It was the disciples who inquired first, so you aren't alone in wondering if prayer really works.
While Jesus was praying, He was asked, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John [known as John the Baptist] also taught his disciples" (Luke 11:1). They could have asked Him anything. They could have asked, "Lord, teach us how to turn water into wine" or "Lord, teach us to raise the dead". Instead, they asked Him how to pray, and what He did was teach them how to build a personal relationship with God. Then and only then could they be ready to learn how to pray as a group with an understanding of what a solemn assembly is all about.
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." For Christians, prayer is "communion with God." It's 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's 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 it comes in, prayer is our effort to engage God." 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).
Through Prayer, You Can Know God Better
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.
God desires relationship, but for many years, I was preoccupied with works and 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 wasn't 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, "My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death."
And in Ephesians 1:17, he wrote, "I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him." 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 (Genesis 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, Anthony 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."
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'll have an indescribable, rich, and fulfilling relationship with God.
In Experiencing Prayer With Jesus, 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."
Through Prayer, You Can Make Him Known
Prayer is making a difference, transforming the landscape of homes and communities across the globe. A few years ago, Heritage Builders conducted an unofficial study of the American family to determine the factors that increased overall family health. 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 15 and 19.
A LifeWay Research survey estimates that 70 percent of Christian teens and young adults will walk away from the church during college. But families that prayed together were among the 30 percent whose teenagers were more grounded in their faith. In the LifeWay survey, participants indicated that prayer wasn't just a 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's 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: "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.'" The researchers suggest that the relationship people experience with
God through prayer helps them handle their emotions, become less self-focused, be more empathetic, and gain greater reconciliation skills. 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 married couples "reported that prayer alleviated tension and facilitated open communication during conflict."
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's showing them true humility, compassion, and love. He's also showing that he's accountable to someone bigger than himself and that there's a structured chain of command that keeps the family healthy and aligned.
Through Prayer, God Changes Hearts and Nations
With this in mind, imagine what the action of prayer does for a community. If religious leaders are praying for civil leaders, they're honoring that which God has put in place. As Romans 13:1 states, "Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God." Paul also encouraged believers to pray for their leaders: "I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (See 1 Timothy 2:1-4).
A nation can be punished by the actions of its leaders (See 2 Samuel 24), and a nation can be punished with poor leaders because the hearts of the people are evil (See 2 Kings 17:1-23). In the same way, a nation can be blessed with good leadership because the people honor God (See Proverbs 8:14-16; 2 Chronicles 7:14). We can honor the structure of leadership that God has ordained (See Exodus 18:21; Deuteronomy 17:14-20), and we can do this even if we don't agree with all the decisions those in authority are making; that's just all the more reason to pray for them.
The action of prayer is healthy for a home and a community. We know that God hears these prayers, which is where the real power resides, and the evidence is undeniable. The challenge we have today is to remain in prayer. The stories of change are powerful, showing that God hears and heals, but the problem is that we often get complacent, return to our old ways, and then wonder why our home life, work life, and national life are all in chaos. The need to pray is as great as the authority of God, who commands us to "pray constantly" (See 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is so vital to all that God wants to do on the earth, and it's so essential to us, that He commands us to do it all the time. But the key to successful prayer is the relationship that develops in and through this interstellar conversation.
Sometimes, we just need to listen, while other times require focused intercession, even repentance, praise, and petition. If you want to know the will of God, you'll discover it only through devotion to the Word through prayer.
So, let's pray as we've never prayed before and be united in one voice, praying specifically and strategically into our communities, beginning in the centers of influence that impact our lives every day.
This article is courtesy of HomeLife Magazine.
The War Room Church Campaign Kit provides a comprehensive tool for churches seeking to plan and promote prayer efforts in their congregation and community. It includes a step-by-step planning guide, supportive sermon outlines, a five-week small-group study (with War Room Bible Study Book and supporting film clip DVD), evangelism outreach materials, and a DVD-ROM with promotional trailers, flyers, posters, and web ads, all designed to create an exciting campaign for your church. Plus a guide to help churches launch a prayer ministry.