Severe trials, unusual blessings, shocking losses, or adverse providences can also be means through which the Holy Spirit speaks to the soul. But these are not means of grace in themselves; they may serve to direct the person to the Word of God or they can be happenings in which the Word, by the Spirit's application, speaks to us.
Prayer is an important calling. It is the chief part of thankfulness in return to God. It is an important avenue of communication with God, but it is not a principal means of grace. God may speak to the soul in prayer, but when this happens, the Holy Spirit applies the Word of God to the soul in a powerful and fitting way. Prayer may also serve as a means to direct a person to the Bible. But in either case, the principal means through which God is working is His infallible Word. God's means of grace must be used prayerfully.
Of the two principal means of grace, Word and sacrament, the Word is predominant. By application of the Holy Spirit, the Word is a means to both work and strengthen faith (Romans 10:17 and Acts 20:32). The sacraments serve only to strengthen faith (Matthew 26:26-29). There would be no sacraments without God's Word. They are instituted and explained in the Bible. There would be no faith to strengthen if there were no Word through which it is worked.
God's Word consists of law and gospel. These two are found together in all parts of Scripture, in both the Old and New Testament. God's law has been thoroughly discussed previously in Chapters 18-21.
The gospel refers to God's way of salvation for sinners through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as described in numerous places in previous chapters. The word "gospel" means "good news" or "glad tidings." The gospel contains and reveals the core message of Scripture -how God and sinners can be reconciled in Jesus Christ; how sinners can be saved and restored to serve the purpose for which he was created, i.e., to love and glorify his Creator. The preaching of the gospel is the highest calling of God's church and servants. The great importance of the gospel is demonstrated in the chart on the following page.
How does prayer show recognition of our need for God's blessing upon our use of His means of grace?
Of His own will begat He us with the Word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.
And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.