Prayer to many seems religious, old-fashioned, obsolete – a superstitious ritual of the ancient past. But there is a power in fervent prayer known to very few, a power that can work miracles!
Most moderns have discarded such “superstitions” as faith, God, and prayer. God, to them, is unreal, vague or far off. Prayer itself is looked upon as a balm for the soul, a psychological trick to calm agitated emotions.
But is prayer out-of-date? Is it just an emotional release? Just what is prayer? And how can you make sure your prayers are answered?
When Abraham prayed, God heard, and gave him a son miraculously in his old age. When Moses prayed, an entire nation was saved from total destruction. When Joshua prayed, the sun stood still in the heavens. When Samuel prayed, an earthquake terrified an alien army and sent thousands of troops fleeing away. When David prayed, God intervened and won battles for Israel. When Hezekiah prayed, the army of Sennacherib was destroyed in a single night, and the sun retreated ten degrees in the sky.
When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Hannaniah, Mishach, and Azariah) prayed, God delivered them from a roaring furnace of fire. When Daniel prayed, he was delivered from hungry lions.
When Jesus Christ prayed the Father gave Him spiritual power to perform miracles, daily. He received power to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, and to raise the dead back to life!
When the apostles called on God, in the name of Jesus Christ, earthquakes rent the earth, miracles of healing occurred; enemies of the truth were blinded or struck dead. Here was Power! But what about you? Are your prayers answered? If not, why not?
We live in an age of materialism. The world has lost the knowledge of God and the knowledge of the power of prayer. Consequently, we live in an age of very limited spiritual power. The churches, today, are empty shells. They, too, have forgotten the power of prayer and lost the knowledge of the true God!
No wonder Jesus speaking prophetically of our generation today, said, “When the Son of Man comes shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). When people do pray today, so often it is just some sort of “religious exercise.” They pray because they feel it is expected of them, a duty to perform. They don’t expect an answer. If there were a tremendous answer from God, why, they would be speechless, dumbfounded!
No wonder there is so little spiritual power in the world, today! How can you begin to pray more effectively, with more success, more power, and more results?
First, let’s understand just what prayer is. The most often used Hebrew word for prayer in the Old Testament is tephilah and means “intercession, supplication.” It comes from the word palal, which means “to judge, entreat, intercede, pray, make supplication.” The literal meaning of the word, in the Hebrew, is “to prostrate oneself,” or “to bow down.”
Prayer, then, is simply intercession with God, or earnest, intense supplication. It is done in an attitude of humility, contrition and deep respect. Since the word itself means “to bow down,” the general way to pray is on one’s knees. Most examples in the Bible show the usual position of prayer is on one’s knees, bowing before God. The most important thing, however, is not the literal position, but the attitude of humility, reverence and respect for God!
Supplication means to “make a humble entreaty, to ask for earnestly and humbly.” To entreat means “to ask earnestly or urgently, intercede, plead.”
All these definitions are contained in the one word prayer. To most people today, prayer conjures up in their minds an act of sanctimonious piety, and reciting a psalm or liturgy. Such an idea is far from the truth, but the religions of this world have perverted even the true meaning of prayer, and turned it into a thing of ridicule and superstition!
Prayer is not mental magic, or mumbo-jumbo. It is not a psychological “pep talk” that people give themselves to feel better. Prayer – true prayer is communication with God Almighty, and Jesus Christ at His right hand. Prayer is talking in an attitude of humility, reverence, awe and respect to God!
What is so weird or strange about that? But how should you pray? What should you pray for? How can you be sure your prayers are answered?
“God hears not sinners” (John 9:31).Sin is the transgression of God’s law (I John 3:4).Therefore, if you want to have your prayers heard and answered by God, you must first want to repent of any sins which separate you from God. Isaiah was inspired to write: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his heart heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities (sins) have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:1-2).
There is the crux of the matter. Most prayers are not heard and go unanswered because of sin! If you purposely and maliciously harbor lawlessness and rebellion in your life, you will not be heard – your prayers will be an abomination to God (Prov. 28:9; Ps. 109:7).
But if a person departs from sin, and cries out to God from his heart, his prayer will be heard! Notice what an angel told Daniel: “Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didn’t set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, Thy words were heard” (Dan. 10:12). Our God is very merciful – He will hear us from the moment that we begin to want to communicate with Him. In essence, then, a whole hearted desire is the only precondition to prayer.
God surely does not hear sinners who want to remain sinners, but God will quickly respond to sinners who want to change, even while they are yet sinners.
Notice again, what God inspired the apostle John to write, for us: “And whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (I John 3:22).
In order for your prayers to be heard, you must want to serve God with a sincere, faithful, devoted heart. You must strive to obey Him, and please Him in your actions, thoughts and words. But obedience, alone, is not enough. You must also have faith in God, in order to be heard!
The apostle Paul wrote, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Jesus Christ Himself gave a vital principle we must understand when He declared: “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matt. 9:29).
Lack of real, tangible faith is a prime reason millions of prayers go unheard, unanswered. James wrote, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:5-7).
What about you? Do you have real faith in God? Faith is the belief or assurance that what God says in His Word is true – that God will do that which He has promised.
How can you obtain more faith?
There are two vital keys to increasing faith. “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). If you study God’s Word, and drink in of it daily, you will become stronger in faith; you will learn more intimately how God’s many promises contained in His Word apply to YOU!
Faith is a gift (Gal. 5:22-23). It is not an emotion which you must work up yourself, struggling and agonizing to attain. You don’t have to strive to have faith in God. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit!
As a person turns away from sin, yields his life to God, and surrenders to His government, God will give him the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that imparts faith, the very faith Jesus Christ had (Gal. 2:16; 20; Phil. 3:9).
If you desire more of God’s Spirit, and more faith, then go before God’s throne and ask Him for it. Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11:9).
Another secret of powerful prayer is walking with God. Abraham walked with God, so did Noah, Moses, Elijah and David. They came to know God intimately. They obeyed God faithfully, loyally. Abraham kept all God’s commands, statutes, laws and ordinances (Gen. 26:5).
These men prayed to God often. They spent long hours in prayer, communing with God. But those people who “pray” today, unusually spend mere minutes (or seconds) in “prayer.” No wonder they have no spiritual power! If you want power in your prayers, and spiritual power in your life, then you must walk with God.
Notice what the prophet Micah wrote: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).
Walking with God means spending time with Him, instead of with material things of this world. It involves time spent studying His Word, learning His truth, meditating on His principles and laws and praying to Him for greater understanding, wisdom, guidance and faith.
How can you walk with God? He will not walk with the proud, haughty, high minded and conceited. He is far off to them (I Peter 5:5). He walks with the humble in heart and mind (vs. 5-6). The proud will not have their prayers answered (Luke 18:9-14). But notice. God says, “to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite (humble) spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isa. 66:2).
The first point we need to understand is that prayer is for our benefit. We should look forward to talking with our Creator. Consequently, we must never allow prayer to decay into a meaningless ritual. So there can be no set rules for when to pray, how often to pray or how long to pray. A fervent, deeply felt short prayer is obviously much better than a lukewarm, lazy, long one.
Nonetheless we do need examples to follow. And God has provided them. When should you pray? Jesus Christ rose up early in the morning to pray and commune with His Father. (Mark 1:35). The early morning hours, when all is peaceful and still, and your mind is uncluttered from the day’s routine, is a wonderful time to spend in prayer. God wants us to give our best to Him!
Jesus Christ spent long hours in prayer to His Father. One particular time when He was facing tremendous decisions and knew that He needed special wisdom and inspiration, He spent all night in prayer (Luke 6:12).
In the days of Christ and the apostles, it was customary to pray at certain times of the day, called “the hours of prayer” (Acts 3:1). There were three such times during the day, in the morning, at noon, and in the evening. David declared: “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice” (Ps. 55:17).
The prophet Daniel, a man greatly beloved in God’s sight, prayed three times a day, even in the face of death! Knowing that the Persian government had passed a law against prayer (Dan. 6:10). Why was Daniel such a wise, useful effective servant of God? Where did he get the understanding and wisdom for which he was famous? (Dan. 1:17; 2:19-23.)
God gave him wisdom and understanding, because Daniel was faithful, he walked with God, sought His guidance at all times, and prayed regularly. Daniel made fewer mistakes in his work, accomplished much more that was worthwhile because he stayed close to God and sought Him regularly! He did not allow daily duties, business, or physical activities to crowd out the time he spent with God in prayer, as many are prone to do today.
If you lack wisdom and understanding, it may well be due to your failure to pray constantly, regularly, and often to your Maker and Ruler in heaven!
Most prayers today are namby-pamby, weak, insipid, and ineffectual. They accomplish nothing at all and are a complete waste of time. Wishy-washy, spineless, weak-kneed, “milk-toast” prayers, lukewarm prayers never have achieved miraculous results, and never will!
When you pray, do you put your heart into your prayers? Do you pray fervently, earnestly, pouring out your heart before His Throne of Grace? Are you filled with zeal when you pray? Are you motivated with spiritual energy and alertness?
Can you imagine the insult it would be if you appeared before the Queen of England, in a private audience with the Queen and you became drowsy, droopy-eyed, and began to mumble your words and soon fell asleep?
How much more disrespectful is it of our heavenly Father when we come before His glorious throne and mumble our words while we’re half asleep!
When Elijah prayed, he prayed fervently, and God caused a great drought to come on the land. Later he prayed fervently, and God brought rain in abundance. James wrote, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous (obedient) man avails much” (James 5:16).
The original Greek word for “fervent” is zelos and means “heat, zeal, ardor.” Moffatt translates this verse “the prayers of the righteous have a powerful effect.” The Amplified Bible says, “The earnest prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available, dynamic in its working.”
Hannah wept sorely when she prayed. She was really zealous. She poured out her heart in her prayer to God, and He listened! As a direct result, God opened her womb, and gave her a son who became the prophet Samuel (I Sam. 1:9-15).
When Jesus Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was so earnest and intense that “being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Christ’s prayers were heard (Heb. 5:7).
An example of how to “get through” to God is found in the book of Genesis. Perhaps you never thought of it this way before.
Jacob was in a mental quandary. He was returning home to his native land, but was fearful of his brother Esau. With humility, Jacob confessed he was not worthy of God’s mercy, but prayed for deliverance (Gen. 32:9-12). That night, Jacob was left alone, “and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, let me go, for day breaks. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, what is thy name? And he said, Jacob, and he said, thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel (that is, a prince of God): for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Gen. 32:24-28).
Notice this account carefully; Jacob wrestled all night with this person, the One who became Jesus Christ (v. 30). He did not give up. He was persistent, tenacious in wrestling. He was like a bulldog, he wouldn’t let go.
Seeing this characteristic in Jacob, Christ changed his name to “Israel,” meaning “a contender with God,” “a prince of God,” “striver-with-God,” “he who strives with God.” Jacob wrestled all night, showing he had power; he was not a spineless jelly-fish. He was tenacious, determined. He wrestled until he prevailed!
God blessed him for his tenacity and perseverance, his never-give-up, never-quit attitude. This principle also applies to prayer. Jesus Christ said men should pray “and not to faint.” The Amplified has it, “not to turn coward – faint, and lose heart and give up” (Luke 18:1).
Many lose heart in prayer. If the answer doesn’t come right away, they give up. They quit praying. But Christ said men ought always to pray, to importune God, persisting, persevering, continuing in prayer, never losing heart.
Jacob’s example should inspire us to put our hearts in our prayers, to be tenacious, and to wrestle as long as it is necessary in prayer. This kind of wrestling is not selfish. God will not hear selfish prayers. But often God does put us to the test, to see if we have “staying power,” stamina, endurance to see if we are willing to endure patiently until the answer does come!
You can pray with power. Your prayers can get results! Through your prayers, miracles can be accomplished for the Work of God. Your prayers may lead hundreds or even thousands to become Co-workers together with us in this great end-time work. Your powerful, persistent, humble, fervent prayers can work miracles!
But it is up to you. It depends on you, your obedience, your faith, your humility, your zeal and earnestness, and your dogged perseverance. Make your prayers count! God’s Work is waiting and depending on you!