The Bible has a lot to say about prayer, in this post I want to share with you everything about prayer, from why we should pray, what we should pray for and above all how to pray effectively.
Four realms of prayer:
- Reverencing [worship]
- Resisting [spiritual warfare]
- Reading [studying God’s word]
The disciple of Jesus having walk with Him, experienced the miracles, the power that Jesus had, having observed His activity, His public manifestation and His secret prayer time. They came into a conclusion that if there is one thing that Jesus needed to teach them to be more effective in life was “How to pray”.
It begs you and I to ask the big question “what is it about Jesus and prayer that intrigued the disciples to the point that they made “praying” the most important activity they needed to learn“. Above casting out demons, walking on water, healing people or even calming the storm, Prayer became a priority lesson for them.
After observing Jesus the disciples concluded that the most important thing was not what was happening in public rather the things that were happening in the secret place.
I have concluded in my life that:
Public manifestation is a result of secret time with God.
In other words, secret prayers have public implications.
I love this quote by Martin Luther
“I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.”
Martin Luther knew that, the best time saver is an unhurried time with God.
Isn’t that the opposite with most of us, we skip prayers because we have so much to do. Prayer service is the least attended service in most churches, but why?
For us to answer that question we must first understand what Jesus said about prayer for us to give it the priority it deserves.
Prayer is not and event to inform God of what is happening, God already knows, He knows what you need and He has already answered it before you even prayed for it.
And I know this because He says it in His word and His word is true.
Isaiah 65:24 24 before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.
Matthew 6:8 8 do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
That brings in a set of new questions, and one of them is this, If God already knows what I need why should I pray? Am glad you asked….
There are two things we must understand if we are to attempt to answer those questions,
(a) Unconditional will of God
(b) Conditional will of God
For us to effectively understand the concept of prayer we must understand the will of God.
Unconditional will of God.
2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
The unconditional will of God is the thing that God will do, because of His sovereignty irrespective of what we do.
Conditional will of God
The conditional will of God is different, these are things that God will not ( not He cannot) but He will not do unless we cooperate with Him.
The scripture gives examples of this; one of them is Deuteronomy 28 and James 4:2.
2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:
James 4:2B you do not have because you do not ask God.
It is important for us to understand God’s will when we are praying because the unconditional and conditional will of God will play out in every single prayer. The challenge is you will never know if something is unconditional or there is a condition unless the Spirit of God reveals to you that’s why we must pray.
The Spirit of God knows the things of God, the depth of God, and He will make it known to us through the word of God in fellowship with Him.
That’s why when we are praying we need to listen, because sometimes God will reveal something in you, about you that need to change before you receive the manifestation of the answer.
Am using manifestation because I believe God has already answered your prayers! The thing is you have not received it yet.
Remember God has already answered your prayer, but the manifestation of the answer to your prayer might be instant, might take some time or might not happen because God has something better or sometimes God wants to use that situation to reveal to you something new about Himself.
Remember Paul in,
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
The bible doesn’t specify what the thorn is the flesh was, but we know that it bothers him and he prayed for God to remove it.
We must pray, but more importantly we must listen, Let me say this,
God’s answer to our prayer might make us better or bitter depending on the condition of our hearts.
Depending on the condition of your heart the answer that comes from God will bring joy, gladness or it might bring frustration and bitterness.
If your heart is in line with God the answer to your prayer will bring gladness and joy even if it’s not what you expected or what you wanted.
What God says to me during my prayer time is what will change my situation and not just what am saying to Him.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
Now that we are here, let me talk about How to pray.
The checklist of effective prayer
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. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.
Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
There are a couple of things that we can pick from this passage that can help you and I prepare for prayer.
(I love that the bible uses the term when instead of if, when shows us that at some point in your life you will find yourself needing to pray),
Number One: Our Motives
Verse 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.
Jesus disqualifies the prayers of the hypocrites not because of what they were saying, but because of the motive of their prayer.
The motivation of hypocrites is to be seen by others, their goal is for people to say how well their “know how to pray”.
If we desire to pray effectively, pray that changes things we must first check out motives.
Look at what James says, in chapter 4:3 of the book of James.
3 You ask [God for something] and do not receive it, because you ask with wrong motives [out of selfishness or with an unrighteous agenda], so that [when you get what you want] you may spend it on your [hedonistic] desires.
14 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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Before you start your prayer ask yourself this. Does what am asking God bring Glory to Him if He answers it?
Prayer should be focused on God and not me, me, me…The problem is not what you’re saying in your prayer- the problem is the agenda behind what you’re asking for.
If God answers your prayer will it humble you or will it elevate your pride?
Number two: Check your heart
Verse 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Prayer has a lot more to do with your heart than your mouth; this portion of scripture shows us that there is something powerful about our secret time with God.
Going into your room and closing the door might not mean literally closing the door, but it might symbolize the idea of minimizing distraction and interruptions.
Being in a state where God can minister to you. Our Father knows what is done in secret, the good and the bad, and before we pray we must first check our hearts and ask God to search us.
- Search us for unconfessed sins
- Search us for burden, things, people that we have curried in our hearts (un-forgiveness, envy, jealousy, anxiety etc)
- Secrets (things that are weighing us down.
Search our hearts to see if there is anything that is preventing us from experiencing Him.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Check your heart, are there secrets, are there unconfessed sins, are there thing you know that are blocking you from experience the life God has for you.
Number three: Check your relationship
I want us to understand that prayer is a relationship and not just a religious activity.
What in your life right now is drawing away from that relationship? What things are affecting your relationship with God? What things are drifting you away from God? What relationships are drifting you away from God, what activities are drifting you from God?
Let me mention a couple of things that might be drawing us away from God.
Pray is not about dumping things to God, prayer is a relationship with God. I said this last week, a quote from John Piper,
God is most glorified in us when we are more satisfied with Him.
(Story of the boy and his father)
We have made our relationship with God the same, we are excited when God brings something,
How is my relationship with God. Is it a love relationship or a transactional relationship.
Number four: God already knows
Verse 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
God will not hear you because of the many or few words you use, God will hear us and answer us because we are His children and He is our Father and He loves us.
Number five: Pray with expectation
Because we know God loves us, we pray with expectation. (Story of the boy and umbrella)
When we pray we need to live our lives as if God has answered because He has.
24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Our God answers prayer, we must pray with expectation. We must ask with expectation, we must knock with expectation, we must seek with expectation, we must worship with expectation.
I can summarize this whole session with one thing, if you master this one thing, it will change your prayer life, Let us read together John 15:5. 5 “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.
Effective prayer is total dependence on God.
Whatever you’re doing if you’re doing it outside, apart from Him, you are doing nothing. It might seem as if you’re doing something but if your away from Him all your doing will amount to nothing. Because “apart from Him we can do nothing”.
Let’s pray together:
Our Father who is in Heaven, thank you for giving us this opportunity to listen to your word, the word that brings life, life in fullness, today we surrender ourselves, our families, our activities and everything about us, laying it down at the feet of Christ, that you may be glorified today, in and with my life, regardless of what I get or don’t get I will be glad in you, because I believe your most glorified in me when I am more satisfied with you. Give me yourself today and teach me to obey your word.
Help me to set time to spend with you in prayer, give me courage to confess my unconfused sins, my secrets and burdens and worry, search my heart and lead me in the way everlasting. Create in me a pure heart this afternoon so I may walk with you the rest of my life. In Jesus name.
Pastor, Shadrack Ashaiyo