a partial definition of prayer

AW Pink gives this as one essential element in prayer.

Prayer is not so much an act as it is an attitude – an attitude of dependency, dependency upon God. Prayer is a confession of creature weakness, yea, of helplessness. Prayer is the acknowledgement of our need and the spreading of it before God. We do not say that this is all there is in prayer: it is not. But it is the essential, the primary element in prayer. …

Therefore, prayer is the very opposite of dictating to God. Because prayer is an attitude of dependency, the one who really prays is submissive, submissive to the divine will; and submission to the divine will means, that we are content for the Lord to supply our needs according to the dictates of his sovereign pleasure. And hence it is that we say, every prayer that is offered to God in this spirit is sure of meeting with an answer or response from Him.

AW Pink, The Sovereignty of God, first published 1928. Banner of Truth revised edition, 1998 reprint, p121. Italics original.


3 thoughts on “a partial definition of prayer

  1. Good quotation, Cath. As it happens, our adult Sunday School class at church is currently going through the Larger Catechism, and we are now going through the section on prayer (so, as you can see, we are within sight of the end of the LC). I’ll have to remember that quote!


  2. I’m sure BB Warfield says the same thing in one of his books – i can picture its somewhat garish red and yellow cover, i think it might be called Faith and Life (?) – i might have a note of it somewhere so i’ll see if i can dig it up too!

    Did you use any extra study materials for the Larger Catechism? Several years ago i got hold of the commentary by Vos (? or GI Williamson?) – thought it was very good!


  3. Ok, Warfield’s quote wasn’t quite where I expected to find it, but here it is at last:

    “In its very nature, prayer is a confession of weakness, a confession of need, of dependence, a cry for help, a reaching out for something stronger, better, more stable and trustworthy than ourselves, on which to rest and depend and draw.” (Warfield, Faith and Life, p147)

    I suppose this applies to any kind of praying, to any kind of deity at all – anyone in a moment of felt helplessness could make that kind of cry or reaching out.

    Ie, you need more than a feeling of weakness and need, before your cry is an actual prayer – there has to be revelation so that you know who is the God you have to pray to, and so that you can have any confidence that he would ever hear/answer you, and so that you know to pray in Christ’s name and for his sake if it’s to be any way acceptable to God as a prayer.

    (I’m sure Warfield says all this in his article but the book didn’t belong to me – i only took a note of this wee excerpt!)


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