The men upon whose shoulders rested the initial responsibility of Christianizing the world came to Jesus with one supreme request. They did not say, “Lord, teach us to preach;” “Lord, teach us to do miracles;” or “Lord, teach us to be wise.” They said, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).
The followers of Christ saw the example He set in praying, and they noted the direct relationship between Jesus’ ministry and His devout life of prayer.
Jesus considered prayer more important than food, for the Bible says that hours before breakfast, “In the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35).
The Son of God considered prayer more important than the assembling of great throngs. The Bible says, “And great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (Luke 5:15-16).
The precious hours of fellowship with His heavenly Father meant more to our Savior than sleep, for the Bible says, “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12).
He prayed at funerals and the dead were raised. He prayed over the five loaves and two fishes and a multitude was fed with a little boy’s lunch. He prayed, “Not My will, but Yours” (Luke 22:42), and a way was made whereby sinful men and women might approach a holy God.
It has pleased God to relate His work in the world to the prayers of His people. Noah prayed, and God handed him a blueprint of the ark of deliverance. Moses prayed, and God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Gideon prayed, and a formidable enemy fled in fear before his valiant, prayerful 300. Daniel prayed, and the mouths of the lions were closed. Elijah prayed, and the fire of God consumed the sacrifice and licked up the water around the altar. David prayed, and he defeated Goliath on the Philistine battleground.
The disciples prayed, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit so that 3,000 were added to the church in one day. Paul prayed, and hundreds of churches were born in Asia Minor and Europe. God does answer prayer.
Some prayers are answered with a “yes” and some with a “no.” The Bible says there are specific reasons why prayers are not answered.
It may be that your prayers are not answered because of disobedience. A disobedient child cannot expect to have his cake and eat it too. The Bible says, “It shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you” (Deuteronomy 28:15).
Perhaps your prayers are not answered because of secret sin. David said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18). Sin short-circuits the communication system between earth and Heaven, and your praying with an evil heart will not even reach God.
Another reason for prayers not being answered is selfishness or willfulness. The Bible says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Prayer serves a dual purpose: the blessing of man and the glory of God. If a prayer is prayed willfully for our own benefit but not for God’s glory, it is not worthy of being answered. “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42) is the spirit of effectual prayer.
Real prayer is not a vain repetition of words uttered in public for religious display. Jesus said, “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:5).
Prayer is not a futile cry of desperation born of fear or frustration. Many people pray only when they are under great stress or in danger. There seems to be an instinct in people to pray in times of trouble. We know “there are no atheists in foxholes,” but the kind of Christianity that fails to reach into our everyday lives will never change the world.
The Bible says, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8).
In this modern age, we have learned to harness the power of the mighty Niagara. We have learned how to contain gasoline vapors in a cylinder and explode them at the appointed second to move our vehicles. We have even discovered the secret of releasing energy in the atom, which is capable of destroying entire cities and civilizations.
But very few of us have learned how to fully develop the power of prayer. We have not yet learned that a man or woman is more powerful when they are in prayer than when they are behind the most powerful guns we have ever developed. We have not learned that a nation is more powerful when it unites in earnest prayer to God than when its resources are channeled into defensive weapons. We have not discovered that the answers to all our problems can be had through contact with Almighty God.
I know from personal experience that we are only able to move forward in our evangelistic work by your prayers. If it were not for the prayers of thousands of God’s people throughout the world, our ministry would completely fail.
Now let us look at prayer objectively. What does the Bible say about effectual praying?
First, prayer is for God’s children. Jesus said, when you pray, say, “Our Father …” (see Matthew 6:9).
Unless we have been born into the family of God through the new birth, we have no right to ask favors of God. The Bible says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).
Oh, my friend whose prayers have not been answered, God invites you to the intimacy of spiritual sonship, “That you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).
Second, effectual prayer is offered in faith.
The Bible says, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24).
It goes without saying that if our prayers are aimless, meaningless and mingled with doubt, they will go unanswered. Prayer is more than a wish turned heavenward. It is the voice of faith directed Godward.
Third, dynamic prayer emanates from an obedient heart.
The Bible says, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).
Further, the Bible says, “However, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you” (1 Samuel 12:15).
If you want to get your prayers through to God, surrender your stubborn will to Him, and He will hear your cry.
Fourth, we are to pray in Christ’s Name.
Jesus said, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).
We are not worthy to approach the holy throne of God except through our advocate, Jesus Christ. God, for Christ’s sake, forgives our sins. God, for Christ’s sake, supplies our needs. God, for Christ’s sake, receives our prayers. Our approach to God has been made possible because of Jesus Christ.
Fifth, we must desire the will of God.
Even our Lord, contrary to His own disposition at the moment, said, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done” (Matthew 26:42).
Prayer couples you with God’s true purposes for you and the world. It not only brings the blessings of God’s will to your own personal life, but it brings you the added blessing of being in step with God’s plan.
And last, our prayer must be for God’s glory.
The model prayer that Jesus has given us concludes with, “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” (Matthew 6:13). If we are to have our prayers answered, we must give God the glory. Our Lord said to His disciples, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).
What a privilege is ours, the privilege of prayer! We are to pray in times of adversity, lest we become faithless and unbelieving. We are to pray in times of prosperity, lest we become boastful and proud. We are to pray in times of danger, lest we become fearful and doubting. We need to pray in times of security, lest we become self-sufficient. Sinners, pray to a merciful God for forgiveness! Christians, pray for an outpouring of God’s Spirit upon a willful, evil, unrepentant world. Parents, pray that God may crown your home with grace and mercy! Children, pray for the salvation of your parents!
Christians, saints of God, pray that the dew of Heaven may fall on earth’s dry, thirsty ground, and that righteousness may cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Pray, believing, with this promise of our Savior in mind, “Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them (Mark 11:24).
“Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees”—so pray, Christian, pray! ©1955 BGEA
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Herald