What is Prayer?

The following is an excerpt from the book, The Front Line: A Prayer Warrior’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare, by John Bornschein, Vice Chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force:

In the powerful work, Giving Ourselves to Prayer, Gary T. Meadors observes that dialogue with the Almighty is part of the fabric of the Bible: “Genesis 4:26 first mentions that ‘men began to call on the name of the Lord,’ and Revelation 22:20 closes the Bible with the prayer, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ (compare 1 Cor 16:22). The entire history of redemption is framed in prayer. In between these terminal references we find a database about prayer that is so large it requires description beyond simple definition.”1 In fact, the Bible cites more than 355 occurrences of prayer. Why do we pray? Here are a few key reasons:2

1.  We love Him. Just as a man and woman in love desire to be together and communicate, so we, if we love God, will desire to be with Him and to fellowship with Him in proportion to our love for Him.

2.  We depend on God. He is our source. He is our life (Col 3:4). Through prayer, we receive the comfort, strength, and all the other resources we need in life, both naturally and spiritually. Prayer—relationship with God—is as necessary to the spiritual life as air is to the natural life.

3.  Prayer allows us to resist temptation. Jesus warned His disciples to “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Matt 26:41 nkjv). Living a life without prayer can leave us weak and exposed, giving an opportunity for the enemy to gain ground and potentially lure us into sin.

4.  Prayer is necessary for people to invite God to act in salvation. God gave the earth to Adam and his descendants, so we must invite God to work here. If no one invites Him to work on earth, Satan—the “god of this age” because of humanity’s universal rebellion (2 Cor 4:4)—will dominate human affairs, and eventually the judgment of God will come. By inviting God to intercede often and specifically, multitudes can be saved who would otherwise be lost.

5.  God commands us to pray. In Colossians 4:2, Paul writes: “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (nkjv). Jesus also encouraged His followers to pray: “Then He [Jesus] spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1 nkjv).

The need to pray is as great as the authority of God, who commands us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17 nkjv). Prayer is so vital to all that God wants to do on the earth, and it is so essential to us, that He commands us to do it all the time. We should even deny ourselves sleep and food at times to pray more and with greater power (see Matt 6:16; Luke 6:12; 21:36; Col 4:2; 2 Cor 11:27). Or, as John Chrysostom wrote:

Prayer has subdued the strength of fire. It has bridled the rage of lions, hushed anarchy to rest, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, burst the chains of death, expanded the fates of heaven, assuaged diseases, dispelled frauds, rescued cities from destruction, staid the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt. In this communion with God, there is an all-sufficient panoply, a treasure undiminished, a mine that is never exhausted, a sky unobscured by clouds, a heaven unruffled by the storm. It is the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings!3

Using information gleaned from a 2008 poll about spirituality in America, Parade Magazine noted that: “Our nation was built on a foundation of strong faith, and in some respects, that hasn’t changed.” The poll found that “69% of Americans believe in God, 77% pray outside of religious services, and 75% believe it’s a parent’s responsibility to give children a religious upbringing.” In contrast to speculation that “a new atheism” is at rise in the U.S., this study found that “only 5% of respondents didn’t believe in God. … [In fact,] 67% said they pray because it brings them comfort and hope.”4

The National Day of Prayer Task Force, where I serve as Vice Chairman, began calling the nation to prayer in 1991 under the leadership of Mrs. Shirley Dobson. As millions gathered each year in solemn assembly asking the Lord to intervene in America, He answered in numerous ways. We can’t directly tie declines in negative cultural statistics to prayer, but the timing is certainly worth taking note of. Between 1994 and 2008, the violent crime rate in America decreased 17.7 percent, and the property crime rate decreased 19.5 percent.5

The role of prayer in America cannot be ignored. Jennifer Harper of the Washington Times writes, “Politicians come and go, fashions evolve and the culture shifts with alarming frequency. One thing remains constant, though. Americans pray. A lot. Ninety percent have a spiritual interlude with God every day, according to a study released Thursday by Brandeis University. Half pray several times a day, in fact.”6

The National Day of Prayer website has cited numerous stories of answered prayers that have made headline news across the country, including the following report published by the task force in 2009:7

In big cities and small towns, Christians are using their faith and prayers to combat crime, homelessness, corruption and economic doldrums.

Following a forty-day prayer vigil organized by the Orlando Police Department, a dramatic decrease in crime was reported. The goal was to reduce crime in Orlando by taking God’s word outside of churches and onto the streets. “We want to come to the street and bring the love and the compassion of our lord, Jesus Christ, to the community,” said Angel Torres, an Orlando Police Department chaplain.

The report goes on to detail similar cases of answered prayers in communities, including Washington, D.C.; Manchester, Kentucky; and “[d]ozens of towns, from Georgia to Texas.” We have seen other major victories through prayer. In 2008, Proposition 8 was upheld in California and marriage was protected. Recently, the words “In God We Trust” were etched back into the new Capitol Visitor Center. And through the tireless efforts of citizens submitting petitions, as well as the diligent work of the Alliance Defense Fund and WallBuilders, concerted efforts to strip away the faith of this nation have been repeatedly thwarted. But the opponents of faith won’t stay silent. Even so, the National Day of Prayer has persevered despite several lawsuits from non-Christian organizations.

The voice of the saints cannot be ignored.

Without prayer, none of these victories would have been won. Before Proposition 8 went to a vote in California, tens of thousands filled Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego to fast and pray in support of traditional marriage.8 And when the National Day of Prayer became the subject of a federal lawsuit, more than 250,000 people joined together via social networks to pray.9 The victories belong to God, but the body of Christ knew they had to act in faith, lifting each matter before Him and seeking His intervention.

Millions of people gathered across the world on the Global Day of Prayer, and more than one million believers marched through the streets of Mexico City, shouting praises to the Lord while they fasted and prayed. Between 2008 and 2010, more than 700,000 Americans filled stadiums to pray in over a dozen states,10 while 24-hour houses of prayer began springing up across the county. According to some estimates, more than three million people gathered on the National Day of Prayer, making it the largest designated day of prayer in the world.11 The Prayer Movement is alive and well, gaining momentum as never before.

Does Prayer Work?

Prayer is making a difference, transforming the landscape of homes and communities across the globe. In 1999, Heritage Builders conducted an unofficial study of the American family to determine the factors that increased overall family health. What they discovered was truly incredible. A summary of their findings indicated that families who ate together at least four days a week and prayed at the dinner table showed the highest percentage of honor roll students and church-attending teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19.12

A Lifeway Research survey estimates that 70 percent of Christian teens and young adults will walk away from the Church during college.13 But families that prayed together were among the 30 percent whose teenagers were more grounded in their faith.14 In the Lifeway survey, participants indicated that prayer was not just a part of religious practice; rather, it was the concerted effort of parents making sure that prayer was emphasized in daily living, not simply as a response to life’s trials and tribulations. Even secular universities agree that prayer makes a difference in relationships.

You may have heard the saying, “A couple that prays together, stays together.” Although we know this to be true, it is helpful to examine the evidence that best supports this common perception. An article published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology had this to say about prayer:15 “There is some evidence that religiosity is similarly related to several positive relationship outcomes. Specifically, greater involvement in religious activities [including prayer] is related to higher levels of marital satisfaction … and marital stability with three longitudinal studies indicating that religiousness predicts lower risk of divorce and divorce proneness.” The report goes on to cite that “prayer may help couples to more often ‘think of the needs of others, be more loving and forgiving, treat each other with respect, and resolve conflict.’”16 The researchers suggest that the relationship people experience with God through prayer helps them handle their emotions, be more empathetic, become less self-focused, and gain greater skills in reconciliation. They also note that “prayer for the partner might prime partners to think about each other in more loving or compassionate terms and so treat each other with greater respect and sensitivity.”

Praying regularly together also “helped couples prevent conflict in their relationships.” Researchers note that couples who included “God in their marriage through prayer” were more skilled in problem solving and reconciliation. Other couples “reported that prayer alleviated tension and facilitated open communication during conflict.”

Beyond the Home

Even if God didn’t answer the prayers of His people, according to research, the positive effects of prayer are undeniable. When a father prays for his children, what is he demonstrating in that action? He is showing them true humility, compassion, and love. He is also showing that he is accountable to someone bigger than himself and that there is a structured chain of command that keeps the family healthy and aligned.

A 1997 survey revealed that 93 percent of women wanted their husbands to take on the spiritual leadership of the home.17 These same women indicated that they would give greater respect and support to their husbands if they demonstrated more effort to lead in this area. Now, let me ask you: if women respected their husbands more because they were taking the lead in prayer at home, would this not have a positive impact on the overall health of families?

                  With this in mind, imagine what the action of prayer does for a community. If religious leaders are praying for civil leaders, they are honoring that which God has put in place. As Romans 13:1 states, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” Paul also encouraged believers to pray for their leaders: “I urge … that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:1–4).

A nation can be punished by the actions of its leaders (2 Sam 24), and a nation can be punished with poor leaders because the hearts of the people are evil (2 Kgs 17:1–23). In the same way, a nation can be blessed with good leadership because the people honor God (Prov 8:14–16; 2 Chr 7:14). We can honor the structure of leadership that God has ordained (Exod 18:21; Deut 17:14–20), and we can do this even if we do not agree with all the decisions those in authority are making; that’s just all the more reason to pray for them.

The purpose of salvation is to restore lost people to relationship with God our Father. Through the cross of Jesus, the barriers to that relationship were removed. When we begin to trust God once again and turn from our sin, He comes into our lives to begin a new relationship of love with us. God is in every true Christian (Romans 8:9,10; John 14:23; Revelation 3:20; 2 Corinthians 13:5). Our faith and love towards God will lead us to recognize His presence with us, to talk with Him, to listen to Him, to sense Him. This is prayer. We express our thanks, our faith, our love, our hopes with God in prayer, and we receive from Him answers, assurance, guidance, peace, strength, power, revelation of who He is and what He wants to do. (Matthew 7:7-8; John 16:13; Philippians 4:6-7; Ephesians 1:17,18

Understanding Prayer

To understand prayer is to conceptualize something that is far greater than human comprehension. Think for a moment about the universe, which contains more than one hundred billion galaxies, with more than one hundred billion stars per galaxy.1 How can one explain that the God who created and holds in His hands such a vast universe (Job 37–39) can pause from all the demands for His attention to listen to, contemplate, and even act upon the petitions of human beings? Actually, it is not a matter of asking how God can pause to hear us pray, but why? Why would such a powerful and limitless entity, a force far greater than human words could ever describe, give ear to the thoughts and utterings of finite creatures—specks in such a grand and complex system? That is an exciting mystery in and of itself, and one that we will explore in this chapter.

But before we examine the strands of prayer that are woven throughout the tapestry of life, we must begin with a firm understanding that a satisfying prayer journey is only obtained in our desire for relationship with God.

The Creator has many names—Elohim, El Shaddai, Adonai, Jehovah, Theos, the Alpha and Omega. But according to the Bible, God is approachable and accessible through only one source: Jesus (or Yeshua in Hebrew). If you have not accepted the blood of Christ as the atonement for your sins, you cannot experience the fullness of relationship with God the Father through prayer. But the moment you receive God’s gift of salvation, you are no longer a simple human. Rather, you become a child of the living God. This amazing transformation is described in the book of John: “Yet to all who did receive him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Like a caterpillar in a cocoon that passes through metamorphosis and becomes a butterfly, so you, too, through new birth in Christ, transform from the dust of the earth, from the old nature, into a new creation—that which is eternal (2 Cor 5:17–21; Rev 21). It is our identity in Christ that makes the dialogue of prayer possible.

Defining Prayer

Jennifer Kennedy Dean states, “Prayer is an interchange of love between the Father and His child. That desire you feel to pray is His love drawing you to delight in Him. You only need to respond.”2 For true Christians, prayer (proseuche in Greek) is “communion with God.” It is the medium of divine revelation. Through prayer, we actually experience relationship with God. The quality of our prayer life then determines the quality of our relationship with God.

Prayer is talking with God and listening to Him, and it is enjoying the presence of God. In his book, Prayer on Fire, Fred Hartley describes prayer as, “What we do. It is our initiative to meet God, whether we are asking for favors, singing in celebration, or crying out in distress. Regardless of what shape or size in comes in, prayer is our effort to engage God.”3 Prayer can take many forms, including worship, confession, thanksgiving, praise, petition (asking for what we need and desire), waiting (silent listening and sensing of God), and warfare (command).4 As believers, we can pray in the Spirit—even in language that may be unknown to us but is fully known to God (1 Cor 14:2, 27–28).

Our goal through prayer must be to know God better, to experience the fullness of relationship with Him. Through prayer, we honor Him. We give something back to the Almighty, something He desires greatly. God reveals Himself to us in the “prayer closet”—a quiet place where we cannot be distracted in our time with Him.

If you do not desire to understand the deep things of God, if you do not desire to give praise to the Father, then the rest of this book will be of no use to you. Your mindset from this point on must be that you will no longer accept mediocrity in your life but will desire more in your relationship with God. You must be ready to break out of your ritualistic or traditional prayer practices, in which you may consider God as nothing more than a glorified genie in a bottle.

Above Action

For years, I struggled with one-way dialogue in my prayer life. This was due to a narrow perspective of faith derived from works. In my mind, I lived by my religious to-do list, complete with check boxes: go to church on Sunday, go to church on Wednesday, read the Scriptures once a year (with a morning or bedtime routine of following outlined chapters), go to men’s groups, tithe every Sunday. Oh, and be sure to pray before every meal and at the close of the day. These disciplines, though healthy, were practices that demonstrated my commitment to the Christian walk. But they were my works, not expressions of love for my God and King.

I have been blessed to serve in ministry for more than 20 years. During that time, I noticed a common practice among the men in our church: they were often motivated to express their faith by doing something. As long as they were engaged in some activity, they were passionate about their faith. But their fire would begin to fade when conversations about God focused solely on emotional expressions of love for Him. It was quickly rekindled when a task needed to be done, especially if the project involved a group of men working with their hands to accomplish something in the community. Why did the fire return when they were engaged in a project? It was tangible; the objective was clear, and the goal was attainable. Rather than simply talking about some abstract inner change, they were able to demonstrate the change in a practical and concrete way, doing something they considered to be “kingdom work.”

There is nothing wrong with men or women expressing their faith and love for the Lord through works. After all, we were “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10). But prayer is often lumped into the category of intangibles and, as such, it receives little emphasis.

In the past, it was easy for me to get caught up in tasks because I felt that viable, daily disciplines pleased God. These things came quite naturally to me as a man. Prayer, however, was nothing more than talking into the air for a set period of time—but at least I was able to check that task off my to-do list at the end of the day. Another accomplishment recorded in the books!

It is this focus on works that is the foundation of all religion. Yet throughout Scripture, we find that God desires more than religion; He wants relationship. Jesus calls out to each of us, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20).

My prayer journey took another step when I began to understand that there was a living God on the other end of the conversation. My words were, in fact, rising above the ceiling and reaching heaven. But I still did not fully grasp what prayer was intended to do. I am ashamed to say that it wasn’t until recently that I finally began to comprehend the idea that praying is not about what God can do for me; it is about offering myself to Him, surrendering my own agenda, and seeking His glory instead. If we fail to cry out to Him, to praise Him, the rocks will (Luke 19:40). I don’t know about you, but I don’t want rocks taking my place worshiping the Creator of the universe, or fulfilling the purpose He intended for me.

Building a Relationship

God desires relationship, but for many years I was preoccupied with works. Not only that, I was preoccupied with self. When I prayed, it was a preconceived line of thought followed by a list of needs, and I was often impatient for results. In my mind, God needed to provide fast results, and if one prayer was not sufficient, I took measures into my own hands. Hey, at least I gave God a chance to perform, and then I did what any good Christian should do, right? But I was still missing the point.

The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 3:10,

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death. (amp)

And in Ephesians 1:17, he wrote, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Paul got it. And he wasn’t alone. Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah, had such a deep relationship with God that one day God just took him to heaven (Gen 5:22–23). Later, Elijah, who lived every day in wholehearted devotion to the Father, was escorted to heaven in a chariot of fire. That must have been an incredible sight.

Throughout time, God has opened Himself up to men and women to initiate friendship. Friends with the Almighty—what a concept! In Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To, DeStefano states,

The fact is that we have a God who loves to communicate. And the reason is that communication is the starting point for any relationship. Everyone has heard it said that God wants to be able to have a relationship with us. There is no truer point in all theology. Indeed, the thrust of God’s communication with mankind over the course of history has always been relational and not conceptual. That’s why he actually prefers it when we come to have faith in him through prayer, instead of through logical arguments alone. God doesn’t just want to satisfy a curiosity we have, He wants to enter into a friendship with us.5

God called King David, arguably one of the greatest kings who ever reigned on the earth, a man after His own heart. David poured out his love, respect, and humility before God throughout the Psalms. In Psalm 63:1, David expressed his thirst for the living God: “You, God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” God designed us to thirst for Him. Many try to quench this thirst by pursuing physical desires, but this is a hopeless quest with no resolution. As Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks [natural] water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14).

If you knew that ours was the last generation before the coming of Christ, how would you live? When you stand before the throne of God, will you know Him intimately as your friend, or will you be a stranger? Are you going through the routine of your Christian walk without experiencing friendship with Elohim? Through Spirit-led prayer, your eyes will be opened, and you will have an indescribable relationship with God that is rich and fulfilling.

In Experiencing Prayer with Jesus, Dr. Henry Blackaby writes, “How deep is your relationship with the Lord as you pray? Do you pour your heart out to Him with complete confidence and trust in His help, because you’ve come to know and experience His love? It takes time, like any relationship. The more time you spend with Him, the more you’ll come to understand His ways, His heart, and His will as you pray.”6 It is my hope that when you have completed this study, you will never view prayer the same way again, and you will experience true intimacy with the Almighty each time you fall to your knees, clasp your hands, and speak before the throne of the Most High.

The Basics of Prayer

At the National Day of Prayer Task Force, we developed a simple PRAY acrostic to help people remember the basic elements of prayer:7

Praise

Repent

Ask

Yield

Before we request anything of the Father, we worship Him with heartfelt words of praise. (If you need help in this area, select a psalm from the Bible and read it to the Lord.) In her book, Certain Peace in Uncertain Times, Shirley Dobson writes, “He invites us into conversation with Him because it brings Him pleasure. That’s sometimes a little hard to believe, isn’t it? The holy and perfect and all-powerful ruler of the universe enjoys our prayers of praise? But the proof is in the Scripture: ‘The prayer of the upright is His delight’ (Prov 15:8 nkjv). God actually delights in and pursues our worship.”8

In Matthew 6:6–13, Christ provides a model of prayer for His followers:

When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. … And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

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.”

With this very powerful prayer, Jesus made sure we would cover the essential points in our conversation with the King. We praise Him, for He alone is worthy to be praised. We repent of sin, asking forgiveness so that nothing will hinder us from receiving the blessing of response. We then ask for those things we need and yield to His will, for He alone knows how best to respond to our petitions.

As we grow in our relationship with the Father, we will understand more clearly how to pray according to His will. Read again these words of James: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (Jas 4:3). When we are focused on our own desires, we aren’t praying with God’s will in mind. James points out that one reason God doesn’t answer our prayers is that our motives are self-centered and wrong. But when we yield our desires to Him, we find true contentment, receiving with grateful hearts whatever God provides. As the Apostle Paul states in 1 Timothy 6:8: “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

Although Scripture tells us that we have whatever we ask in Jesus’ name (John 16:23), God may say no to our requests and even allow us to go through suffering. The Apostle Paul was well acquainted with suffering. In 2 Timothy, He offers these words to encourage us in the midst of our sorrow: “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 2:3) and “Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship” (2 Tim 4:5). Peter also encouraged those who were suffering, writing, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you. … But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet 4:12–13).

Eternal

E.M. Bounds dedicated countless years of his life to exploring the depth of prayer. In his writings on prayer, he states the following:

The most important lesson we can learn is how to pray. Indeed, we must pray so that our prayers take hold of God. The man who has done the most and the best praying is the most immortal, because prayers do not die. Perhaps the lips that uttered them are closed in death, or the heart that felt them may have ceased to beat, but the prayers live before God, and God’s heart is set on them. Prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them … [they] outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world.9

Bounds makes a life-changing point: our bodies will age and die, but the prayers that leave our tongues are a blessing to the Father for all eternity.

Chapters 5 and 8 of Revelation describe the prayers of saints as golden bowls full of incense rising to God as a fragrant sacrifice. Some versions say that the incense is a sweet aroma to His nostrils. The text doesn’t specify the age of the prayers, only that they were brought carefully into the throne room by the angels. We cannot see our prayers rising like incense to heaven or grasp their enduring quality, but our prayers are eternal. As Paul wrote, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:18).

Three Wishes

How do you pray? I used to treat God as though He was supposed to grant me three wishes when I prayed. My prayers were filled with “Do this,” “Do that,” “I need this,” “I need that.” Believe me; it is easy to pray this way. But when we do, we act like spoiled children, demanding the benefit of the relationship’s power but failing to build the relationship. We perform our Christian duties, and then we list the things we need from God.

Are you throwing a short prayer His way before you eat, while stuck in traffic, or when you are looking for the best parking spot? Or are you actively pursuing a relationship with the Father through prayer? If you are a parent, what would you rather hear from the child you love? “Thanks for the food, you’re neat, let’s eat,” or “I miss you. I really look forward to our time together. I long to be with you. I know you have everything worked out already, but I am worried about some things today. I need your help; I really blew it today. You told me what to do, but I still messed up. I will do better tomorrow. But I really need you to be with me, because I am weak. All I really want to do is make you happy. I love you so much. I want to know you more each and every day. Help me and please forgive me.”

What is the difference between these two prayers? The heart. The purpose, the intent, and the respect are transparent. Prayer is not a fitful, short-lived exercise. It is not a voice crying unheard and unheeded in the silence. It is a voice that reaches God’s ear. And it lives as long as that ear is open to holy pleas, as long as His heart is alive to holy things—and we know it always is.

A House of Prayer

E.M. Bounds writes, “The life of the church is the highest life, and its office is to pray. When God’s house on the earth is a house of prayer, then God’s house in heaven is busy and powerful in its plans and movements. ‘For mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people’ (Isa 56:7).”10

God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world, the better the world will be, and the mightier the forces against evil everywhere. Prayer, in one phase of its operation, is a disinfectant and a preventive. Prayer is God’s settled and singular condition to further His Son’s kingdom on earth (Matt 6:10). Therefore, the believer who is the most highly skilled in prayer will do the most for God. Men and women are to pray for the advancement of God’s cause. The one who knows how to wield the power of prayer is the strong one, the holy one in Christ’s kingdom. He is one of God’s heroes, saints, servants, and agents.

Jesus tells believers, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt 7:7 kjv). The strongest disciple in Christ’s kingdom is the one who can knock the best. The secret of success in Christ’s kingdom is the ability to pray.

TYPES OF PRAYER

As mentioned before, there are different forms of prayer. The Holy Spirit wants to lead us into a balance of all these types of prayer.

  • Worship: [Heb. shachah {shaw-khaw'} = bow down, prostrate oneself]. The true worshiper God seeks worships in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23). God wants truth in the inner parts (Psalm 51:6). In true worship, there is a total bowing down of the heart to God. In worship we express love and admiration to God which is a response to the revelation of who God is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. Worship is voluntary submission to the love, the will and the law of God. Any hypocrisy disqualifies us for true worship. In worship we hear the voice of God.
  • Confession: In confession of sin, we tell God with our mouth our sin. We should specifically tell God what we did, or acknowledge what we failed to do that we should have done. This is necessary to restore communion with God and is a preparation for further fellowship. In confession of the Word, we tell God with our mouths what He has said in His Word. We express faith and confidence in God and God’s Word verbally, and it releases the blessing of God to us. Very rarely do we rise above the level of our verbal confession before God.
  • Thanksgiving: This is thanking God for what He has done for us. We can thank Him both for blessings seen and those as yet unseen. It is a key to faith and it is natural and right that we give thanks always to the One from whom all good things come. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  • Praise: This is declaring good things about God, both about his character (who he is) and also His actions. To say “God is good” is to praise God. There are many styles of praise. Some are noisy and exuberant, others are calm. Praise is well-expressed through music, singing, words, shouting, clapping, dancing, shouting and giving to God.
  • Petition: This is asking God for the things we desire. Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive.” (Matthew 7:7). We are commanded to ask.
  • Intercession: The ministry of intercession involves all the other types of prayer. However, the emphasis of the prayer ministry in intercession is the needs of others, and the advancement of God’s interests in the world. It is not focused on praying for things for oneself, but for others.
  • Waiting: (Habakkuk 2:1). This is a form of prayer in which the soul is silent and waits for God to move it or speak something by His Spirit. God promises to renew the strength of those who wait on Him (Isaiah 40:31; Psalm 27:14). We are to wait patiently on God. Through this we express to God in a practical way – not my will but Yours be done. If we are always talking in prayer we will not be able to hear what God is saying.
  • Warfare: (Psalm 149:6-9). This is prayer directed against the powers of darkness. Our praises to God are also a weapon directed against the powers of darkness (demons, fallen angels who are at work in the affairs of the world and the church). We pronounce against them the written judgment by reading the Scriptures of judgment against them (Psalm 149:9), we command them to be bound or to leave their positions of influence or authority in the name of Jesus (Matthew 16:19; Mark 16:17). In “praying for the sick” we should pray prayers over the bodies of people to be healed in Jesus’ name – seeking the will of God in every situation. This may also be a form of spiritual warfare since it is part of destroying the works of the devil (1 John 3:8; Acts 10:38).
  • Praying in Tongues: (1 Corinthians 14: 2,15; Jude 20) This is a method of prayer available to those baptized in the Holy Spirit through which they can pray the will of God through words given by the Spirit.

 

PRAYING THE WORD

Since the Bible commands us to give constant attention to the Word and to meditate on it night and day, (Proverbs 4:20-22; Joshua 1:8), it is clear that our praying should not be something separate from the Word, but rather, that God’s Word should direct our praying. For example, Daniel found the promise of the time of deliverance for God’s people and prayed according to that. (Daniel 9:2). His prayer acknowledged openly the truth of God’s Word (Daniel 9:10-15). Many other examples could be given. Elijah’s prayer for the heavens to be shut was based on the promise of God to do this if the people turned away to idols.

Praying the Word in a strict sense includes quoting it and using it in our prayers. God responds to his own Word. It will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11). We can take general promises from the Bible and using the words of Scripture pray as if we expect God will fulfill them for us personally. This is a powerful form of prayer.

DEDICATION TO PRAYER

God says to continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2). Men ought always to pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1). Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Watch therefore and pray always (Luke 21:36).

Prayer is where our dedication to God is tested. This is where our destiny is really determined. This is a command with constant application. Either we maintain communion with God or we don’t. Either we depend on God and wait on Him or we don’t. Either we allow ourselves to be led by Him or we don’t

Prayer, to be effective, often requires fasting. This means denying ourselves food. A normal fast is where we do not eat (although we may drink water). This intensifies our focus on God, puts down the power of our flesh and enables us to pray more easily, with less mental effort. The only way to pray without ceasing and to have maximum results in prayer is to be willing to practice self-denial where necessary. This includes Spirit-led fasting. Fasting for a day is normal and often very necessary where we are not aware of the reason for which our communion with God is weak. The other kind of self-denial needed in the life of a person serious about prayer is “watching” or denying yourself sleep. This could mean late nights of prayer or getting up early in the morning to pray. Jesus practiced both of these in His busy ministry (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12).

God is looking for people who willingly, out of gratitude, love and devotion, will devote themselves and their free time to this vital ministry.

KEY BIBLE VERSES ON PRAYER

PRAYER CONTENT : GOOD GOVERNMENT 1Tim 2.1 2.2; GOSPEL WORKERS Mt 9.38;

  • THE LORD’S PRAYER Mt 6.9-6.13
  • ALL CONCERNS Php 4.6 Eph 6.18
  • THE WAY PAUL PRAYED Col 1.9 Eph 1.17 1.18
  • WITH PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING Heb 13.15 Php 4.6
  • WITH TONGUES AND INTERPRETATION Jude 20 1Cor 14.13
  • ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL 1Jo 5.14 5.15
  • WITH NO LOVE FOR INIQUITY Ps 66.18 Jas 5.16
  • BY REMAINING IN CHRIST AND IN THE WORD John 15.7
  • IN FAITH Mt 21.22 Jn 14.13 Mk 11.24
  • WITH FORGIVENESSMk 11.25
  • WITH ASKING Mt 7.7
  • WITH EARNESTNESS Jas 5.16
  • FOR GOD’S GLORY 1Cor 10.31 Mt 6.13 Jas 4.3
  • IN THE SPIRIT Jud 1.20
  • IN HUMILITY Mt 6.5 2Chr 7.14
  • IN LOVE 1Cor 16.14
  • IN JESUS NAME Jn 14.13
  • WITH DETERMINATION Lk 18.2
  • PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT 1Cor 14.2 14.15 Eph 6.18; Jud 1.20 1.21; Rom 8.26 8.27
  • PRAYER WITHOUT CEASING 1The 5.17 5.18
  • WAITING ON GOD Hos 10.12
  • WITH WATCHFULNESS Col 3.2 Eph 6.18 Lk 21.36
  • WITH ENDURANCE Lk 18.1
  • ABOUT EVERYTHING Php 4.6 4.7
  • FOR OTHERS 1Sam 12.23.

This content was provided by John Bornschein (The Front Line: A Prayer Warriors Guide to Spiritual Warfare) and by All About God ministries.