Getting the most out of Prayer
Just as singing and partaking of the Lordís Supper are important parts of our worship to God, prayer is vital part of our assemblies and our personal lives. When we assembly we usually begin with a prayer and end with a prayer. When Paul was teaching Timothy on how to conduct himself in the house of God, prayer was included in his instructions as we read in:
1 Timothy 2:1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,† 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.† 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
Prayer should be important to every Christian because it is our avenue to speak to God and thank Him for what He has done for us and we can turn all our problems over to Him knowing that He is listening and that we can draw strength from Him. But sometimes we take prayer for granted and we donít use it as we should, and we donít pay attention to what is being said by those who are leading the prayer in the church.
We have to make sure that we do not turn our prayers into a meaningless exercise where we allow our minds to drift so I hope this lesson will cause you to focus more on the prayers in the assembly, and I hope it reminds you how you should spend time each day praying to God in your personal life.
The first thing I want to
point out is that prayer was a part of the 1st century assembly.
When Paul was teaching the Christians at
1 Corinthians 14:15 What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.† 16 Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say?
This means that we must listen carefully to those who are leading in prayer, and those who are leading in prayer need to do their best to speak plainly and loudly so that all can understand and be able to say Amen to the prayer.
Throughout the N.T. we can see verse after verse where we are told to pray, and we can see some of the benefits of those prayers such as the one found at the beginning of the church after Peter and John had been arrested, threatened, and let go.
Acts 4:23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.† 24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: "Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them,† 25 "who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: 'Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things?† 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ.'† 27 "For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together† 28 "to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.† 29 "Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,† 30 "by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus."† 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
We can see how they assembled and prayed to God for boldness so they could have the courage to continue to face the opposition they would encounter as they continued to proclaim the good news of Jesus. In this instance, God responding immediately to their prayer and it caused them to have the courage to speak the Word of God with boldness.
Also in Act 12 when Peter was arrested again and James had already been put to death, we learn in verse 5 that the church offered up constant prayer for him, and their prayers were answered because an angel came into the jail house and freed him. We learn in verse 12 that they were still praying as he came to the house where the church had met.
Without a doubt, prayer is an important part of our assembly and we can see from these 2 examples that God listens to our prayers and He answers them. It will help us to get more our of our prayer life if we remind ourselves that we are not just saying empty words into the air because God listens to everything we say to Him. It should also be encouraging to know that a prayer said in the assembly is a prayer that we are all praying together, which shows how unified we are. After all, we make up the one body of Christ, and we are to be of one mind.
So, when the man is leading the prayer in our assembly and is giving thanks to God for what He has done, or prays for our nation, the sick or the afflicted, we need to realize that we are all joining in that prayer together when we pay attention and concentrate on the words being spoken and we can show that we agree with their prayer by saying Amen.
When we pray on our own whether it be at our homes or going down the road, we can have the same confidence that God hears our prayers and answers them. We need to realize that He wants to hear from us because He loves us and wants to part of our everyday lives. Realizing this should encourage you to spend more time in prayer and it will certainly help you get the most out of prayer.
Another thing that will help you to get the most out of prayer is to realize that praying to God will make something happen that would not have happened if you had not prayed.
James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.† 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.† 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.† 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.† 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.† 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
James gives us some great insight about the power of prayer. First, he says that those who are suffering can be made well by the prayer of faith. Of course this is not talking about a miraculous cure, but he is saying that if a prayer is offered in faith and its Godís will that person is to be made well, then that prayer of faith can cause a sick person to become well.
James also says that when a righteous man prays for someone, his or hers prayer will avail much. Then he gives an example of a righteous man and how his prayer availed much. When Elijah prayed for no rain to fall, no rain fell for 3 Ĺ years, but as soon as he prayed for it start again, it did.
So, when we pray without doubting great things can happen, lives can be restored, and sicknesses can be overcome all by the power of prayer.
†Letís consider more of the things that the power of pray can do:
1. Prayer can give us a peace in our life that can only come from God because when we pray and hand our problems over to Him and trust in His judgment, we can worry less because we know that He will make things work out for the best.†
Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;† 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
2. Prayers can make a difference in a nation, and our nation can certainly use all the prayers that it can. If our prayers didnít make a difference in our nation then why did Paul instruct us in:
1 Timothy 2:1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,† 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
3. Prayer can help give us the strength we need to combat the temptation of this world. As Jesus said:
Matthew 26:41 "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
4. Prayer can cause doors of opportunity to be opened so that the good news can be spread as Paul taught in:
Colossians 4:2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;† 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains,† 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
5. Prayers can help us and others find the courage to proclaim the good news with boldness as Paul said:
Ephesians 6:18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints --† 19 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,† 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. †
6. Finally, one of the most important aspects of prayer to every Christians is that we can ask forgiveness of our sins and know with all confidence that God forgives those sins we have repented of as John writes:
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
When we reflect on the power of prayer and consider what a privilege we have been given to be able to speak to our God, it should cause us to get the most out of our prayers in the assemblies and in our personally lives.†
Another thing that will help us to get the most out of prayer is to believe with all our might that God is hearing our prayer and that He will answer it in accordance with His will.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.† 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.†
If we pray with the attitude that I hope God listens to my prayer, then we have already failed to ask without doubting. We must learn to have enough trust in God to know that He is listening to everything we say, and He is answering all of our prayers. Now His answer to our prayers might not comes as quickly as we like or how we would like, but we must trust in His wisdom and realize that He knows what is best for us.
So, we must learn to turn our problems over to God and then wait on His timing and if the answer to our prayer is no or not yet, we need to accept His answer and not worry about it. Even if the answer is no right now, it may be yes later on, so donít ever give up on what you are praying for.
Jesus teaches us a great lesson on being persistent in our prayer life in:
Luke 18:1 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,† 2 saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.† 3 "Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.'† 4 "And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man,† 5 'yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.' "† 6 Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said.† 7 "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?† 8 "I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.
Jesus is telling us to
never give up on praying to God on what we would like to see happen. For
example, never stop praying for opportunities to reach the lost. A great OT
example of how persistent prayer paid off was when the children of
We must also keep in mind that our prayers will be answered in accordance to Godís will as John says:
1 John 5:14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.† 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.†
We need to do our best to pray realistic prayers that we know that would be acceptable to God. For instance, if we pray for a new blue sports car to be given to us or that someone will give us a brand new home so that we can fulfill our need for things, our prayers are off base. James tells us not to do this in:
James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.†
However if we ask for those things that are necessary, then we are not asking amiss and our Father will certainly provide for us through His providence as Jesus said:
Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.† 8 "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.† 9 "Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?† 10 "Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?† 11 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
Another thing that will help us to the most out of prayer is to make prayer part of your everyday live because the more you pray the more you will appreciate it and the more your life will be blessed. This is why we are told to pray often in Scripture:
Luke 21:36 "Watch therefore, and pray
always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come
to pass, and to stand before the Son of
Colossians 4:2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;
1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray without ceasing,
The more you pray, the more you will love to pray, which will cause you to get the most out of every prayer that you pray or that you participate with in the assembly.
Another thing I want to point out about prayer is that there is nothing wrong with praying in different bodily positions. Whatever position you feel reflects your state of mind as you pray to God is perfectly fine. To prove this, I want to show you several examples of different postures people in the Bible used to pray along with a Scripture reverence:
1. Standing - 1Sa 1:26; Mk 11:25; Lk 18:13
2. Hands spread out and/or lifted heavenward - 1Ki 8:22; Neh 8:6; 1Ti 2:8
3. Bowing of the head - Neh 8:6
4. Lifting the eyes toward heaven - Jn 17:1
5. Kneeling - Ac 20:36
6. Falling down with the face upon the ground - Mt 26:39
7. Bowing the head, with the face between the knees - 1Ki 18:42
8. Bowing the head, while striking the chest - Lk 18:13
So, whatever position you choose is fine as long as you are doing it for yourself and not trying to show off to others. †
One last thing I want point out about prayer is that God doesnít need you to impress Him with many words because He is not concerned with that, but He does want your prayer to be from your heart. So, you donít have to worry if your prayer isnít eloquent, or if you stumble on your words. Even if you mind goes blank for awhile before you start praying again it doesnít matter to God because He would rather hear a few sincere words from the heart than an eloquent speech full of fluff that doesnít come from the heart.
This was what the Pharisees were guilty of during Jesusí time and He tells us not be like them:
Matthew 6:5" And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.† 6 "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.† 7 "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.† 8 "Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
When we realize that we are not be judged by God by how beautiful our prayers are and that He is only concerned about our prayers coming from our heart, it takes the pressure off of us when we pray in private or when we pray publically. Understanding this will help us to get more joy out of praying to God and allow us to take our guard down and pray from our heart. When we can do this we will definitely get the most out of prayers.††
I hope something I have said is this lesson will help you in your prayer life, and I hope that each of us can learn to appreciate and enjoy the wonderful privilege of prayer.