*Prayer and Grace
You have purified yourselves by obeying the truth.
1 Peter 1:22 NIV
It has been vehemently objected that Christ is the only means of grace. I answer, This is mere playing upon words. Explain your term, and the objection vanishes away. When we say, “Prayer is a means of grace,” we understand a channel through which the grace of God is conveyed. When you say, “Christ is the means of grace,” you mean the sole price and purchaser of it, that “no man comes unto the Father, but through Him.” And who denies it?
But does not the scripture (it has been objected, also) direct us to wait for salvation? Does not David say, “My soul waits for God; from Him comes my salvation?” Does not Isaiah teach us the same, saying, “O Lord, we have waited for You?”
All this cannot be denied. We are undoubtably to wait on Him. But how shall we wait? Can you find a better way of waiting for Him than the way He Himself has appointed? Consider the very words of the prophet Isaiah. The whole sentence runs thus: “In the way of Your judgments [or ordinances], O Lord, we have waited for You” (Isaiah 26:8 NKJV). In the same way did David wait: “Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end” (Psalm 119:33 NKJV).
*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.
Wesley, in this sixteenth lesson on prayer, defends prayer as a means of grace while fully acknowledging Christ as the source of grace. A means of grace is a channel by which THE means of grace, Christ Himself in all of His fullness, is communicated to us.
He goes on to site both the prophet Isaiah and King David as examples of those who learned to wait upon the Lord. And what better way, he asks, than that way of prayer that Christ Himself has appointed.
Does Jesus not say in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you?” In fact, it is actually saying, Keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking! We ask, we seek, we knock in prayer.
Concerning prayer as a means of grace, the apostle James has some important things to say. We often quote the scripture, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2b NASB). But we must read this verse in the context of verses 1-3 in order to get its full meaning. It reads, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” Our motives are not always pure as we keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. So asking alone, may not yield the harvest we are after.
The verse Wesley starts with here, 1 Peter 1:22, is part of a longer discourse on how we should relate to one another because we have been born again. Verses 1:22-2:3 read, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ” ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.” And this is the word which was preached to you. Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord” (NASB).
Grace, by any means, never contradicts the truth, but upholds it.