The prominence of prayer in the new covenant – Part 2

INTRODUCTION. The new covenant, which was announced in Jeremiah 31:31-34, inaugurated by the Lord Jesus on the night that He was betrayed, and established by Jesus’ death on the cross, differed dramatically from the old covenant, which had been in effect since the Fall and which the LORD formalized when He gave the Law on Sinai. The old covenant was a covenant of works whose purpose was to bring the awareness of personal sin (Romans 3:20) and of sin’s corresponding condemnation (Romans 5:16a), while the new covenant brings with it forgiveness of sin (Ephesians 1:7) and imputed righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).

Not only do these two covenants differ in their purposes, but they also differ dramatically in the day-to-day practices of each covenant. One of the most apparent ways that the new covenant differs from the old is in the area of prayer.

Post #483 (January 13, 2022) examined prayer under the old covenant, while this post (#484) examines prayer in the new covenant.

First, we examined prayer under the old covenant and saw that prayer was rare because few people knew the LORD.


The previous comments (Post #483) were focused on the old covenant. As we turn to the new covenant, we ask the question, “Has anything changed?” Well, some things have not changed. In the new covenant, as under the old, it is still true that those who know the Lord, pray to the Lord, and those who do not know the Lord do not. This is an immense truth. In fact, this can serve as a diagnostic tool to determine spiritual health and even to assess whether or not someone is a genuine follower of Jesus. A feeble or nonexistent prayer life may very well indicate a nonexistent relationship with Jesus Christ, even for a person who claims to be a Christian, even for a person who regularly goes to a church. But in the new covenant, this truth has not changed: “Those who know the Lord, pray to the Lord, and those who do not know the Lord do not.”

But with the coming of the Lord Jesus and the new covenant, everything else related to prayer has changed, and changed dramatically. In the new covenant, prayer becomes prominent, even primary in the life of the individual believer and in the life of the church. One of the major features of Jesus’ earthly ministry was His time spent in prayer. Since Jesus prayed, all His disciples should pray. In fact, on more than one occasion, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. So, in contrast to the old covenant and the Law, there is explicit instruction on prayer in the New Testament and there are many examples of prayer. The New Testament epistles are full of prayers to guide the disciple in their own conversations with the Lord.

We also see that every believer is commanded to pray. A few examples will suffice. Paul charges every believer to “Pray without ceasing” in 1 Thess. 5:17. No comment needs to be made on that verse, does it? In Ephesians 6:19, again the apostle Paul directs his readers to “pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and petition for all the saints.” Prayer saturates the life of the new covenant believer and the worship of the new covenant church. Since the new covenant church is made up of those who know the Lord (Jeremiah 31:33), the church should be a place of prayer (Matthew 21:13). This is different from the old covenant temple, which was not a place of prayer, but a place of sacrifice.

Consider this for a moment. The Law of the old covenant loomed over the temple and demanded the blood of sacrifices to hold back the wrath of God. But in the new covenant, the final sacrifice has been offered and the wrath of God has been quenched (Romans 3:21-26; 1 Cor. 5:7). The Law’s demands have been satisfied (Romans 8:4) and the wages of sin have been fully paid (John 19:30). The believer has now been reconciled to God through the death of His Son (Romans 5:8-11) and fear of judgment has been nailed to the cross. The veil of the temple that intentionally separated sinful man from holy God has been ripped in two from top to bottom to show that God now dwells with His people; indeed, God, by His Holy Spirit, now dwells in His people! Now God’s people know Him because He indwells them (Ephesians 1:13-14). And as we stated before, those who know the Lord, pray to the Lord.

As we examine the contents of the book of Acts, we see that prayer is prominent in the early church. In Acts 1:14, the apostles are “devoting themselves to prayer.” In 2:42, they were continually devoting themselves to the prayers.” A bold prayer to God is prayed in 4:24-31 that results in the place being shaken. In Acts 6:4, the apostles select deacons so that they can “devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” In Acts 8:15, Peter and John come down to Samaria from Jerusalem and “prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.” There is no need to go through the entire book to see that prayer was central to every aspect of the New Testament church. And why was that so? The new covenant believer prays because he gets to pray! The believer is invited to come boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). In Ephesians 3:12, Paul reminds all believers that “in Christ we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.” Paul is here referring to access to God through prayer, because he follows this up with, “For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father” (Eph. 3:14), as he begins another prayer. Again, prayer is the very heartbeat of the new covenant because conversation with his God is the privilege of every member of the new covenant church. Prayer is the rule, rather than to rare exception.

The new covenant believer has been invited to pray to the Lord of the universe any time he wants. Let us be those who pray intimately and often.

SDG                 rmb                 1/16/2022                   #484