“THE MOST IMPORTANT SUBJECT
“Men ought always to pray.”-Luke 18:1
Prayer is the most important subject in practical religion. All other subjects are second to it. Reading the Bible, keeping the Sabbath, hearing sermons, attending public worship, going to the Lord’s Table-all these are very weighty matters. But none of them is as important as private prayer…
1. Prayer is absolutely needful to a man’s salvation. I say absolutely needful and I say so advisedly. I am not speaking now of infants and idiots. I am not settling the state of the heathen. I remember that where little is given, there little will be required. I speak especially of those who call themselves Christians in a land like our own. Of such I say no man or woman can expect to be saved who does not pray.
I hold salvation by grace as strongly as any one. I would gladly offer a free and full pardon to the greatest sinner that ever lived. I would not hesitate to stand by his dying bed and say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31). But that a man can have salvation without asking for it, I cannot see in the Bible. That a man will receive pardon of his sins, who will not so much as lift up his heart inwardly and say, “Lord Jesus, give it to me,” this I cannot find. I can find that nobody will be saved by his prayers, but I cannot find that without prayer anybody will be saved.
There will be many at Christ’s right hand in the last day. The saints gathered from North and South, East and West, will be a “great multitude, which no man can number” (Rev. 7:9). The song of victory that will burst forth from their mouths, when their redemption is at length complete, will be a glorious song indeed. It will be far above the noise of many waters and mighty thunders. But there will be no discord in that song. They that sing will sing with one heart as well as one voice. Their experience will be one and the same. All will have believed. All will have been washed in the blood of Christ. All will have been born again. All will have prayed. Yes, we must pray on earth or we shall never praise in heaven. We must go through the school of prayer, or we shall never be fit for the holiday of praise. In short, to be prayerless is to be without God-without Christ-without grace-without hope-and without heaven. It is to be in the road to hell.
2. A habit of prayer is one of the surest marks of a true Christian. All of the children of God one earth are alike in this respect. From the moment there is any life and reality about their religion, they pray. Just as the first sign of life in an infant when born into the world is the act of breathing, so the first act of men and women when they are born again is praying.
This is one of the common marks of all the elect of God: “[They] cry day and night unto Him” (Luke 18:7). The Holy Spirit, Who makes them new creatures, works in them the feeling of adoption and makes them cry, “Abba, Father” (Rom 8:15). The Lord Jesus, when He quickens them, gives them a voice and a tongue and says to them, “Be dumb no more.” God has no dumb children. It is as much a part of their new nature to pray, as it is of a child to cry. They see their need of mercy and grace. They feel their emptiness and weakness. They cannot do otherwise than they do. They must pray.”
-J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) from Practical Religion Banner of Truth Trust www.banneroftruth.org