The ability to communicate with our Heavenly Father whenever and wherever is such a huge blessing. Instead of having to go through a priest to hear from Him and beseech His help, He’s only a prayer away! But what is prayer exactly, and how do we make the most of it?
When we read about the early church in Acts, we may think, “Wow, God was working so many miracles back then. I wish I could have been there.” But God wants you to know that you can experience that same power and those same miracles, right here, right now! God isn’t done working on this earth, He’s just getting started, and prayer is how we access that. John 14:12 says,
Truly, truly I say to you, the one who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I am going to the Father.
As a culture, we’re so used to watching great things happen from the sidelines. We go to movie theaters, share viral videos, and read about fictional adventures in books, captivated by the achievements of others. But as Christians, we are called to experience our own adventures! God wants us to be a part of what He’s doing on the earth. Through prayer, we join together with Him and see even greater miracles than those in Jesus’s time.
What Is Prayer?
Regardless of your background, you likely have some expectations when you go to pray. Whether you are used to seeing people always on their knees, or you have to phrase every prayer the same way, it comes down to this: prayer is a conversation. God doesn’t want us to be burdened down by ceremony, He just wants to spend time with us as His children. He wants to talk to us, to hear about how we’re doing and what’s important to us. In that same way, as we spend time in His presence, He begins to reveal what’s important to Him as well.
When you pray, talk to God like He’s your best friend – we’ll never find a better friend than Him! Relax, don’t be afraid of saying the wrong thing. Remember Romans 8:1:
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
He’s never going to be angry with you because you didn’t phrase your prayer correctly, or you didn’t spend exactly twenty minutes praying. He is overjoyed to spend time with you! Believe that and just enjoy being with your Father.
Interceeding For Others
As we bring things before Him that are weighing on our hearts, sometimes God will bring something to our minds in order for us to pray about them. Maybe that’s your coworker’s son who’s in the hospital, or that family in your church who just lost their main source of income. God will use you to open doors in their lives through your prayers. How amazing that we get to be part of His work in their lives!
However, in order to receive these divine prayer requests from Him, we have to listen. When you are praying, remove distractions. Put away your phone. Go to your closet and shut the door if you have to. This time is important! Since prayer is a conversation, it goes both ways, so listening is just as, if not more, important than doing the talking yourself.
Sometimes, God can even reveal what’s going on behind the scenes in someone’s life, something you would have no way to know. Now, He is not telling you these things so you can feel better about your own life, or to give you something to gossip about. He wants you to pray! Many times, when people hear these insights from God, they take it as a cue to fix it themselves, or to talk to that person about their situation. Take care not to fall into these traps. Pray first, and wait for God’s guidance before you act. When we get involved without God’s wisdom and His Holy Spirit to back us up, we do more harm than good.
Praying on someone else’s behalf doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be as simple as, “Lord please give them Your wisdom and protect them from the enemy.” That one simple sentence makes a huge difference in the spirit realm! Never underestimate what God can do through our obedience. That’s why, whenever you feel led to pray for someone, do it! Your actions could lead to a breakthrough in their life.
How Jesus Prayed
Jesus is our example of how to live during our time on earth, so looking at His own prayer life unlocks some great insight into what prayer is. Many times, we see Jesus steal away from the crowds and even His disciples to achieve that one-on-one time with God.
During Jesus’s ministry, His disciples asked Him how best to pray. They saw the spiritual power and authority He walked in and wanted to have that in their own lives. In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus revealed His “formula”:
‘Pray, then, in this way:
“Our Father, who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” ‘
I want to highlight verse ten: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” What’s especially important about this phrase is if this was an automatic occurrence – if everything that happened on Earth was God’s will – He wouldn’t have asked us to pray for it. The fact that He did include it means that we can partner with the Holy Spirit and change our circumstances and our world to more align with God’s kingdom. Our prayers are a catalyst for God to move on our behalf and on the behalf of those whom we pray for.
Why Does God Ask Us to Pray?
You may be wondering, “If God is sovereign and all-powerful, why does He ask us to pray at all? Why doesn’t He just handle everything Himself without us needing to ask?” Well, it actually all comes back to the very beginning, in Genesis 1:26:
Then God said, ‘Let Us make mankind in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the livestock and over all the earth, and over every crawling thing that crawls on the earth.’
When God created Adam and Eve, he gave them dominion over the earth. When they sinned, they passed that dominion over to Satan. However, when Jesus died on the cross and resurrected, He returned that dominion back to man, so we have that authority on the earth once again. When we accept salvation, we gain the power to walk in that dominion and that’s why God chooses to work through us and our prayers. He wants to partner with us to build His kingdom.
This is also where free will comes in. We have a choice whether or not we partner with God through our prayers. We could ignore His promptings to pray for someone and they may not receive their breakthrough because of it. Our prayers truly do matter.
How Do We Pray Effectively?
There are certain things you can do to really supercharge your prayers. A great book to get you started is Germain Copeland’s Prayers That Avail Much. This is a fantastic resource that I highly recommend. In this book, scripture verses are woven into the text so you can be praying God’s word over a variety of situations.
It’s always best to agree with God in your prayer life. James 1:17 says,
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
Study the Word and learn everything you can about God’s character and His promises. The more you know, the more specific you can be in your prayers. This verse in James is also a good yardstick by which to measure things as they come into your life. If it’s not a good thing or a perfect gift, you know it’s not from God. In that case, you can know that your prayers are needed in that area. This includes things in your own life and in the lives of those around you. If you notice that you or someone you know is not walking in the peace and prosperity God promises us in His Word, it’s time to start praying.
From there, you find out what God’s Word says about that situation specifically, whether it be a sickness, a child gone astray, a financial need, wisdom for moving across the country, or stepping into a new leadership position at a company. Any area in your life where you need an answer, God has the wisdom you need in His Word.
Knowing the Word Inspires Confidence
Once you know what God says about a particular topic, you’ll be able to pray with confidence. 1 John 5:14-15 says,
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.
God wants us to approach Him boldly, solid in the knowledge that we will have whatever we ask of Him. When we engage in prayer, we are walking in the victory we have in Christ. We are pulling out the sword of the Spirit and slaying the enemy who would come against us. We are pulling down strongholds in our lives and the lives of our loved ones. It the natural, it may just seem like we’re sitting at our kitchen table with our morning coffee, but in the supernatural, we’re waging war on a battleground. Have faith in what God has given us, in the favor we have through Him. He has already given us the victory. James 1:5-8 says,
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that person ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
God is not going to withhold from His children. If we need guidance to navigate a situation, all we have to do is ask! His Word says that it WILL be given to us. Exercise your faith in Him when you pray.
How Many Times Should We Pray About Something?
Sometimes we go through waiting periods with God. We have a need or a problem in our lives and bring it before Him, asking for His help or His guidance, but it seems like nothing is happening. What does this mean? Did God forget? Is He just not going to do anything?
This is where knowing His character and will through His Word really comes into play. When we know His will, we can work that into our prayers. Say you have a bill due at the end of the month for which you don’t have the money. You know that Matthew 6:26 says,
Look at the birds of the sky, that they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather crops into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more important than they?
So then when you pray, you would say, “Lord, I thank You that even as You provide for the birds, even more so will You provide for me. I know that You know about this bill I have to pay and I also know that You know exactly how You’re going to meet my need. I thank You for Your provision which is always enough and just in time.”
After that, just leave it to Him. And whenever the enemy brings up your need, tempting you to stress about it, combat those fears with faith! Quote your chosen verse to yourself, reminding yourself of God’s goodness and faithfulness. He will always come through for those who trust in Him.
Retraining Our Minds
Readdress those fears as often as you need to – sometimes it takes a while before our knee-jerk response is faith over fear. This is the fight of faith that Paul talks about in 1 Tomothy 6:12:
Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Remain conscious of what you’re saying when you’re not praying as well. If you find yourself saying to a friend, “Oh I just don’t know how we’re going to pay for that bill,” right after you just spent time praying and thanking God for His provision, you are not acting out of faith. Be consistent in all your thoughts and actions. Let your faith be an inspiration to that friend! When they see how you never wavered in your belief that God would cover that bill, and then hear about the incredible testimony of the bill being paid on time, they’re going to see God’s faithfulness through your life.
Prayer is not meant to be a dull obligation we try to get out of the way as soon as possible. Prayer is an adventure! Through prayer we can tear down strongholds, defeat the enemy, and access our breakthroughs. Remember the victory we have in Christ the next time you pray, and step out in boldness.