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   Effective Praying

    Prayer refers to the multifaceted communication of believers with the Lord God. In addition to such words as 'prayer' and 'praying', this activity is described as calling upon God, calling upon the name of the Lord, crying unto the Lord, lifting up one's soul unto God, seeking the Lord, coming boldly unto the throne of grace, and drawing near to God.

 

  

 Reasons for Prayer

bulletFirst and foremost, believers are commanded by God to pray. The command to pray comes from the lips of psalmists (1 Chr 16:11; PS 105:4), prophets (Is 55:6; Amos 5:4,6), apostles (Eph 6:17-18;Col 4:2; 1 Thes 5:17), and the Lord Jesus Himself (Mat 26:41; Luke 18:1; John 16:24). God desires our fellowship; by prayer we maintain our relationship with Him.
bulletPrayer is the necessary link to receiving God's blessings and power, and the fulfillment of His promises. Numerous Bible passages illustrate this principle. Jesus, for example, promised that His followers would receive the Holy Spirit if they persisted in asking, seeking, and knocking at the door of their heavenly Father (Luke 11:5-13). Thus, after Jesus' ascension, His followers continually devoted themselves to prayer in the upper room (Acts 1:14) until the power of the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). When the apostles gathered together after their arrest and release by the Jewish authorities, they prayed earnestly for the Holy Spirit to give them boldness and influence when speaking His word. 'And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness' (Acts 4:31). The apostle Paul frequently requested prayers on his behalf, knowing that his work would not be successful unless Christians were praying for him (e.g., Rom 15:30-32; 2 Cor 1:11; Eph 6:18-20; Col 4:3-4). James states explicitly that physical healing can come to the believer in response to 'the prayer of faith' (Jas 5:14-15).
bulletIn His plan of salvation for humankind, God has ordained that believers be co-workers with Him in the redemptive process. In some respects God has limited Himself to the holy, believing, persevering prayers of His people. There are many things that will not be accomplished in God's kingdom without the intercessory prayers of believers. For example, God desires to send forth workers into the gospel harvest; Christ teaches that this will only be accomplished to God's full purp0ose through the prayers of His people: 'Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest' (Mat 9:38). In other words, God's power to accomplish many of His purposes is released only through the earnest and effectual prayers of His people on behalf of the progress of His kingdom. If we fail to pray, we may actually be hindering the accomplishment of God's redemptive purpose, both for ourselves as individuals and for the church as a body.

    Requirements of Effective Praying

bulletOur prayers will not be answered unless we have a sincere true faith. Jesus states explicitly: 'What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them' (Mark 11:24). To the father of a demon-possessed boy, He spoke these words: 'all things are possible to him that believeth' (Mark 9:23). The author of Hebrews exhorts us to draw near to God 'with a true heart in full assurance of faith' (Heb 10:22), and James encourages us to ask of God 'in faith, nothing wavering' (Jas 1:6).
bulletPrayer must also be made in Jesus' name. Jesus Himself expressed this principle when He said: 'And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it' (John 14:13-14. Our prayers should be made in harmony with the person, character, and will of our Lord.
bulletPrayer can only be effective if it is made according to the perfect will of God: 'And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will he heareth us' (1 John 5:14). One of the petitions in Jesus' model prayer, the Lord's Prayer, confirms this: 'Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven' (Mat 6:10; also, see Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane, Mat 26:42). In many instances we know God's will because He has revealed it to us in the Scriptures. We can be sure that any prayer that is truly based upon the promises of God in His Word will indeed be effective. Elijah was certain that the Lord God of Israel would answer his prayer with fire and later with rain because the prophetic word of the Lord had come to him (1 Kings 18:1), and he was fully confident that none of the heathen gods was greater than or even as powerful as the Lord God of Israel ( 1 Kings 18:21-24). At other times God's will becomes clear only as we earnestly seek to determine what it is. Then once we know His will about any given issue, we can pray with confidence and faith that God will answer.
bulletNot only must we pray according to God's will, but we must be in God's will if we expect Him to hear and answer us. God will give us the things we ask for only if we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. The apostle John unequivocally states: 'And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight' (1 John 3:22). Obeying God's commandments, loving Him, and pleasing Him are indispensable conditions for receiving answers to prayer. When James wrote that the prayers of the righteous are effectual, he meant both a person who has been made righteous by faith in Christ and one who is living a righteous, God-fearing, and obedient life--such as the prophet Elijah. Already in the Old Testament this same point is stressed. God make clear that Moses' prayers on behalf of the Israelites were effective. Conversely, the psalmist claims that if we cherish sin in our lives, 'the Lord will not hear' our prayers (Ps 66:18). This sort of attitude was the main reason why the Lord turned his ear away from the prayers of the idolatrous and wicked Israelites (Is 1:15). But if God's people repent of their sins and turn from their wicked ways, the Lord promises to again turn His ear toward them, forgive their sins, and heal their land (2 Chr 7:14; Luke 18:14). Note that the prayer of the high priest for the forgiveness of the sins of the Israelites on the Day of Atonement would not be heard until his own sinful condition had been cleansed.
bulletFinally, for prayer to be effective we must be persistent. This is the main point of the parable of the of the persistent widow (see Luke 18:1-7). Jesus' instruction to 'ask...seek...knock' (Mat 7:7-8) teaches perseverance in prayer. The apostle Paul also admonishes us to be steadfast in prayer (Col 4:2; 1 Thes 5:17). Likewise, the Old Testament saints recognized this principle. For example, only as long as Moses persevered in prayer with his hands lifted toward God were the Israelites successful in their battle against the Amalekites. After Elijah received the prophetic word that rain was coming, he still persisted in prayer until the rain came (1 Kings 18:41-45). On a previous occasion, this great prophet had persistently and earnestly prayed for God to give life back to the dead son of the widow of Zarephath until the Lord answered his prayer (1 Kings 17:17-23).

Scriptural Elements and Methods of Effective Praying

bulletTo pray effectively, we must praise and adore God (Ps 150; Acts 2:47; Rom 15:11). We must also give thanksgiving to God (Ps 100:4; Mat 11:25-36; Phil 4:6). Sincere confession of known sins is essential to the prayer of faith (Jas 5:15-16; Luke 18:13; 1 John 1:9). God also instructs us to petition Him according to our needs; as James writes, we do not receive the things we want because we do not ask, or we ask with wrong motives (Jas 4:2-3; Mat 7:7-11). And we must pray fervently for others (Num 14:13-19; Ps 122:6-9; Luke 22:31-32).
bulletJesus emphasizes the sincerity of our heart is important in how we ought pray, for we are not heard simply for our empty words (Mat 6:7). We can pray silently (1 Sam 1:13) or we can pray our loud (Neh 9:4; Ezek 11:13). We can pray in our own words or using the words of the Scriptures. We can pray with the mind or we can pray with the Spirit (ie in tongues, 1 Cor 14:14-18). We can even pray by groaning, ie not using any human words (Rom 8:26), knowing that the Spirit will bring those inaudible requests to the Lord. Yet another method of praying is singing to the Lord (Ps 92:1-2; Eph 5:19-20; Col 3:16). Earnest prayer to the Lord will at times be accompanied with fasting (Ezra 8:21; Neh 1:4; Dan 9:3-4; Mark 9:29; Luke 2:37; Acts 14:23).
bulletWhat posture is appropriate for praying? The Bible records praying while standing (1 Kings 8:22; Neh 9:4-5), sitting (1 Chr 17:16; Luke 10:13), kneeling (Ezra 9:5; Dan 6:10; Acts 20:36), lying on a bed (Ps 63:6), bowing down to the ground (Ex 34:8; Ps 95:6), lying upon the ground (2 Sam 12:16; Mat 26:39), and lifting up hands to heaven (Ps 28:2; Is 1:15; 1 Tim 2:8).

Examples of Effective Praying

bulletMoses had numerous intercessory prayers that God answered, even when He had told Moses that He would follow a different course of action.
bulletA repentant Samson prayed for one more opportunity to fulfill his life's task of defeating the Philistines; God answered this  prayer by giving him strength to pull down the pillars of the building in which they were celebrating the power of their gods (Judges 16:21-30).
bulletThe prophet Elijah had at least four powerful prayers answered, all of which brought glory to the God of Israel (see 1 Kings 20:2-6; Jas 5:17-18).
bulletKing Hezekiah became sick and was told by Isaiah that he would die (2 Kings 20:1; Is 38:1).
bulletDaniel undoubtedly prayed to the Lord in the den of lions, asking for deliverance from their mouths, and the Lord granted his request (Dan 6:10, 16-22).
bulletThe early Christians prayed earnestly for Peter's release from prison, and God sent an angel to free him (Acts 12:3-11).

Such examples, and countless others, should fill us with holy desire and faith to pray effectively according to the principles outlined in the Scriptures.

 

            

                     Thy Will Be Done                   

        During the darkest night of His life, Jesus experienced unanswered prayer, unfruitful service, and unbelievable betrayal. Jesus had just offered an anguished appeal to God. 'My Father, if it is possible, do not give me this cup of suffering. But do what you want, not what I want.'  Matthew says that Jesus was 'very sad and troubled'. The Master 'fell to the ground' and cried out to God. Luke tells us that Jesus was 'full of pain' and that 'his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground'. Never has earth offered such an urgent request. And never has heaven offered more deafening silence. The prayer of Jesus was unanswered. Jesus and unanswered prayer in the same phrase? Doesn't even sound right. But it gets worse.

        Not only did Jesus have to face unanswered prayer, he also had to deal with unfruitful service and unbelievable betrayal. All His disciples had pledged loyalty, but when the angry crowd arrived being lead by Judas, they all ran. The disciples have left Him. The people have rejected Him. And perhaps the worst, unanswered prayer: God has turned his ear. Yet somehow, despite all the pain, all the hurt, all the rejection, Jesus was able to see the good in the bad, the purpose in the pain, and even God's presence in the problem.

        He found good in the bad. It would be hard to find someone worse than Judas.  He started out a thief and turned into a traitor. A cheap traitor: he sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. But somehow, Jesus saw good. When Judas confronted him, only inches from His face, Jesus looked at him, and said: 'Friend, do what you came to do'. At the ultimate point of Judas' betrayal, Jesus saw him as a friend.

        Not only did Jesus find good in the bad, but He found purpose in the pain and suffering. Of the ninety-eight words Jesus spoke this fateful night, thirty of them refer to the purpose of God. 'It was happen this way to bring about what the Scriptures say' and 'All these things have happened so that it will come about as the prophets wrote'.  Jesus saw the singular night as just part of a grander plan by His Father.

        Where we see unanswered prayer, Jesus saw answered prayer. Where we see the absence of God, Jesus saw the plan of God. Jesus saw what was important: His Father's will being done.

 

 

                 Fervent Prayer of a Righteous Man

     James, Jesus' brother, in his Epistle in the New Testament, stresses the effectual nature of the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man. The Greek word used here for 'effectual' is energeo. This Greek word connotes a high-energy working within a person, having to do with the active operation or working of a higher power for its effectual results. Although a literal translation of the Greek phrase is awkward, and different versions vary in their translations, the basic idea James was trying to impart here is that of intense supplication having the energy of the Holy Spirit. Effective prayer then is characterized by earnestness, fervency, spirit, intensity and high energy.

    James pictures a level of prayer that is beyond any believer's normal capacity. It is divinely energized by the direct involvement of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for 'fervent' actually does not appear in the original text. However, to simply say prayer is 'effective when offered by a righteous person' was deemed by the translators to be shallow in the context, not connoting what James was trying to impart to his followers; therefore, 'fervent' was rightly added to the Scripture.  To fully understand what James was saying here, one needs to examine another passage where the word, energeo, is used. The Apostle Paul used this word in describing the power of God's Word as it works special energy in those who believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The foundational premise of the Greek word applied to this text suggests that our praying, when energized by the power of the Holy Spirit, causes things to happen. There is Power in Prayer!

   

 

              As we all desire to Pray to God effectively, fervently in a manner worthy and righteousness, we first need to remember that God loves to just hear us! He doesn't care whether it be eloquent words of praise or the humble moanings of agony, He simply wants us to commune with Him.  As James said, the effectual, fervent prayers of a righteous man avails much; however, 'effectual' here means from the heart of a servant of God; and, 'fervent' means with a continuing spirit of faith that God is who He says He is! We must submit to God. Believe God. And continue to pray from our heart and in the spirit. Below I have included a collection of powerful Prayers to God that can guide us in our praying and stimulate our worship of the Lord.

 

        Father, we look at your plan and it's all based on love, not on our performance. And we pray that you'd help us to understand that. To be captivated by your love. To be overwhelmed by our grace. To come home to you in that beautiful path that you've already carved out for us.

 

        Father, you promised that there would be faith and strength and hope to meet life's problems. Father, give that strength to those whose anxieties have buried their dreams, whose illnesses have hospitalized their hopes, whose burdens are bigger than their shoulders.

 

        Father, how holy and great is your promise. You've been so good to us, but somehow, Father, we find things about which to complain even though we've been given life eternal. Renew our vision; helps us to see heaven. Help us to be busy about the right business of serving you.

 

        Father, forgive us for the times that we have questioned you; forgive us for the times we have doubted you; forgive us for the times we've shaken our heads and pounded our fists against the earth and cried, "Where are you?" For Father, we know that you have been here--you've carried us through the valley, and you've given us strength.

 

        Father, help us to use our time wisely, to take advantage of the opportunities we have to be just the type of Christians you want us to be. When it seems like we don't have enough time to do what we need to do, increase our gratitude for the challenges of each day. And help us meet those challenges in ways that please you.

 

        Father, help us renew our commitment to you, to release everything to be owned and possessed by you. We long to submit ourselves to you so that we might know the holy freedom available to us only through your grace.

 

 

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