Prayer is one of the most important and powerful aspects of the Christian life. The devil knows that he’s in trouble when Christians begin to pray. That’s why it’s so hard to develop our prayer life. There are many hindrances and distractions. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, and the principalities and powers do all they can to take advantage of our weaknesses. Anything to keep us from praying!
That’s because things change when Christians pray. Everyone prays, but Christian prayer makes a difference. After Saul was converted on the Damascus road, the Lord told Ananias, “Behold, he prayeth” (Acts 9:11). Surely Saul had prayed many times before as a Pharisee. But now something was different.
There’s a difference in Christian prayer. It’s not a religious form. It’s not, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” It should not be construed as a duty or exercise. But it’s the communication line between the believer and God. It is the way into His presence. It is the way of doing heavenly business. It’s the truly amazing vehicle God has given us to effect change in the universe! You might look at prayer as participating in partnership with God.
The sad reality is that many do not see prayer this way, and they struggle. In our day and age, it’s difficult to get still and quiet for 10 minutes, let alone an hour! Yet I’ll never forget reading the biography of the early American missionary, David Brainerd. In his diary he wrote, “Oh! One hour with God infinitely exceeds all the pleasures and delights of this lower world.”
How many of us can say that? It’s much easier to sit in front of the TV for an hour. But I know this- I walk away from an easy hour of TV usually feeling empty. In contrast, it may take more effort and seem like hard work to be quiet and alone with God, but I almost always walk away from that feeling full.
The point is not to get you timing yourself and trying to make it to one hour in prayer! The point is to encourage you to recognize the potential that is there. The treasure of fellowshipping with God is priceless, and many people give up too soon because they don’t persevere.
The Power Station
The Bible says, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10). As I said, everyone prays. Even atheists will pray in foxholes. Lots of people have nice prayers written on plaques in their homes. But “behold, he prayeth” hints at what is spoken of in this Psalm.
Two things happen when we get still. Our relationship with God is fueled (know that I am God). By getting alone with God and spending more than a minute or two, God has time to work in your Spirit. God has time to speak through His Word or through His still small voice. Faith has a chance to get watered and grow. Jesus spent entire nights in prayer with the Father. All relationships require some time alone with the other. Be still and KNOW.
The other thing that happens is that change is effected in the world (I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth). Through prayer, God’s will gets done, on earth as it is in heaven. If the church really got serious about prayer, and united in prayer, I believe we could change entire countries. Because of prayer, much good is accomplished on this sour earth, and God gets the glory. But think of what an army of Christ’s disciples might accomplish if we really took prayer seriously.
“But nothing ever happens when I pray!” Well, not yet, maybe, and even then, how do you know? Your prayers may be working in unseen ways. But the power is there. Electricity is a mighty force of power on this planet, but only in recent history have we learned how to harness and use it. It’s been around since the beginning though! Your frustrations with prayer aren’t new and you’re not alone. We’re all in need of learning, and we have to say just as the disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray!” (Luke 11:1).
Someone has said, “The best way to learn how to pray is to just start doing it.” There’s something to that, but Scripture has a lot to help guide us. The first thing to understand is that prayer requires faith:
The prayer of faith shall save the sick (James 5:15).
Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them (Mark 11:24).
It’s all about your expectations. Most people do not really pray with faith. They pray with HOPE. They have no real expectations, they just hope that they’ll get their answer. But Jesus didn’t say “hope that you receive them…” He said, “BELIEVE that ye receive them.”
Before the great evangelist, Charles Finney, was converted, he attended his church’s prayer meeting out of curiosity. After what seemed like a dull session, they asked Finney if he would like any prayers. He declined, saying, “You have been praying for a revival of religion ever since I have been in Adams, and yet you have it not. You have been praying for the Holy Spirit to descend upon yourselves, and yet complain of your leanness.” He recalled that they never seemed to have any expectation that God would give them what they asked for.
Many Christians never learn how to pray with faith, and so they just offer up petitions with a sort of hit or miss hope rather than a believing expectation. This is why so many prayers fail- there was never any faith. Yet in spite of Finney’s criticism of his church, their prayers were actually answered! A revival did come, and Finney himself was converted.
And in spite of our lack of faith, God often comes through. Nonetheless, so many prayers are short circuited. If better results are desired, it’s important to pray in faith. Here are four areas where faith is needed:
1. Faith that God hears us.
2. Faith that God wants to answer.
3. Faith that God has the power to answer.
4. Faith that God WILL answer.
Faith that God hears us
The Bible tells us that if we regard iniquity in our heart, God will not hear us (Psalm 66:18). A love for sin will short circuit our prayers. It’s a regard for the iniquity, which means that you are not troubled about the sin and you are not trying to get free. But this does not mean that you have to be 100 percent pure in order for God to hear you. The despised tax collector was heard in the temple when he prayed, “God be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). A centurion who was not yet a Christian was heard, as revealed in Acts 10:4.
You don’t want to cherish any sin. However, you need not fear if you know you are not perfect. Remember, Christ has become your righteousness, and so it is by Him that you are heard. Jesus made the way for us to approach God, in spite of all our own imperfections. We come before a “throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16), not a throne of law!
A poor blind beggar named Bartimaeus had faith that God would hear him. When he heard that Jesus was passing by, he called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:38). Some tried to rebuke this man. Can you imagine the nerve? There’s Jesus, and people are crowding Him as He goes by, and this insignificant beggar has the audacity to call out to Him! Yet in spite of every reason to shut up, the blind man shouts all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (vs.39).
And Jesus heard Him. Jesus stopped and ordered that this man be brought to Him. Now you’ve done it, Baritmaeus. Why did you disrupt this whole procession? Surely Jesus is going to rebuke you. He doesn’t have time for this. But instead, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (vs.41; NKJV).
Bartimaeus was bold. No apologies, no dallying around the point. He simply blurted out, “Lord that I may receive my sight!” Jesus commended him for his faith and healed him.
What was his faith? Had someone given him a gospel presentation right there? Did he pray the “sinners’ prayer”? No, his faith was in the goodness, mercy, and power of Jesus. When all else suggested he shrink back, he pressed forward in boldness, believing that Christ would hear him and heal.
God stopped everything for a beggar. The only way God wasn’t going to hear is if the beggar had given into the opposition of the crowd that was telling him to shut up. Sometimes we also have to fight through all the discouragements to pray.
But we are not like the beggar! If God stopped for the beggar, He will stop all the more for His child! We are heard because we come to a throne of grace. But we do not come as a beggar. It’s important to understand our position.
God has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). We are seated with Jesus! Therefore, speak boldly and confidently to the Father, from your position in Christ. Not as a beggar seeking mercy, but in faith, as His own child, greatly beloved.
Faith that God wants to answer
We have already seen that Jesus wasn’t bothered by Baritmaeus. On the contrary, He seemed eager to help: “What do you want me to do for you?”
You can have faith that God wants to answer because the whole thing is His idea! He’s the one that sent the invitation: “Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7). He invites us to cast our cares upon Him, because HE CARES (1Peter 5:7).
How would you feel if a son or daughter came to you and said, “I have an important need, and I’m going to tell you, but you probably don’t care or have any interest in me.” We need to come in faith, believing that He’s a good Father, and “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13). Don’t insult Him by entertaining the idea that He wants to help others but not you. He’s a good Father, and good Fathers care and provide for ALL their children.
Faith that God has the power to answer
I don’t think anybody really needs to be convinced that God has the power. We all believe that “with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). He’s the same God who split the Red Sea and brought water out from the rock. He’s the creator of life and He raises the dead. What more needs to be said? It’s the next point that most people have difficulty with…
Faith that God WILL answer
At one time, I prayed for a friend who had financial problems. I spoke words of encouragement to him that God was going to meet His needs. About a week later, I asked how things were going, and reminded him that God was going to answer our prayer.
He responded, “Well, God answers prayer, but sometimes it’s yes, sometimes it’s no, and sometimes it’s maybe.” That sounds so spiritual, and it sounds like a lot of our experience. But it doesn’t sound like the Bible! The Bible says, “For all the promises of God in him are YES, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2Corinthians 1:20). God gets the glory through us, by fulfilling His promises as we believe. It’s not pray and wait and see. The prayer of faith considers it as good as done.
Most of us fail to exercise faith. Instead, we exercise hope. It’s better to find the promise that will bring what we desire, and stand on it. Many prayer warriors have to really be still and know God in order that faith might rise up in their hearts. This is often missed. More often, a promise is believed mentally, a quick prayer is uttered, and then there is frustration when the results do not come. Prayer requires spiritual interaction with God, and it may take some time for the heart to be affected.
Do not pray, “if it be thy will.” Pray ACCORDING to His will. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him (1John 5:14-15).
What is His will? His will is His Word! Find out what the Word has to say about the situation, and then lean over from your position at the throne and speak boldly to God: “Your word says this about it!” Paul says also to add thanks (Philippians 4:6). When faith rises up, confirm it with thanks and the peace of God will transcend understanding.
You don’t have to say, “if it be thy will, heal me!” Thank Him that “with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). You don’t have to say, “if it be thy will, deliver me from anxiety!” The Word clearly tells you His will: “Be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6). You don’t have to say, “if it be thy will, help me with lust!” You know God desires purity. Pray His will, and then “believe that you receive…and you shall have…” (Mark 11:24).
Learn to pray in faith. Faith is not desperation, nor is it crying, although God will receive you and comfort you in such times. And at such times, faith is still necessary: faith that God loves you and receives you. You may be uncertain about a situation, but you can be certain about your Father’s love and provision. Faith is certainty. It’s not hope. Certainty will improve your fellowship with the Father, and keep you calm as you wait for answers to appear.