Often, I hear people say, “I don’t know how to pray” or “I don’t feel strong enough to pray.” I even had one friend return to church — after many years away — just to figure out how to best pray for a friend who asked for prayer! Pray should not be intimidating, it should be peaceful and comforting to know we serve a God who listens (1 Peter 3:12; Proverbs 15:29).
“OUR PRAYERS MAY BE AWKWARD. OUR ATTEMPTS MAY BE FEEBLE. BUT SINCE THE POWER OF PRAYER IS IN THE ONE WHO HEARS IT AND NOT IN THE ONE WHO SAYS IT, OUR PRAYERS DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.” — MAX LUCADO
This doesn’t mean God will answer our every prayer in the way we want it answered. That is not the nature of God — to give us all that we wish. Greg Morse puts it like this, “prayers that go unanswered remind us that God is God. We do not control Him. His ways are higher than ours. And His answers are better for us than anything we asked for.” God is not a genie. He does not bend to our every wish. In fact, praying only as such is contrary to the purpose of prayer.
“THE HEART OF PRAYER IS NOT GETTING THINGS FROM GOD BUT GETTING GOD.” — DAVID MATHIS
When we get God and seek Him — we receive His power. Prayer is the only way to plug into God’s divine strength. You are communicating with the God of the Universe, the Creator of all that is seen and unseen. You are talking to, resting in, and glorifying the same God that has been present since before the beginning of time. Think about that for a second. That is the same God who cares for you (1 Peter 5:7) and wants you to communicate with Him. We are beyond unworthy of such a privilege. There are wonderful examples of this privilege all throughout the Bible. Time and time again we see truly massive prayer requests be answered.
The Lord’s Prayer
The most famous of these prayers is the Lord’s Prayer. In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus gives us, and anybody who says they do not know how to pray, the most straightforward guideline on prayer in the entire Bible:
THIS, THEN, IS HOW YOU SHOULD PRAY: “‘OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN, HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME, YOUR KINGDOM COME, YOUR WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. GIVE US TODAY OUR DAILY BREAD. AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS, AS WE ALSO HAVE FORGIVEN OUR DEBTORS. AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION BUT DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE.’
This prayer is jam-packed. It highlights topics such as God’s will, God’s kingdom, and our daily needs. What more could one ask for? It is important to understand exactly what this prayer encompasses, CRossroads offers this more in-depth breakdown.
Another notable example of prayer is found in the book of Jonah. Jonah was a man who ran from God instead of doing what was asked of Him. After repenting and being ashamed of his actions, Jonah offered up this prayer to the Lord, as found in Jonah 2:2–9:
HE SAID: “IN MY DISTRESS I CALLED TO THE LORD, AND HE ANSWERED ME. FROM DEEP IN THE REALM OF THE DEAD I CALLED FOR HELP, AND YOU LISTENED TO MY CRY. YOU HURLED ME INTO THE DEPTHS, INTO THE VERY HEART OF THE SEAS, AND THE CURRENTS SWIRLED ABOUT ME; ALL YOUR WAVES AND BREAKERS SWEPT OVER ME.
I SAID, ‘I HAVE BEEN BANISHED FROM YOUR SIGHT; YET I WILL LOOK AGAIN TOWARD YOUR HOLY TEMPLE.’ THE ENGULFING WATERS THREATENED ME, THE DEEP SURROUNDED ME; SEAWEED WAS WRAPPED AROUND MY HEAD. TO THE ROOTS OF THE MOUNTAINS I SANK DOWN; THE EARTH BENEATH BARRED ME IN FOREVER.
BUT YOU, LORD MY GOD, BROUGHT MY LIFE UP FROM THE PIT. “WHEN MY LIFE WAS EBBING AWAY, I REMEMBERED YOU, LORD, AND MY PRAYER ROSE TO YOU, TO YOUR HOLY TEMPLE. “THOSE WHO CLING TO WORTHLESS IDOLS TURN AWAY FROM GOD’S LOVE FOR THEM. BUT I, WITH SHOUTS OF GRATEFUL PRAISE, WILL SACRIFICE TO YOU. WHAT I HAVE VOWED I WILL MAKE GOOD. I WILL SAY, ‘SALVATION COMES FROM THE LORD.’”
I wonder how many of us have prayed a prayer like this or need to. How many of us have ran from what God has told us we ought to do? What would you be willing to attempt for God if you knew you could not fail?
In 1 Chronicles 4:10, right in the middle of a list of Judah’s descendants, we read about a man named Jabez. This prayer of his has become quite well known and plenty of books have been written about it.
JABEZ CRIED OUT TO THE GOD OF ISRAEL, “OH, THAT YOU WOULD BLESS ME AND ENLARGE MY TERRITORY! LET YOUR HAND BE WITH ME AND KEEP ME FROM HARM SO THAT I WILL BE FREE FROM PAIN.” AND GOD GRANTED HIS REQUEST.
To make a difference in the world is one of, if not the, greatest human desire. I can hardly imagine just how blessed Jabez became and just how much of a blessing he was to all around him.
In what has become known as a prayer of deliverance, David in Psalm 143 pieces together quite a hard-hitting and honest prayer.
LORD, HEAR MY PRAYER, LISTEN TO MY CRY FOR MERCY; IN YOUR FAITHFULNESS AND RIGHTEOUSNESS COME TO MY RELIEF. DO NOT BRING YOUR SERVANT INTO JUDGMENT, FOR NO ONE LIVING IS RIGHTEOUS BEFORE YOU. THE ENEMY PURSUES ME, HE CRUSHES ME TO THE GROUND; HE MAKES ME DWELL IN THE DARKNESS LIKE THOSE LONG DEAD. SO, MY SPIRIT GROWS FAINT WITHIN ME; MY HEART WITHIN ME IS DISMAYED.
I REMEMBER THE DAYS OF LONG AGO; I MEDITATE ON ALL YOUR WORKS AND CONSIDER WHAT YOUR HANDS HAVE DONE. I SPREAD OUT MY HANDS TO YOU; I THIRST FOR YOU LIKE A PARCHED LAND. ANSWER ME QUICKLY, LORD; MY SPIRIT FAILS. DO NOT HIDE YOUR FACE FROM ME OR I WILL BE LIKE THOSE WHO GO DOWN TO THE PIT.
LET THE MORNING BRING ME WORD OF YOUR UNFAILING LOVE, FOR I HAVE PUT MY TRUST IN YOU. SHOW ME THE WAY I SHOULD GO, FOR TO YOU I ENTRUST MY LIFE. RESCUE ME FROM MY ENEMIES, LORD, FOR I HIDE MYSELF IN YOU.
TEACH ME TO DO YOUR WILL, FOR YOU ARE MY GOD; MAY YOUR GOOD SPIRIT LEAD ME ON LEVEL GROUND. FOR YOUR NAME’S SAKE, LORD, PRESERVE MY LIFE; IN YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, BRING ME OUT OF TROUBLE. IN YOUR UNFAILING LOVE, SILENCE MY ENEMIES; DESTROY ALL MY FOES, FOR I AM YOUR SERVANT.
I have used a similar prayer as David before. Sometimes when life is really kicking you around, all one can do is call out to God and ask for deliverance. This is prayer. David’s prayer covers a lot, but the reoccurring theme is that he trusts in God — even in dire situations. He knowswhere help comes from, “My help comes from the Lord” (Psalm 121:1.) Charles H. Spurgeon’s commentary on Psalm 143 is truly classic and far greater than anything I could muster. I encourage you to read it, it is lengthy but sound and easy to follow.
Prayer is powerful and pivotal
Prayer can change your life and it should be a necessity in the life of any Christian. My Dad often tells me that he became a Christian because he would see his Dad on his knees every morning praying to God. He noticed the difference in my Grandpa and wanted it too. At 91 my Grandpa still falls to his knees and prays every single morning. I too have witnessed it.
These Biblical examples are by no means exhaustive. These are simply a handful of instances that highlight the power of prayer. Prayer is key. Martin Luther once said, “to be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
Our prayers may not be elaborate like Jonah, as poetic as David, or as praise-filled as Hannah, but they are still important to God. They are still vital to the spiritual well-being of each believer. Prayer is powerful and only those who engage in it daily can attest to this great power.
My prayer is that you reignite your prayer life and create a habit of bringing every single request to the throne of God. I pray you are delivered from your troubles, that you receive what you seek in accordance to Gods will, and that you continuously praise the great name of God through prayer. Amen.