Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abraham called on the name of the Lord. - Genesis 13:4