Discipleship: Prayer

Prayer is essential for the growth of your relationship with God. As in any healthy relationship, communication must go both ways. Not only must you listen to God speak to you through His word, you must also talk to Him, knowing that He hears you.

The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.

– Psalm 145:18-19

I would rather train twenty men to pray, than a thousand to preach; – A minister’s highest mission ought to be to teach his people to pray.

– H. MacGregor

Prayer was something that Jesus did often, and the thing that His disciples asked to be taught (Luke 11:1). Prayer can be private or public, but the focus in this discipleship class is private prayer because proper public prayer can only come from a healthy private prayer life.

What is prayer?

Prayer is simply talking to God. You can do so no matter where you are (because God is always present), and in any situation or circumstance. This privilege of full access to God Jesus made possible through His death on the cross.

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.

– Hebrews 10:19

For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

– Ephesians 2:18 (Green)

You can now come to God any time you want because it is the right of a child to come to his father at any time for anything.

There are many biblical examples of praying to the Father (Luke 11:2) and the Son (Acts 7:59). There are none explicitly of praying to the Holy Spirit, but this does not mean it is inappropriate to do so. The Holy Spirit guides us and helps us in our prayers (Jude 20).

The essence of prayer does not consist in asking God for something but in opening our hearts to God, in speaking with Him, and living with Him in perpetual communion. Prayer is continual abandonment to God. Prayer does not mean asking God for all kinds of things we want; it is rather the desire for God Himself, the only Giver of Life, Prayer is not asking, but union with God. Prayer is not a painful effort to gain from God help in the varying needs of our lives. Prayer is the desire to possess God Himself, the Source of all life. The true spirit of prayer does not consist in asking for blessings, but in receiving Him who is the giver of all blessings, and in living a life of fellowship with Him.

– Sadhu Sundar Singh

Why should I pray?

The question is sometimes asked: “If God already knows my need and is willing to meet it, why should I ask Him to meet it?” That is like asking, “If my spouse knows I love him or her, why should I keep having to say it?” Prayer’s purpose is to commune with God, to further your relationship with Him and to learn dependence on Him. Spending time in prayer is one way to show you love Him and to remind yourself that all good comes from God. Besides, if Jesus felt the need to pray, you should too.

The central significance of prayer is not in the things that happen as results, but in the deepening intimacy and unhurried communion with God at His central throne of control in order to discover a “sense of God’s need in order to call on God’s help to meet that need”

– E.M. Bounds, The Weapon Of Prayer.

Whenever the insistence is on the point that God answers prayer, we are off the track. The meaning of prayer is that we get hold of God, not of the answer.

– Oswald Chambers

Many times you will not feel like praying. Do so anyway. Sometimes this feeling will go away as you pray.

A woman went to Andrew Murray with the problem of feeling she couldn’t pray. He said, “Why then, do you not try this? As you go to your inner chamber, however cold and dark your heart may be, do not try in your own might to force yourself into the right attitude. Bow before Him, and tell Him that He sees in what a sad state you are, and that your only hope is in Him. Trust Him, with a childlike trust, to have mercy upon you, and wait upon Him. In such a trust you are in a right relationship to Him. You have nothing — He has everything.” The woman later told Murray that his advice had helped her. She discovered that her trust in Christ’s love for her could help her pray, even when prayer did not come easily.

– Our Daily Bread

Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.

– Corrie ten Boom

You also need to pray even when you don’t think you have the time. Begin your day with prayer, and begin any major (and even minor) project with prayer also.

For more than half a century, I have never known one day when I had not more business than I could get through. For 40 years, I have had annually about 30,000 letters, and most of these have passed through my own hands. I have nine assistants always at work corresponding in German, French, English, Danish, Italian, Russian, and other languages. Then, as pastor of a church with 1200 believers, great has been my care. I have had charge of five orphanages; also at my publishing depot, the printing and circulation of millions of tracts, books, and Bibles. But I have always made it a rule never to begin work till I have had a good season with God.

– George Mueller

How should I pray?

Prayer takes many forms. You can speak out loud, or pray in your heart. You can pray with few words or many. You can pray standing, sitting, kneeling, or lying down. The forms are not important. What matters is that you are talking to God, and it should become as natural as breathing.

PRAY IN FAITH: Whatever you ask for, ask in faith. When you pray, you must believe God willingly hears you and that He answers prayer.

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;

– James 1:6-7

And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.

– Matthew 21:22

Do you have doubts because you feel you are not worthy enough? Your heavenly Father loves you and is able and willing to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” ( Ephesians 3:20). Come to God with boldness, trusting in the worthiness of Jesus Christ who has gained for you full, unrestricted access to God.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

– Hebrews 4:16 (AKJV)

according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.

– Ephesians 3:11-12 (Green)

It is not enough for the believer to begin to pray, nor to pray correctly; nor is it enough to continue for a time to pray. We must patiently, believingly continue in prayer until we obtain an answer. Further, we have not only to continue in prayer until the end, but we have also to believe that God does hear us and will answer our prayers. Most frequently we fail in not continuing in prayer until the blessing is obtained, and in not expecting the blessing. Those who are disciples of the Lord Jesus should labor with all their might in the work of God as if everything depended upon their own endeavors. Yet, having done so, they should not in the least trust in their labor and efforts, nor in the means that they use for the spread of the truth, but in God alone; and they should with all earnestness seek the blessing of God in persevering, patient, and believing prayer. Here is the great secret of success, my Christian reader. Work with all your might, but never trust in your work. Pray with all your might for the blessing in God, but work at the same time with all diligence, with all patience, with all perseverance. Pray, then, and work. Work and pray. And still again pray, and then work. And so on, all the days of your life. The result will surely be abundant blessing. Whether you see much fruit or little fruit, such kind of service will be blessed.

– George Muller

PRAY IN GOD’S WILL: Your motive must also be right. You must be sincere when you pray – not just act or sound sincere but be sincere – and you must ask in accordance with God’s will. Don’t serve on an advisory capacity to God. Ask, don’t demand.

Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.

– Matthew 6:10 (MKJV)

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, 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 the petitions that we have asked of Him.

– 1 John 5:14-15

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

– James 4:3

Whatever you ask for, ask within the bounds of God’s will. Don’t pray just for your own pleasures. God is not a means to your end. The Jabez prayer (1 Chronicles 4:10), while good when prayed in the will of God, is only one of hundreds of prayers in the Bible, and it can easily be mis-prayed for personal ends.

But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, And tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul.

– Psalm 106:14-15

Beware of insisting on what you know is not God’s will… you may get it. God told Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20 to prepare himself for he was going to die. Hezekiah didn’t like that answer, so he asked God for his life and got another 15 years. However, because of this Manassah was born and he became a very bad king. Be careful of what you ask for. Don’t seek alternatives to God will.

And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.

– John 16:23-27

Jesus told His disciples to ask the Father in His own name. “In Jesus Name” are not magic words that guarantee you’ll get what you ask for. It means by His authority, not on some self-merit basis. It implies within the will of God. God delights in our asking, and when we receive what we ask, our joy also increases.

Prayer is surrender–surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.

– E. Stanley Jones, Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome

And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

– John 14:13

Ask for what brings glory to God, for this is His will.

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit

– Jude 20

praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, …

– Ephesians 6:18 (KJV)

To pray in the Spirit means to pray with the Spirit’s help and direction. Again, this is also within the will of God because the Holy Spirit has the same goals as the Father and the Son.

When we pray, remember:
1. The love of God that wants the best for us.
2. The wisdom of God that knows what is best for us.
3. The power of God that can accomplish it.

– William Barclay, Prodigals and Those Who Love.

PRAY WITH THE RIGHT PURPOSE: Prayer is directed to God. It is for the purpose of talking to God. Be sure you have the right motives when you pray.

“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. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

– Matthew 6:5-6

Pray to talk to God, not to show how righteous you are or to impress those looking on.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

– Matthew 23:14 (ASV)

Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few.

– Ecclesiastes 5:2

Beware of long or fancy prayers. God does not hear based on the number or quality of the words you use.

And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

– Matthew 6:7-8

Beware of rote or repetitious prayers. it’s ironic that Jesus said this just before He gave the “Lord’s Prayer” as a model for our own – the prayer that is the most repeated prayer. When saying a prayer becomes a tradition, it ceases to be done in the true spirit of prayer.

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say?

– 1 Corinthians 14:14-16

Tongues is sometimes described as a prayer language, but Paul says it is not to be so. Pray with your understanding. Be aware of what you are saying to God.

PRAY HUMBLY: Pray with a humble attitude. God hears the humble, but sets Himself against the proud (James 4:6).

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

– 2 Chronicles 7:14

Pray with a humble attitude. Yes, you can be bold ( Hebrews 2:16) and humble at the same time. Your humility is from the recognition of God’s position over you, but your boldness is from the recognition of what Jesus did for you.

It is said that there is great power in prayer. It is better to say there is great power in the God we pray to. It is not because of your boldness that God answers prayer. It is because you now have a relationship with Him through His Son.

Constitutional Convention, June 28, 1787:

After the members of the convention had been together four or five weeks, and made, very little progress in the important work they had in band, on account of their unfortunate differences of opinion and disagreements on essential points, Dr. Franklin introduced a motion for daily prayers. In the beginning of the contest with Britain,” said he, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard; and they were graciously answered. All of us, who were engaged in the struggle, must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time; and, the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that GOD governs in the affairs of men. And, if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that, except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe, that, without his concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel; we shall be divided by our little, partial, local interests, our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a by-word down to future ages. And, what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this, unfortunate. instance, despair of establishing government by human wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest. I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers, imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this assembly every morning before, we proceed to business; and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.” The motion was not adopted, as “the convention, except three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary.”

http://www.ushistory.org/Franklin/biography/chap15.htm

PRAY CONTINUALLY: Always pray. Be aware that God is always present with you – you always have opportunity for continual communion with God.

pray without ceasing.

– 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,

– Luke 18:1

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;

– Colossians 4:2

I spend hours in prayers every day. But I live in the spirit of prayer. I pray as I walk and when I lie down. I pray when I awake. And the answers are always coming. Thousands of times have my prayers been answered. When I am persuaded that a thing is right, I go on praying until the answer comes. I never give up. I have been praying every day for fifty-two years for two men, sons of a friend of my youth. They are not converted yet, but they will be. How can it be otherwise when we have the unchanging promises of God!

– George Muller, quoted in God’s Revivalist

PRAY WITH OTHERS: Jesus said that God will honor the prayer of two or more of His disciples praying (i.e. in agreement) together.

Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

– Matthew 18:19-20

PRAY THANKFULLY: When you pray, give all your cares and worries to God (and don’t take them back again). Be open with Him. Pray with an attitude of thankfulness that God will answer your prayer. The answer may not be what you asked for, but is always the best.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

– Philippians 4:6 (RWEBSTER)

CONFESS YOUR SIN: Sin against God and against others will hinder your prayer. Therefore when you know you have sinned, first confess your sin to God (be specific), and seek His forgiveness so that your prayers will not be hindered.

If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.

– Psalm 66:18 (KJV)

Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.

– John 9:31

One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.

– Proverbs 28:9

Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.”

– John Bunyon

Sin can also include things that you should be doing but you aren’t. When you aren’t relating to someone the way you should, this also hinders your prayers:

Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor Will also cry himself and not be heard.

– Proverbs 21:13

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

– 1 Peter 3:7

On the other hand, if you are right with God, your prayer is a delight to Him.

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight.

– Proverbs 15:8 (JPS)

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

– James 5:16

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 (MKJV)

PRAY WILLINGLY: Whenever you ask something of God, you must be willing to do what needs to be done to provide an answer to that prayer. For example, if you pray for the hungry, what are you doing to help feed them? If you pray for someone’s salvation, are you telling him or her about Jesus? You shouldn’t limit your prayers to only things you feel you can have a part in, but the willingness should be there for God to use you if He provides a way. Jesus told His disciples to pray for workers:

“Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

– Matthew 9:38

…then they went out into the towns and villages.

I have seen many men work without praying, though I have never seen any good come out of it; but I have never seen a man pray without working.

– James Hudson Taylor

What should I pray about?

Prayer should include many things, and not be just a laundry list of needs and wants. The following is a list of things you should include in your prayers. They don’t all have to be in every prayer, but you should include these regularly.

PRAISE: You need to acknowledge God in your prayers. Praise Him for who He is – for His nature, character, and position.

In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.

– Matthew 6:9-10

Read the Psalms. Many of these are prayers to God and include praise.

THANKSGIVING: Give thanks, even for what appears little or unsatisfactory to you. God blesses what you give thanks for.

So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude. They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments. Now those who had eaten were about four thousand.

– Mark 8:6-9

pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

– 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 (ACV)

For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

– 1 Timothy 4:4-5

FOR FORGIVENESS: Confess your sin to God and ask for His forgiveness. Keep short accounts with Him. He is always ready to forgive.

And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.

– Matthew 6:12 (AKJV)

I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

– Psalm 32:5

He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.

– Proverbs 28:13

FOR WISDOM: The James 1:5-7 passage refers to wisdom in trials, but God also gives wisdom when things are going well.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;

– James 1:5-7 (HNV)

Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding

– Proverbs 2:3-6 (GENEVA1599)

FOR GUIDANCE: God promises to direct your life when you trust Him to. Just ask and He will make your path straight.

Uphold my steps in Your paths, That my footsteps may not slip

– Psalm 17:5

Lead me, O LORD, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; Make Your way straight before my face.

– Psalms 5:8 (AKJV)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

– Proverbs 3:5-6

God’s guidance also applies to delivering you from evil, both moral and circumstantial.

And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. …

– Matthew 6:13

Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

– Matthew 26:41

Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.

– Luke 21:36

FOR YOUR WILLINGNESS / FOR GOD’S STRENGTH: Lack of willingness on your part to follow Jesus in some specific area can be countered by prayer for willingness. C.T. Studd struggled with giving Jesus all the “keys” to his life until he prayed: “I am not willing, but I am willing to be made willing.”

Many times the biggest hurdle in being used by God is not lack of experience, strength, giftedness, etc., but lack of will. If you are willing to be used by God even when you don’t feel capable of being used, God can supply whatever you lack. He delights to make His power known through your weakness.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.

– 2 Corinthians 13:4

Seek to be strong in the Lord, not your own strength.

Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face evermore!

– 1 Chronicles 16:11

FOR NEEDS: Yes, Jesus said not to worry about your needs ( Matthew 6:25-34), but you are still to pray for your needs. God wants you to always remember who provides for you.

Give us this day our daily bread.

– Matthew 6:11 (AKJV)

Ask the LORD for rain In the time of the latter rain. The LORD will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, Grass in the field for everyone.

– Zechariah 10:1

Remember your idea of a need may not be God’s. Sometimes we will pray for indirect answers – for the means to meet a need. God may not provide the means, but He will meet the need.

INTERCESSION: Intercession was one of the primary jobs of Moses, Aaron, and the priests. Jesus interceded for you (John 17:20) and He continues to do so. This should be an example for you to follow.

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

– Hebrews 7:25

The Holy Spirit also intercedes for you when you don’t know what to pray for.

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

– Romans 8:26

Pray for other believers – even those in sin. All believers are part of the body of Christ. As such, you have a responsibility to pray for the needs of other believers.

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

– James 5:16

praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints —

– Ephesians 6:18

Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.

– Job 42:8-10

If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.

– 1 John 5:16

Pray for nonbelievers – even your enemies and those who are not asking for your forgiveness. The Bible never tells us to pray “against” them.

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you …

– Matthew 5:44

“There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as prayer for him.

– William Law

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots.

– Luke 23:34

Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep

– Acts 7:60

Pray for those doing God’s work, for church workers and missionaries. Paul felt the need to ask for prayer:

Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably.

– Hebrews 13:18

and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

– Ephesians 6:19-20 (AKJV)

Dr. Wilbur Chapman often told of his experience when he went to Philadelphia to become a pastor of Wanamaker’s church. After his first sermon, an old gentleman met him in front of the pulpit and said, “You are pretty young to be pastor of this great church. We have always had older pastors. I am afraid you won’t succeed. But you preach the Gospel, and I am going to help you all I can.”

“I looked at him,” said Dr. Chapman, “and said to myself, ‘Here’s a crank.’

“But the old gentleman continued: “I am going to pray for you that you may have the Holy Spirit’s power upon you, and two others have covenanted to join with me.”

Then Dr. Chapman related the outcome. “I did not feel so bad when I learned that he was going to pray for me. The three became ten, the ten became twenty, and the twenty became fifty, and the fifty became two hundred, who met before every service to pray that the Holy Spirit might come upon me. In another room the eighteen elders knelt so close around me to pray for me that I could put out my hands and touch them on all sides. I always went into my pulpit feeling that I would have the anointing in answer to the prayers of the 219 men.

“It was easy to preach, a very joy. Anybody could preach with such conditions. And what was the result? We received 1,100 into our church by conversion in three years, 600 of which were men. It was the fruit of the Holy Spirit in answer to the prayers of those men. I do not see how the average pastor, under average circumstances preaches at all.

“Church members have much more to do than go to church as curious, idle spectators, to be amused and entertained. It is their business to pray mightily that the Holy Ghost will clothe the preacher with power and make his words like dynamite.

– A. M. Hills in Pentecostal Light.

The prophet said ‘It is time to seek the Lord till He comes and showers righteousness on you” (Hos 10:12). You can change your church through prayer!

– The Word for Today

Pray for those who are in positions of authority over you. This means your employer and well as government officials. Be thankful for everyone who is over you, even if you don’t agree with them.

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

– 1 Timothy 2:1-4

it’s so easy to be critical of those in authority, whether it be the president or your supervisor, especially when you don’t agree with the way they are doing their job. But even if your criticism is just, pray for and be thankful for them anyway. Don’t do it grudgingly. Don’t grit your teeth and say “Thank you, Lord, for my idiot boss”. Be truly thankful. Jesus said we are to bless and not curse (Matthew 5:44) even our enemies.

(“Supplications” or “petitions” are specific urgent requests. “Prayers” are general requests. “Intercessions” are petitions offered to a superior with the intimacy of a father/child relationship.)

Intercession is very important, even on a national level. Samuel considered it a sin to not pray for his people even after they sinned.

Then Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.

– 1 Samuel 12:20-23

Israel was told not only to pray for the peace of Jerusalem ( Psalm 122:6), but to also to pray for the peace of those who held them captive.

And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.

– Jeremiah 29:7

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what would happen in the middle-east if Israel today earnestly prayed for the peace of their neighbors. Not that it is likely – there won’t be true lasting world peace until Jesus comes again. But no matter what the immediate future holds, take these passages as instructions to pray not only for your country, but for others.

Intercession also extends to family members. Pray for your family. Job interceded for his sons regularly, and Abraham also interceded for his nephew Lot who lived in Sodom:

So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly.

– Job 1:5

And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” So the LORD said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”…

– Genesis 18:23-32

Eighteen-year-old Hudson Taylor wandered into his father’s library and read a gospel tract. He couldn’t shake off its message. Finally, falling to his knees, he accepted Christ as his Savior. Later, his mother, who had been away, returned home. When Hudson told her the good news, she said, “I already know. Ten days ago, the very date on which you tell me you read that tract, I spent the entire afternoon in prayer for you until the Lord assured me that my wayward son had been brought into the fold.”

– Daily Bread, July 19, 1989.

How does God answer prayer?

God answers prayer. Sometimes He provides the answer you asked for, and sometimes not. Sometimes you don’t get an answer right away. God’s answers are usually categorized as “yes”, “no”, and “wait”.

WAIT: Sometimes His answers are delayed, but regardless of your sense of urgency, they are always timed just right.

And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?

– Luke 18:7-8

… So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. …

– John 11:6

God’s “wait” is usually disguised as silence, but many times, maybe even most times, the ultimate answer is eventually “yes”. Be persistent in prayer until you get an answer, but when God gives you an answer, accept His answer, no matter what it is.

NO: Sometimes answer is “no”, but God gives grace. Ask, never demand. Remember that God is God and you are man. You have no right to demand of God.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

– 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

If you can be happy with a “no” answer, that is good, but God does not expect you to always be happy with such an answer – just that you accept it. Jesus prayed “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39), and the “no” answer led Him (and the Father) to much sorrow.

YES: Sometimes the answer is “yes” and even more than you asked for. Solomon asked for wisdom, and God gave it to him, along with much he didn’t ask for (wealth and honor).

… Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. Then God said to him: “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days. So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

– 1 Kings 3:7-14

In his book Sit, Walk, Stand, Watchman Nee describes a preaching mission to an island off the South China coast. There were seven in the ministering group, including a sixteen-year-old new convert whom he calls Brother Wu. The island was fairly large, containing about 6,000 homes. Nee had a contact there, an old schoolmate of his who was headmaster of the village school, but he refused to house the group when he discovered they had come to preach the Gospel. Finally, they found lodging with a Chinese herbalist, who became their first convert. Preaching seemed quite fruitless on the island, and Nee discovered it was because of the dedication of the people there to an idol they called Ta-wang. They were convinced of his power because on the day of his festival and parade each year the weather was always near perfect.

“When is the procession this year?” young Wu asked a group that had gathered to hear them preach.

“It is fixed for January 11th at 8 in the morning,” was the reply.

“Then,” said the new convert, “I promise you that it will certainly rain on the 11th.”

At that there was an outburst of cries from the crowd: “That is enough! We don’t want to hear any more preaching. If there is rain on the 11th, then your God is God!”

Watchman Nee had been elsewhere in the village when this confrontation had taken place. Upon being informed about it, he saw that the situation was serious and called the group to prayer. On the morning of the 11th, there was not a cloud in the sky, but during grace for breakfast, sprinkles began to fall and these were followed by heavy rain. Worshipers of the idol Ta-wang were so upset that they placed it in a sedan chair and carried it outdoors, hoping this would stop the rain. Then the rain increased. After only a short distance, the carriers of the idol stumbled and fell, dropping the idol and fracturing its jaw and left arm.

A number of young people turned to Christ as a result of the rain coming in answer to prayer, but the elders of the village made divination and said that the wrong day had been chosen. The proper day of the procession, they said, should have been the 14th. When Nee and his friends heard this, they again went to prayer, asking for rain on the 14th and for clear days for preaching until then. That afternoon the sky cleared and on the good days that followed there were thirty converts. Of the crucial test day, Nee says: The 14th broke, another perfect day, and we had good meetings. As the evening approached we met again at the appointed hour. We quietly brought the matter to the Lord’s remembrance. Not a minute late, His answer came with torrential rain and floods as before.

The power of the idol over the islanders was broken; the enemy was defeated. Believing prayer had brought a great victory. Conversions followed. And the impact upon the servants of God who had witnessed His power would continue to enrich their Christian service from that time on.

– Roger F. Campbell, You Can Win!, 1985, SP Publications, pp. 35-36.

Sometimes God answers before you pray. Sometimes when you get the answer, you realize that God has been working since before you asked to provide the answer.

It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear.

– Isaiah 65:24

In its early days, Dallas Theological Seminary was in critical need of $10,000 to keep the work going. During a prayer meeting, renowned Bible teacher Harry Ironside, a lecturer at the school, prayed, “Lord, you own the cattle on a thousand hills. Please sell some of those cattle to help us meet this need.” Shortly after the prayer meeting, a check for $10,000 arrived at the school, sent days earlier by a friend who had no idea of the urgent need or of Ironside’s prayer. The man simply said the money came from the sale of some of his cattle!

– Today in the Word, MBI, January, 1990, p. 36.

Dr. Helen Roseveare, the famous British missionary doctor in Zaire, whose autobiography “Give me this mountain” is well worth reading, wrote about an event during her time in Africa: “One evening, I was helping a mother give birth in the maternity ward. Despite our best efforts, she died, leaving us with a tiny premature baby and a crying two-year-old girl. It would be hard to keep the baby alive, because we had neither electricity nor incubator, and the nights were often draughty and cool, even though we were on the equator. An assistant fetched our last hot water bottle to keep the baby warm, but soon came back in desperation, because it had burst. ‘OK’, I told her, ‘hold the baby as close to the fire as you can, and keep it out of draughts.’ The following day, I had a prayer time with the orphans. I told them about the newly-born baby, the two-year-old orphan and the broken hot water bottle. During the prayer time, Ruth, a ten-year-old with the typical brutal directness of African children, prayed ‘Please God, send us a hot water bottle. Tomorrow will be too late, God, because the baby will be dead by then, so please send it this afternoon.’ I took a deep breath because of the prayer’s directness, then heard her continue: ‘and while you’re at it, would you please send a doll for the little girl, so that she knows that you really love her?’ To be honest, I could not believe that God would do that. Oh yes, God can do everything. I knew that, theoretically – it’s written in the Bible. But there are limits, aren’t there? I hadn’t received any parcels from home for four years. And if anyone sent a parcel, why would they send a hot water bottle to tropical Africa? Late in the afternoon, I heard that a car had come. By the time I arrived in my apartment, it had already left – but there was a large parcel on the veranda! I could feel tears welling up inside, and called the orphans so that we could open it together. Apart from clothes, bandages and sultanas, the parcel contained – I could hardly believe my eyes! – a new rubber hot water bottle! I cried. I had not dared to ask God for it, but Ruth had! She had been sitting in the first row, and ran forward, shouting ‘If God sent the hot water bottle, he must have sent the doll too!’ She dug to the bottom of the parcel and pulled out a beautiful small doll. Her eyes shone. She had not doubted for a moment. She looked up and asked ‘Can we go to the little girl and give her the doll, so that she knows Jesus loves her?’ The parcel had been on the way for five months, sent by a Sunday School class. The teacher had been so obedient to God that she even sent a hot water bottle to the equator. One of the girls had given a doll, five months before a 10-year-old African girl would pray ‘God, we need it this afternoon’. The words in the Bible are true: ‘Before they call, I will answer them.’ ( Isaiah 65:24).”

– Dr. Helen Roseveare, quoted at http://www.tiopan.com/~jonahs/hotwaterbottle.html

Regardless of the answer, whether “yes”, “no”, or “wait”, realize that God’s answer is always the best. He is seeking your best interest.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

– Matthew 7:7-11 (ESV)

Keep praying, but be thankful that God’s answers are wiser than your prayers!

– William Culbertson.

EXAMPLES: Here are some examples of answered prayer from Easton’s Bible Dictionary:

*  Genesis 24:10-20 – Abraham’s servant prayed to God, and God directed him to the person who should be wife to his master’s son and heir.

*  Genesis 32:24-33:4 – Jacob prayed to God, and God inclined the heart of his irritated brother, so that they met in peace and friendship.

*  Judges 15:18-20 – Samson prayed to God, and God showed him a well where he quenched his burning thirst, and so lived to judge Israel.

*  2 Samuel 15:31, 16:20-23, 17:14-23 – David prayed, and God defeated the counsel of Ahithophel.

*  Daniel 2:16-23 – Daniel prayed, and God enabled him both to tell Nebuchadnezzar his dream and to give the interpretation of it.

*  Nehemiah 1:11, 2:1-6 – Nehemiah prayed, and God inclined the heart of the king of Persia to grant him leave of absence to visit and rebuild Jerusalem.

*  Esther 4:15-17, 6:7-8 – Esther and Mordecai prayed, and God defeated the purpose of Haman, and saved the Jews from destruction.

*  Acts 12:1-12 – The believers in Jerusalem prayed, and God opened the prison doors and set Peter at liberty, when Herod had resolved upon his death.

*  2 Corinthians 12:7-10 – Paul prayed that the thorn in the flesh might be removed, and his prayer brought a large increase of spiritual strength, while the thorn remained.

Research at San Francisco General Hospital has revealed that victims of heart attack, heart failure and other cardiac problems who were remembered in prayers fared better than those who were not. Cardiologist Randy Byrd assigned 192 patients to the “prayed-for” group and 201 patients to the “not-prayed-for” group. All patients were in the coronary intensive care unit. Patients, doctors and nurses did not know which group patients were in. Prayer group members were scattered around the nation and given only the first names, diagnoses and prognoses of patients. The researcher said that the results were dramatic. The prayed-for group had significantly fewer complications than the unremembered group. And fewer members of the former died. The latter group was five times more likely to develop infections requiring antibiotics, and three times more likely to develop a lung condition, leading to heart failure. These findings were published in the American Heart Association.

– Adopted From Chicago Sun-Times.

A tale is told about a small town that had historically been “dry,” but then a local businessman decided to build a tavern. A group of Christians from a local church were concerned and planned an all-night prayer meeting to ask God to intervene. It just so happened that shortly thereafter lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground. The owner of the bar sued the church, claiming that the prayers of the congregation were responsible, but the church hired a lawyer to argue in court that they were not responsible. The presiding judge, after his initial review of the case, stated that “no matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear. The tavern owner believes in prayer and the Christians do not.”

– J.K. Johnston, Why Christians Sin, Discovery House, 1992, p. 129.

While crossing the Atlantic on an oceanliner, F.B. Meyer was asked to address the first class passengers. At the captain’s request he spoke on “Answered Prayer.” An agnostic who was present at the service was asked by his friends, “What did you think of Dr. Meyer’s sermon?” He answered, “I didn’t believe a word of it.” That afternoon Meyer went to speak to the steerage passengers. Many of the listeners at his morning address went along, including the agnostic, who claimed he just wanted to hear “what the babbler had to say.”

Before starting for the service, the agnostic put two oranges in his pocket. On his way he passed an elderly woman sitting in her deck chair fast asleep. Her hands were open. In the spirit of fun, the agnostic put the two oranges in her outstretched palms. After the meeting, he saw the old lady happily eating one of the pieces of fruit. “You seem to be enjoying that orange,” he remarked with a smile. “Yes, sir,” she replied, “My Father is very good to me.” “Your father? Surely your father can’t be still alive!” “Praise God,” she replied, “He is very much alive.” “What do you mean?” pressed the agnostic. She explained, “I’ll tell you, sir. I have been seasick for days. I was asking God somehow to send me an orange. I suppose I fell asleep while I was praying. When I awoke, I found He had not only sent me one orange but two!” The agnostic was speechless. Later he was converted to Christ. Yes, praying in God’s will brings an answer.

– Our Daily Bread.

* Ask God to point out any areas of sin in your life. Sin hinders prayer. When He does, confess it immediately, trust in God to forgive it, and go on.

* Be persistent in prayer. Keep praying until you get God’s answer. Then thankfully accept His answer, whatever it may be.

Depend upon it, if you are bent on prayer, the devil will not leave you alone. He will molest you, tantalize you, block you, and will surely find some hindrances, big or little or both. And we sometimes fail because we are ignorant of his devices… I do not think he minds our praying about things if we leave it at that. What he minds, and opposes steadily, is the prayer that prays on until it is prayed through, assured of the answer.

– Mary Warburton Booth

* Be willing to take an active part in any prayer request.

* Make a prayer list as a reminder of who and what to pray for.

* Don’t tell God how to answer your prayers. Tell Him your needs, but allow Him to answer in His own way.

Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things, ‘above all that we ask or think’. Each time, before you Intercede, be quiet first, and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, and how He delights to hear the prayers of His redeemed people. Think of your place and privilege in Christ, and expect great things!

– Andrew Murray

* Avoid “blanket” prayers. Be specific about who or what you are praying for. For example, don’t ask God just to save everyone in town. Recall to mind specific people who are lost, and intercede for them individually. God doesn’t think in terms of statistics. He is concerned about each and every individual. Pray for your family members individually. Pray for your church members individually. Pray for your co-workers individually. Teachers, pray for your students individually. As you pray for specific people, you learn to see them as God sees them. Another example is when praying for revival, don’t just pray for revival in general. Pray for the specifics of what revival is (i.e. pray for conviction of sin, repentance, submission to God and for the Holy Spirit to have His way with you).

* Keep a prayer diary. Write down a date and your request. Leave space for the date and God’s answer.

* Go for a walk alone with God.

* Have a prayer partner with which you spend regular time in prayer. Your prayer partner should also serve as an accountability partner, helping to keep your walk with God healthy.

* Pray about what you have meditated on during your quiet time. For example, when reading 1 Timothy 6:6 which says “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.”, ask God to make you godly and content with what you have.

One thought on “Discipleship: Prayer”

  1. This is really wonderful. Thanks so much for all this tips. May God enrich you more so that you can help people like us more and more

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