I believe in prayer. I believe in the power of prayer. I have always been amazed by how God answers prayer. I could tell you story after story of God’s faithfulness. I have seen Him soften the most hardened hearts to His love. I have known that peace which surpasses all human understanding amidst the most discouraging and hopeless of situations. I have seen him turn back the hands of time in response to prayer when others have said that it was too late to pray for anything but His comfort. You could say that I’ve seen him make the sun stand still.
With my own eyes, I have seen leukemia disappear so quickly that the doctors questioned whether it was ever really there in the first place. I have seen the devil flee with his tail between his legs in the very presence of bended knees. The truth is in my more than 43 years on this earth I cannot think of a time when I have prayed with persistence and fervency that God did not answer.
Samuel Chadwick said of prayer,
“There is no power like that of prevailing prayer, of Abraham pleading for Sodom, Jacob wrestling in the stillness of the night, Moses standing in the breach, Hannah intoxicated with sorrow, David heartbroken with remorse and grief, Jesus in sweat of blood. Add to this list from the records of the church your personal observation and experience, and always there is the cost of passion unto blood. Such prayer prevails. It turns ordinary mortals into men of power. It brings power. It brings fire. It brings rain. It brings life. It brings God.”
Power of Prayer Activates the Power of God
The absolute truth is that all of the divine resources of heaven are standing at attention ready to come to the aid of anyone bold enough to approach the throne of grace in faith. It is by prayer that we activate the power of God in our lives and in the world.
Bible teacher and pastor, John MacArthur, in a sermon on prayer, describe it as being “the key to appropriating all of the divine resources of God” and it is by prayer that all of the riches and gifts of the spirit are implemented in our lives.
Ephesians 6:18 is a tremendous call to pray. “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” In fact, the entire book of Ephesians places the importance of prayer in the context of appropriating all of the resources that have been given to us by God. Just prior to this exhortation to pray Paul writes about the whole armor of God.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[a] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 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 6:10-20 NKJV)
Notice where Paul writes “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” After that statement follows a complete description of the armor of God which will protect us from the forces of the devil.
He ties it all together with prayer!
Prayer is necessary because “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)
The devil knows the power of persistent, earnest prayer and intercession. That is why it is such a struggle to pray. That is why our minds are constantly filled with distractions when we look upward. The devil knows that the prayerless Christian is the powerless Christian.
The Christian who does not pray is the one who falls to temptation over and over again. The Christian who does not have a disciplined prayer life is the one who lacks that peace which surpasses all understanding and is promised to us by our loving sovereign Savior.
The apostle Paul knew well our apathy and tendency to neglect prayer. That is why he
said, “be alert and always keep on praying.”
Prayer Connects Us With God
Prayer is our lifeline. It is our connection with the Father. Prayer is like the air we breathe. Everything is dependent upon prayer. That is why we are told in Luke 21:36 to “stay awake at all time, praying” for the strength to endure. It is only by continual communion with God in prayer that we are able to take up the shield of faith. Without prayer, faith dies from spiritual starvation.
In Acts 6:4 it says that the apostles gave themselves continually to prayer. Our Lord himself would often continue all night in prayer to God. (See Luke 6:12). You would think that the incarnate Son of the Living God would have no need to pray. Yet nothing was more important to Him than prayer. Our Lord Jesus who has been given the name above every name agonized in prayer until blood dripped from his pores.
The One by whom “all things were created, in heaven and on earth” made prayer the priority in His life on earth.
The Lord Jesus not only commanded us to watch and pray, but He prayed Himself. Do you know that he is still praying for us? In Romans 8:34 Paul writes, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Hebrews 7:25 says, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Our Lord is sitting at the right hand of God constantly in prayer and intercession for those who are His.
How much more then should we pray?
When we consider what God has said is available to those who will pray it is astonishing that we devote so little time to seeking God.
The promises of God for those who will pray are wonderful and lavish.
“Ask and it will be given to you” Matthew 7:7
“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matthew 21:22
“Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24
These promises are extravagant to say the least.
It is no wonder that those who believed enough to give prayer priority in their lives have been people that have changed the world.
The great reformer, Martin Luther, who challenged the authority of the Roman Catholic Church said that he had way too much work to do, not to spend at least three hours a day in prayer.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, got up at four every morning to pray because he considered this his most important task of the day.
George Muller, a 19th century evangelist and director of the Ashley Down orphanage in England, provided for thousands of orphans over a period of more than 20 years and from the beginning he resolved never to ask anyone for anything. He even voluntarily gave up a salary because he wanted to live by faith alone trusting in the power of prayer alone. He prayed daily telling the Lord of his needs and never once asked anyone else for help. The Lord provided without fail in extraordinary ways and never once did he or the hundreds of children he provided for ever have to go without.
The early church knew the power of prayer. They believed God and took His promises seriously. “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” (Acts 1:14)
Notice how they devoted themselves to prayer all in one accord. The New International Version says that they “joined together constantly in prayer.” As as result, they experienced the outpouring of the limitless storehouse of God’s blessing.
It was through prayers of faith that they, “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.” (Hebrews 11:33-35)
Why Don’t We Take Prayer More Seriously
Considering we have such a great cloud of witnesses whose lives are a testimony to the incredible power of prayer how is it that we don’t take prayer more seriously?
Our Lord tells us that all we have to do is ask and keep on asking. So why is there so little asking let alone persistent intercession?
We don’t hear many preachers talk about the power and importance of prayer anymore. It seems that we as a church have forgotten who our Father is. Prayer has the power to open the floodgates of heaven so that we can experience true communion with God and all of the blessings that go along with that. But I fear that few believers have truly experienced that power.
Church leaders will think nothing of spending hours planning spiritual retreats, bake sales or other ministry outreach and yet will be content with only a few minutes of opening prayer at the start of such activities. We have hour long church services with music, singing, liturgy, announcements and preaching yet so little prayer. Why is that?
Our praying seems more like something that we attach to other things we do in our lives and in our church activities instead of the real work that is needed to meet our needs and the needs of others while advancing the kingdom of God.
Should we be surprised that we don’t see the power of God active in our lives like the saints of the early church did? The early church certainly knew the power of prayer. They believed God and took His promises seriously. They made prayer the work itself instead of something to get out of the way before the real work could be done.
How sad that we are so often satisfied with indifferent and thoughtless prayers because we would rather trust in ourselves than believe that God is able and willing to do all that he has promised. The Bible tells us that one of the reasons we do not have is because we do not ask. Yet it seems instead of asking for what we want or need we are often trying to figure out how to fix the problem on our own. So much of our praying is simply telling God what we think should be done instead of telling Him about our need and trusting him to find the solution.
We make prayer an afterthought as if we feel we are under an obligation to do it before we get onto figuring out how to overcome the problem on our own. Or we say a little prayer and when don’t receive an answer within a short time we give up and say, “Well, it must not be God’s will.”
Maybe there is no persistence and no vigorous fervency to our prayers because deep down we are not really sure about the power of prayer of whether it really makes any difference.
If only we would believe God. If only we would believe that He is able and that He will do what He has promised I believe we would see the awesome un-equaled power of the King of Heaven. We would see it in our lives. And all we have to do is ask. Yet we don’t. At least not like we really believe God will deliver.
God wants us to put our entire trust in Him. He wants us to pray big. He wants us to pray specifically so that He can receive the glory. Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”(John 14:13-14)
God Loves Putting The Power of Prayer on Display
When Catharine and I were first married, we immediately began trying to conceive a child. For nearly 3 years we prayed and consistently went through monthly fertility treatments. The stress of trying to get pregnant was becoming exhausting and we decided to take a month off from the medical treatments. To the glory of God that was the month that we conceived our first child Josiah. God put his power on display. We prayed earnestly and fervently for God to give us a child and I believe he purposely answered our prayer in a way so as to be unmistakably the work of his hands. We gave God all of the glory.
The 17 century French writer, Fenelon, said that,
”Of all the duties enjoined by Christianity, none is more essential and yet more the neglected than prayer. Most people consider the exercise a fatiguing ceremony, which they are justified in abridging as much as possible. Even those whose profession or fears lead him to pray, pray with such languor and wanderings of mind that their prayers, far from drawing down blessings, only increase their condemnation.”
It is such a paradox that what should be the easiest thing to do is our most difficult task. There is no question that the devil fears nothing more than desperate godly people on their knees pleading with God. He will do anything to hinder and disable our prayer lives.
The prayer meeting, which used to be commonplace in the church, is now a thing of the past. Not many families pray together. Few Christians set aside time daily for prayer. Even though we are told in Scripture to “pray without ceasing” and to “be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lords people” (see Ephesians 6:18) the majority of Christians do not take prayer very seriously.
Why do so many prefer to trust in themselves and hope for the best when all of the powers of heaven are ready to go to work on their behalf if they would only ask?
If we would only ask like we really believe in the power of prayer and that God is able to do what He says He will do we would see the power of God. Instead the norm is to be satisfied with casual, trite prayers that have the pretense of religion.
Gracie was barely 4 years old at the time. As I walked by her bedroom one evening I glanced through her doorway to behold a sight that would tempt any Christian dad with pride. This sweet little girl was dressed in her nightgown, hair still wet from her bath, on her knees at her bedside head bowed in prayer. We usually would say our prayers together. I was surprised because it was still nearly an hour until bedtime and I had never seen her praying by herself like that. You can imagine the joy in my heart at this precious display of faith and hope. At least until I took a closer look and noticed that she was actually kneeling at her bedside eating a cupcake.
My sweet Gracie wasn’t trying to hide what she was doing. Nor was she trying to give the pretense of prayer by her posture. She was simply enjoying a cupcake. Our gracious Lord, in addition to giving me the opportunity to bask for a moment in the precious beauty of a child, was also giving me a wonderful illustration of why I believe we so often fail to see the power of God working in our lives.
Think about this. We are children of Almighty God. Heirs with God and fellow heirs with Christ. (See Romans 8:17) We have been told by the Son of the living God that we can ask for anything and yet we all too often treat prayer as an afterthought. We say the right words and look religious from a distance and although we may not be eating cupcakes how often are we just going through the motions? Having a form of godliness but denying its power. (see 2 Timothy 3:5)
It is truly a tragedy that we neglect prayer the way we do. We can say we don’t have time. We can make other excuses, but the root cause of prayerlessness is unbelief. Unbelief fostered by fear, sin and a false sense of security. The end result is that our prayers are no better than those of the Pharisees of whom Jesus said,” And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7) Our prayers become vain repetition or a going through the motions to satisfy a sense of obligation that we feel yet without taking any real risk.
When we do pray, however trite, and we do not see results, it only dampens the fire and the downward spiral caused by our prayerlessness leads to spiritual death.
Consider these words from the great preacher, Charles Spurgeon:
“Prayer is the true gauge of spiritual power. To restrain prayer is a dangerous and deadly tendency. This is a faithful saying: what you are up on your knees, you are really for your God. What the Pharisee and the publican were in prayer was the true criterion of their spiritual state (Luke 18:10-14). You may maintain a decent repute among men, but it is a small matter to be judged of man’s judgment, for men see only the surface, while the Lord’s eyes pry into the recesses of the soul. If he sees that you are prayerless, he makes small account of your attendance at religious meetings or your loud spiritual words. If you are a man of earnest prayer – and especially if the spirit of prayer is in you so your heart habitually talks with God – things are right with you. But if this is not the case and your prayers are hindered, there is something in your spiritual system that needs to be ejected or something lacking that needs to be supplied. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life “ (Proverbs 4:23); and living prayers are among those issues.”
Spurgeon had it right. Our prayer life is one of the tests of our spirituality. Just like fire cannot burn without oxygen, the Christian cannot survive without prayer.
I truly believe that one of the main reasons people are not seeing the power of God visibly active in their lives is because they do not know how to pray as they ought. The Holy Scriptures clearly teach the necessary principles and conditions for effective prayer. When we learn how to pray as our Lord would have us pray we will see the heavens opened and the blessings of God poured out upon us.
My prayer for you is that as you learn the secret to the power of prayer from the examples we have been given in the Holy Scriptures your life will be transformed by the renewing of your faith through the Grace of our Lord Jesus.
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