Prayer is meant to give you a personal, direct line of communication to the Creator of the universe. You can make requests of the Almighty God and have Him direct His unlimited power to fulfill them, be they for peace, prosperity, protection, wisdom, healing or myriad other blessings for you, your family, friends, enemies, nation or the world.
Many people, however, find that their experience fails to live up to that promise, certainly with consistency. Many wish they received more answers to their prayers. Many people who believe in the power of prayer still want to be more effective at praying.
Are your prayers being answered? If not, why not? Often we hear public expressions of and calls for prayer, particularly after crises hit, from heads of state, leaders in politics, business and religion, relatives and others: “Our thoughts and prayers are with them.” “Our prayers go out to the victims of this tragedy.” People hold prayer vigils. Many individuals seek to commune with God when terror strikes our nations or illness afflicts a loved one.
Do these prayers make any difference? Is God listening? A growing number of people today believe the answer is no. In a secular world, more people even mock the idea of prayer. This question needs to be answered. If these prayers are not being heard, why even pray? Yet if they are being heard, then why do we still see so much suffering, trouble and strife around us? Look at the state of the world: Billions of people languish in poverty and illiteracy, climatic disasters are breaking records, wars rage on most continents, and the doomsday clock ticks close to midnight. Why? Is it because God cannot hear us? Or does He hear—and refuse to answer? Or is there another explanation?
The Bible has much to say about prayer. The book is written according to the foundational belief that what the Bible says is ”true, that it can be trusted and ought to be followed.” Scripture gives a great deal of instruction on how to pray. It explains to whom we should pray, our attitude when praying, what we should pray about, and many other details. It gives many spectacular examples of answered prayer and many promises from God to answer prayer.
If you apply yourself and implement what the Bible teaches, you will gain access to Almighty God! He will listen to you. This privilege is worth more than all the gold on Earth! Prayer is not mental magic or mumbo jumbo. It is not a psychological pep talk that makes you feel better. The Hebrew word for prayer used most often in the Old Testament means intercession, or supplication. The literal meaning is to prostrate oneself, or bow down. In the New Testament, the Greek term translated prayer means to supplicate, worship or make prayer.
Supplication is an earnest request or humble entreaty. To supplicate means to ask for earnestly and humbly. To entreat means to make a request in an earnest or urgent manner. Prayer can also refer to intercession or a plea. These definitions are all contained in the one word prayer. Prayer, then, is intercession or earnest, intense supplication with God.
Prayer is our part of a two-way conversation with God. God talks to us through His written Word, the Holy Bible, and we can talk to Him through prayer. This allows us to get to know God as He comes to know us. When you study the Bible, God is talking to you. When you pray, you are talking to Him. You get to really know God in this manner, just as you become better acquainted with people by conversation.
Real prayer is communication with Almighty God through our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is us talking to our heavenly Father in an attitude of humility, contrition, awe, reverence and deep respect. It is backed by the power and authority of Jesus Christ.
During Jesus’s ministry on Earth, His disciples asked Him, “Teach us to pray.” How did Christ respond? He said to them, “When you pray, say Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.” Luke 11:2 and in Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”
He didn’t say, “If you pray.” God expects to hear from us. Matthew 6:11 makes it plain that we should “pray daily and ask God to supply our needs.” In Luke 18:1 “Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” And in Luke 21:36 Christ said “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
The God who sits at the controls of the universe is a living, active God. The Bible reveals that He controls all power, energies and forces. The fourth chapter of Revelation gives a spectacular description of Him in His heavenly throne room. He sits on a magnificent throne overlooking a dazzling glassy sea that gleams like crystal. Surrounding Him on lesser thrones are 24 impressive spirit beings wearing crowns of gold who serve as His counselors. Around His throne are four more spirit beings of even greater office, power and brilliance. And at His right hand is the living Jesus Christ. Out from God’s throne proceed flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder, and angelic messengers going to and from Earth.
Do you know this God? Do you pray to this God? You should! God is more “real” than you or I or any of the things about us. Why, then, does He seem so far away, until it seems He has faded in the distance? Why does He seem mysterious and unreal? Why do the objects with which you come in daily contact, your friends, your pleasures, seem more real, when actually they are less so?
You may say, “Because I can see, feel and hear these things or people.” But that is not really the reason at all. You don’t see the air you breathe, but it seems very real to you. You cannot see or hear or feel the power of gravity, yet it seems very real to you. Perhaps you say, well, these things are real to me because they are close to me. But that is not the reason. God is as close as any of these. He, too, is real, and He is close! Yet He seems unreal and far away!
Let me tell you the real reason. God seems unreal and far away only to those who have not established and are not actively maintaining close personal relationship with God! It is not a matter of distance or visibility, it is a matter of maintaining daily prayer contact with God. As great and powerful as the true God is, He delights in the person who seeks to know Him and talk to Him in prayer (Proverbs 15:8).
In Old Testament times, there was generally only one known member of the Godhead. This very “being” later divested Himself of His spirit nature, descended to Earth, and was born as a human being as recorded in Philippians 2:7-8 “rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.” (Luke 11:1-2) Christ was revealing God the Father. Even more, He encouraged His disciples to have a personal relationship with the Father! The Son wanted them to develop a daily, personal, intimate, family relationship with the Most High God.
This Father-son relationship between God and converted Jesus followers was officially opened at Christ’s death. As Jesus cried out for the last time and breathed His last breath, the veil of the temple miraculously tore in two, from top to bottom, exposing the holy of holies and eliminating the division between the golden altar and the ark (Matthew 27:50-51). This symbolized the reality that we now have direct access to God’s throne room in our prayers!
The blood of Christ’s sacrifice paid the penalty for the sins of mankind. From that point, all who repented and called upon that sacrifice could be reconciled to God the Father (Ephesians 2:18). Jesus gave mankind access to the highest authority in the universe! How? The answer reveals much about our present relationship with Christ.
Christ taught us to pray to the Father. The time we spend in prayer each day, we direct to God the Father—albeit “in Christ’s name.” Though Christ directed our prayers to the Father, He also revealed that He would serve an intermediary role in those prayers. Just before He died, Jesus gave His disciples this instruction: “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 16:23) In 1 Timothy 2:5 he further clarified “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.”
The reason for this is that we are sinful human beings, and the Father will not abide sin. Thus, He placed Jesus Christ in the sacred role of High Priest for us (Hebrews 5:5). Jesus Christ must come into the Father’s presence on our behalf. In 1 John 2:1 it was reordered “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”
The fact that Christ lived as a man makes Him much more effective as our High Priest. “For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17-18).
Christ knows how hard it can be for us. He experienced our very temptations. He can express those thoughts to the Father. “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34)
Christ lives to fulfill this intercessory role for us ”because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:24-25). Fulfilling this priestly job is a major, daily responsibility “for Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” (Hebrews 9:24).
The Apostle John made this thrilling statement: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15) Jesus Christ said in Matthew 21:22 “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” These are bold, plain, absolute promises! Set your mind on them and ask yourself how sincerely and deeply you believe them.
Importantly, though, the Bible also explains that not all prayers are the same. It explains why some prayers are ineffective, and some never even reach God’s ear. It spells out several conditions that must be met for God’s promises of answers to apply.
- Know God’s will
- Believe God
- Obey God
- Have proper fear and humility
- Be fervent
- Be persistent
- Use Christ’s name properly
This explains why many prayers go unanswered. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
We live in a material world and are all affected by the “age of materialism.” Our world has lost the knowledge of God and the power of prayer. As a result, this world is extremely limited in spiritual power, even among many who call themselves Christ followers.
Society discourages us from relying on God. Is it any wonder Jesus Christ would ask: “ I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)
Too often, prayer is seen as a religious duty or ritualistic exercise. People either pray solely because they feel it is expected of them, or because they are troubled and seek relief. Either way, the focus is selfish. Such people are left without answers to their prayers. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)
Through the Prophet Isaiah, God says that He is so displeased with some people that “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! ” (Isaiah 1:15)
The Bible is clear that any petition we make of God must be made with full assurance that we are asking according to God’s will and that He will respond. The Apostle James makes this plain: “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:6-7)
Think about these scriptures. God certainly has the power to fulfill any prayer request He chooses. But in deciding whether to do so, He takes note of the motivation, the attitude and the level of faith of the one praying, among other factors.
In order to be assured your prayers will be answered, you need to understand just what the purpose of prayer is, and why God commands it. Why is it so important to God that we pray? This is a question worth pondering.
Seriously consider this. Jesus Christ said that “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8). Yes, God knows your needs whether or not you pray. Why, then, would God actually wait to fulfill those needs until you come to Him in prayer?
Imagine an individual lying in his sickbed, suffering intense pain. Imagine God the Father watching from His throne room, ready to heal and provide spiritual comfort but God says, Wait. I want him to ask first. Why would God do that? The answer is, He is a Father, trying to build a relationship with His son or daughter. He wants that two-way communication flowing! Prayer is the foundation upon which your relationship with God is built.
The Bible often speaks about prayer using the terminology of a child speaking to his or her father. Jesus said this: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11).
What a wonderful picture! We should develop a childlike desire to draw close to our heavenly Father in prayer. Children often want to connect with their parents first thing in the morning. As soon as they awake, they might walk down the hallway to Dad and Mom’s bedroom and climb into bed with them. They yearn for that connection.
We need to cultivate that impulse with our spiritual Father. God intends that our prayers reestablish that connection and build the father-child relationship. The extent to which you yearn for that time with Him is a good measure of whether your prayers are really accomplishing God’s purpose. God wants to hear from you. He is always there, waiting for your “footsteps in the hallway.”
Think of Christ’s statement in Song of Songs 2:14 “My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” This is Christ crying out to His lukewarm saints in this end time, longing to hear them. Yet in a sense, God says this to all of us, every day. He wants to communicate with you and hear from you.
God wants us to seek Him and make our requests known. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6). God wants us to tell Him, as we would a parent or close friend, how we feel and what we think. 1 Peter 5:7 states, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” We do this through heartfelt prayer—personal, private, sincere communication with our Creator.
It is critical that we do not allow other concerns to push aside our communication with God. The First Commandment requires that we put God first above all else. In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ reiterated this truth, promising “but seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) Yet in this fast-paced society with so many demands on our time, finding adequate time for God can be difficult. We all have limited time and must prioritize our time with God.
We must fight to do spiritual battle every day. We have to fight to remain faithful to the great God. We have to fight to get our prayer in. We have to fight thinking that we are “too busy” to pray. If you get “too busy” to pray to God and don’t fight to put Him first in your time, then you are in the “carnal” zone. Never allow that to happen.
How can you consistently make time for God each day? You decide. Each day you must determine to put first things first. Make a commitment to put God first in your daily allocation of 24 hours. Set aside a regular time to pray. Don’t give God the leftovers of your day! Give God the best part of your day! In most cases, the best part is first thing in the morning, when you are refreshed after a good night’s sleep and before the distractions of the day begin.
After you rise each morning and are fully awake, after a few stretching exercises and a shower, put prayer and Bible study first. Schedule it that way and strive to maintain it; learn to adjust if interruptions occur. You will be amazed at how much better your day will go if you make time for prayer and study first thing in the morning.
No matter how busy Christ was, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed,” (Mark 1:35) not out of duty, but from sincere desire! This is a very childlike attitude. We do not naturally have this desire, so we have to ask God for it, and we have to nurture it. Adjust your schedule to fit your needs. Organize your time so you can spend quality time with God every day.
You need to recognize just how desperate is your need for that regular, intimate contact with your heavenly Father. Talk to God every day—especially when you are struggling. You were created to need Him! Like some of your electronic devices that won’t work unless you charge the battery, you won’t work properly unless you are recharged by contact with the great God every day. You need God as much as you need oxygen!
Jesus understood this need. Hebrews 5:7 says this about His prayer life: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” It was critical that Christ live His entire physical life perfectly free from sin so He could offer Himself as an unblemished sacrificial lamb for our sins.
Jesus knew He could not accomplish this majestic spiritual feat on His own. “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (John 5:30) It was only possible with constant help from His Father. Only the Father could save Him “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). Thus, He continually stayed in close contact with His Father. He prayed regularly and fervently. We need the same understanding of just how much we need daily help from God.
In our modern, materially oriented, mechanical society, it is easy for people to look to God only as a last resort, when they are really desperate and forget that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17). He is the source of wisdom, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6)
James 1:5 reminds us “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” John 14:27 proclaims “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” 2 Timothy 1:7 encourages us “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
God, not men, is the source of promotion and advancement “No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt themselves. It is God who judges. He brings one down, he exalts another.” Psalm 75:6-7 He is our protector (Psalm 91). He is “who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:3). And when our ways please Him, “the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them.” Proverbs 16:7
Once God calls and begins to work with us, “a person can receive only what is given them from heaven.” John 3:27 Realizing this, we should be diligent to seek Him in prayer regularly. Without His direction, guidance, favor, power and help, we can accomplish nothing worthwhile. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
What we do ultimately accomplish, and the spiritual progress we make or fail to make, is in direct proportion to our realization of this fact. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” Psalm 127:1 Beyond that—and more urgently—you must realize that “there is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12).
Your human mind, without God’s Spirit, is opposed to God and unable to keep His law.“The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8) Your heart, which the Bible uses to represent the basic motives and intentions of the mind, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
You are daily subjected to the broadcasting of evil Satan “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) “in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 2:2)
He is responsible for inspiring human nature and all the evil in the world.“The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” (Revelation 12:9). He broadcasts evil moods, attitudes and impulses to human minds, though he has no power to force anyone to think or do wrong. The unsuspecting automatically respond to and obey Satan’s impulses without realizing what is taking place in their minds. Humans have thus acquired Satan’s nature.
Even Jesus followers who are aware of Satan’s influence still stumble and commit sin because of weakness or temptation. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) Romans 7:15-24 clearly describes our weakness: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
The only possible way to overcome the power of Satan and the pulls of the flesh is to rely on God! You need the power of God, which He supplies to true Christians through His Holy Spirit. The Spirit enables Christ to live in us. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” (Galatians 2:20) and gives us the strength to overcome.
“We can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us.” (Philippians 4:13). Without that Spirit, you are not a son of God and will die in your sins! “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” (Romans 8:13-14).
We cannot attain eternal life without the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives! However, we must ask the Father, in prayer, for that spiritual power and help. “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13). And it must be replenished daily.“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16). That requires prayer! “For I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” (Philippians 1:19).
Daily prayer is essential for salvation! Without God’s help, none of us can overcome the sinful pulls of our human nature. And only if we overcome sin and allow God to build His holy, righteous character through the power of the Holy Spirit, can we be born as followers of God.“Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” (Revelation 21:7). Without active and effective prayer, therefore, we can never be born into God’s Family. This is why God commands us to pray! Prayer is not an optional religious exercise. It is a core need that affects your eternal destiny!
In Luke 11 the disciples asked Christ to teach them to pray—they didn’t know how. We too must first seek wisdom from Christ on how to pray. Through the Holy Spirit, He will help us. He Himself was a man of prayer. Learning how to pray correctly is a crucial part of the process in coming to know God personally. It is reshaping your thoughts, passions and desires to match God’s!
God is love. His laws are love. Jesus cited two great commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40). As explained throughout the Bible, you will learn by building a robust prayer life of your own, and daily practice, in growing closer in that love through Christ led prayer. Love for God and His Family grows, as well as love for our neighbor, or the world.
The more you meditate about this, the more you realize just how crucial—how central to the life of a Christian—our prayer life is. Prayer is a major part of fulfilling our calling in God’s Work today. This shows you why improving the way we talk to God in prayer should be our top priority in life! If you have not begun to do so, start now to establish direct contact with your Creator. God hears and delights in the prayers of those who seek to please Him and do His will (Psalm 34:17; Proverbs 15:8; 1 Peter 3:12).
Pray to God every day. You will begin to experience blessings beyond measure!
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