The necessity of prayer

The necessity of prayer is attested to in the Books of both the Old and the New Testaments, and by the lives of men of God by whose lights we are guided and by whose steps we follow. In the Old Testament, we find the following:

“You shall fear the Lord Your God and Him shall You serve“. (Deuteronomy 6:13; 10:20); “Praise the Lord, praise, O you servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord”. (Psalm 113); “Blessed are they that dwell in Your house; they shall praise You forever.” Psalm 85:4); “O You Who hears prayer, unto You all flesh shall come.” (Psalm 65:2)

In the New Testament, we read: “Watch and Pray.” (Matthew. 26, 41), so watch, you, and pray always; See also the parable of the Unjust Judge. (Luke 18). We further read: “Continue steadfastly in prayer being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2); “Pray without ceasing.” (Thessalonians, 5:17); “Be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12), “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplications for all the Saints.” (Ephesians 6:18).

Thus we see that in both Testaments men of God made praying and worshipping Him their supreme concern. For instance, in Genesis 12:8 we read of Abraham, “the close Friend of God,” that he “built an altar to the Lord and called on His name.” Likewise did Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 26:25). Moses Says “I fell down before the Lord…I prayed therefore unto the Lord and said…” (Deuteronomy. 9:25). Of Hannah, mother of Samuel, it is recorded: “She prayed to God and wept bitterly.”

Jonah, too, “Prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the whale.” Daniel is reported to have prayed three times daily, kneeling on his Knees. Look over the prayer of Hezekiah, as given in Isaiah 37, and the prayer of Solomon, recorded in II Chronicles 6. As for David, the Prophet and the great king, his famous psalms attest to his worshipping God since his early youth. Hannah the Prophetess used to worship God in fasting and prayer night and day.(Luke 2:37). The Apostles, Mary the Mother of Jesus, His brethren and all the holy women “continued earnestly in prayer with one accord.” (Acts 1:14; 2:46).

But of more significance than all is the fact that Christ, may His name be exalted, Who Himself laid down the path of divine worship, made prayer our duty, taught us how to pray persistently, showed us the fruit of prayer, and Himself prayed giving us a good example. In this connection, Mor Yacoub, the Doctor of the Church, says: “If the One Who hears and heeds our supplications Himself prayed, who then would not be industrious in prayer? If, indeed, the One Who needed not to pray, nevertheless gave Himself earnestly to prayer on our behalf, what would be the situation of him who stands in need of it if he did not pray?

Take heart, O You who prays, and weary not, for the prayer of Son of God is in Your behalf. Let your prayer join His mighty one. He will accept it for the sake of His own prayer.” The early Apostles and believers followed this example. The forefathers, the successors to the Apostles, the Saints and the faithful everywhere in the world followed suit. Mor Ephraim Said:

“Be constant in prayer day and night, for prayer helps him who loves it in both worlds. Persist in it for the farmer who frequently cultivates his fields, reaps increased yields. Do not be like the slothful in whose fields thorns will grow.”

Having then seen the necessity and advantage of prayer, let us not fall into the error of thinking that it is necessary only at the time of need. Rather, it must be continuous as it is nourishment to the soul as food is for the body, especially since the body and the soul of man has constant needs. Further, man is always exposed to tribulation, misfortunes, falling into grave offenses and faults. What better vessel than prayer is there to cross the stormy seas of trial and temptation, and reach the haven of safety?

If we assume that man might sometimes be free of physical pains and circumstantial trials, can he escape from spiritual trials and mental warfare? The fire of this warfare is constantly being set ablaze by the Enemy of the soul against whom the Apostle warns us saying: “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8). If we assume that some time may pass in one’s live when he may not come upon physical distress or spiritual trial, he still needs to be cautious not to get entangled in them. This is Christ’s commandment to us: “Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation.”. (Matthew. 26:41).

If one is in a virtuous state, he must ask God to remain in it. Even if one thinks that God is the Lord of knowledge and wisdom and thus knows what the needs of His servants are before they ask, and that He grants their requests freely, he should nonetheless make his petitions known to Him, thanking His graces, lest we would be put at the level of dumb animals.

The wisdom of God requires that He grants not our needs unless we ask so that he makes known to us the magnitude of His graces and thus we may receive them with due thanksgiving and make not light of them. For this reason, He taught us to ask diligently that we may receive, to seek insistently that we may find, and to knock at the doors of His mercy pressingly that they may be opened to us. For he who asks receives, he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.

We wish to add that man has three enemies: Satan, flesh and the World.

There are likewise three weapons against them: prayer against Satan, fasting against flesh, and almsgiving against the World.

Man’s duty is also threefold: towards God, towards himself, and towards his neighbor. With prayer he fulfills what he owes to God; with fasting he pays his debt to his body; and with almsgiving he performs his duty to his neighbor. How good prayer is when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving, and righteousness. (Tobias 12:8).


— Patriarch Mor Ignatius Ephrem Barsoum