The Properties of Prayer

Title: The Properties of Prayer

Bible Book: 1 Thessalonians 5 : 17

Author: Donnie L. Martin

Subject: Prayer



Though the Christian practice of prayer is possessed of certain qualities and characteristics that make it an act of worship toward God, I don’t want us to be misled by the title of this message. When I refer to the properties of prayer, I do not mean that prayer is simply some sort of religious formula or ritual that magically guarantees us an audience with Almighty God. Prayer is not about enticing God  to listen to our needs, but it is acting in faith upon God’s willingness to meet our needs, and to commune and fellowship with us—those He has redeemed and loved with an everlasting love.

Prayer is not merely a religious sounding monologue. Rather, it is to be a relationship, involving loving and honest dialogue between the believer and His God.

Most of us know relatively little about the warp and woof of prayer. While most Christians would affirm the value and need of prayer, their lack of its consistent practice would seemed to belie their affirmation. If ever there was a time to get serious about seeking God’s face in prayer, it’s the present. If you think the things we’ve already seen take place in this administration are scary, wait until you see the convulsions that are yet to come. Call me a fear monger if you will, but our world in general, as well as our nation in particular, is on the brink of total chaos. Yes. It’s time to pray.

All of this having been said, let’s talk about the properties of prayer.

I. Perpetual

A. This Is Seen In The Altar Of Incense Construction

Exodus 30:1, “And thou shall make an altar to burn incense upon: of shittim (acacia) wood shalt thou make it.”

1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”

The Altar of Incense, a picture of prayer, was made of acacia wood, and is among the hardest and most durable woods known to man. There are some other interesting facts about this tree:

This tree yields the gum arabic of commerce, from incisions cut deeply in the bark…The wood is very hard, close-grained…It grows in dry places, where no other tree can live.1

Notice that Smith says that the acacia tree produces gum arabic. I discovered that this gum is used “for stabilizing emulsions.”2 You know what, when practiced in faith, prayer will bring stability to your heart and life. Prayer is one of God’s stabilizing agents.

There was another thing that Smith said about the acacia tree that I found interesting. He said that this tree grows “…in dry places.” This reminds me of what is often true of most Christian’s prayer life. Our prayers are often routine and passive until we find ourselves in a spiritually dry place. Whether we like it or not, our prayer life tends to grow in the spiritual deserts of life—the dry places. Only prayer and faith in God can take you through some of the more difficult hardships and wilderness wanderings of this earthly sojourn.

B. This Is Seen In God’s Command For Continuance

Exodus 30:8, “And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual (“continuance…constant…constantly”3) incense before the Lord throughout your generations.”

For the Christian, prayer is not to be merely a philosophy, but a perpetual practice.

Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thicket where he would pour out his heart to God.

Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one,“Brother, the grass grows on your path.”4

II. Precious

Exodus 30:3-5, “And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, the top thereof, and the sides thereof round about, and the horns thereof; and thou shalt make unto it a crown of gold round about. 4 And two golden rings shalt thou make to it under the crown of it, by the two corners thereof, upon the two sides of it shalt thou make it; and they shall be for places for the staves to bear it withal. 5 And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold.”

If prayer were more highly valued by the Church of our day, she would see far more significant spiritual results.

What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer.5

The Church as a whole has more than enough plans and programs, but relatively little prayer. However, it is fervent prayer that will clothe our ministry with divine power.

You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.6

III. Powerful

Exodus 30:2, 10, “A cubit shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof; foursquare shall it be: and two cubits shall be the height thereof: the horns thereof shall be of the same. 10 And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements: once in the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations: it is most holy unto the Lord.”

In ancient times, the horn was a symbol of power, or strength. There was a horn at each corner of the

Altar of Incense, symbolizing the fact that there is power in prayer; not because of mere religious ritual, but because prayer connects the believer to the awesome power of Almighty God. I believe it was E.M. Bounds who said, “Much prayer, much power. Little prayer, little power.”7

Speaking of the name Jehovah, Roy and Revel Hession speak of the magnificent power of the God to whom we pray:

The special revelation which this name gives is that of the grace of God. “I am” is an unfinished sentence. It has no object. I am—what? What is our wonder when we discover, as we continue with our Bibles, that He is saying, “I Am whatever My people need” and that the sentence is only left blank that man may bring his many and various needs, as they arise, to complete it!

Where there is need, there is God. Where there is sorrow, misery, unhappiness, suffering, confusion, folly, oppression, there is the I Am, yearning to turn man’s sorrow into bliss whenever man will let Him. It is not, therefore, the hungry seeking for bread, but the Bread seeking the hungry; not the sad seeking for joy, but rather Joy seeking the sad; not emptiness seeking fulness, but rather Fulness seeking emptiness. And it is not merely that He supplies our need, but He becomes  Himself the fulfillment of our need. He is ever “I am that which My people need.”8

We Christians speak often of the need to win the lost, yet we give little time to praying for the lost. “We’re never going to win the world by organizing, but by agonizing.”9

IV. Preparatory

Exodus 30:6, “And thou shalt put it before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee.”

The Altar of Incense stood right in front of the veil that opened up into the Holy of Holies. That illustrates the fact that prayer is preparatory to access into God’s presence.


  1. Dr. William Smith, Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition, published by A.J. Holman Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; pg. 285.
  2. Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief and David B. Guralnik, Editor in Chief Emeritus, Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Copyright © 1988 by Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, New York; pg. 601.
  3. James Strong, S.T.D., LL.D., The Exhaustive Concordance of The Bible, published by MacDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101; #8548 of the Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary, pg. 125.
  4. Today in the Word, June 29, 1992.
  5. E.M. Bounds.
  6. John Bunyon.
  7. E.M. Bounds.
  8. Roy and Revel Hession, We Would See Jesus, Copyright © 1958 by Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, All rights reserved; pg. 26.
  9. Leonard Ravenhill.
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