Category Archives: The Power of Prayer

Sin Stops God's Ears

Introduction

You knew this one was coming. Everyone knows that sin hinders our prayers. Today, we’ll take a closer look at this major roadblock to powerful prayer.

Bible Reading

Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. (Isa 59:1-2)

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: (Psa 66:18)

Why Doesn’t God Hear Us?

The Jews in Isaiah’s day were asking that question. The had a rich national history of God helping them in answer to prayer. Now they were in trouble and God didn’t seem to care. Why wouldn’t He listen? Why didn’t He answer. God gave Isaiah the clear, convicting answer.

They were not beyond God’s reach. He hadn’t grown deaf. The fault was not in God, but in His people. Their sins kept God from hearing their prayers. God wanted to hear and answer their prayers, but their wickedness caused Him to hide His face from them and close His ears to their crys.

God didn’t suddenly spring this idea on Israel. He had given them plenty of advanced notice. Even Israel’s hymnbook, the Psalms, reminded them that the Lord wouldn’t hear them if they regarded iniquity. So, it shouldn’t have shocked them that they couldn’t get their prayers answered.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I noticed something disturbing as I studied Psalm 66:18 again. I alway did an on-the-fly translation of the verse in my mind as I read it. My translation went something like this: “God will not answer my prayers of I commit iniquity.” It seems foolish even as I type it, but that’s how I understood it. The passage doesn’t condemn our sins, though, but our attitude toward sin. The word regard could be translated gaze on, stare or respect. We can hinder our prayers even if we’re not sinning at the moment – even if we have confessed every sin we’re conscious of.

If you’re gazing at some particular sin with longing, with respect, God knows your heart. He knows what you wish you could do. That’s what Jesus meant in the Sermon on the Mount when He said that hating your brother was murder and lusting after a woman was adultery. God knows what you would like to do if only you had the chance (Mat. 5:21-22, 27-28).

Let’s take one simple, but probably controversal, example of this idea. How many Christians do you suppose have gotten divorced contrary to God’s Word? Of that number, how many of them do you think have rationalized their behavior, have never repented, and would do the same thing again if they were in similar circumstances? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to slam divorced people. You could substitute any sin you are not currently performing, but still consider respectible: speeding, stealing company time for personal activities, speeding – any sin you wink at. In every case, God wants us to have the same attitude toward it as He does. As I said on day 3 in our study of the Model Prayer, “If you will not hear and heed His Word, don’t expect Him to listen to what you have to say.”

What About You?

  • Are there unconfessed sins in your life that keep God from hearing your prayers?
  • What sins do you regard, even though you may not be presently practicing them?

Failing to Follow Through

Introduction

On Monday, we talked about the fact that we have not because we ask not. Today, we’ll consider how our failure to keep on asking robs us of the blessings God wants to give us.

Bible Reading

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.
(Luk 11:5-8)

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luk 18:1-8)

Pray without ceasing. (1Th 5:17)

Persistent Prayers

I remember watching a race when I was in 6th grade. A girl in our class sprinted out quickly ahead of the other girls. She had a huge lead. The spectators were cheering and clapping as she rounded the last turn and headed toward the finish line. About 100 yards before crossing the line, she collapsed. By the time she got back up, several girls had passed her, and she didn’t even place in the race.

How many times have you stopped one prayer short of getting an answer? I guess none of us will know the answer to that question until we get to Heaven, but it’s worth thinking about, anyway. We pray for a lost loved one, but give up because we think they’ll never get saved. We pray for our church to be revived, but give up because the answer doesn’t come soon enough. The Bible constantly warns us about the need to watch in prayer and not to faint.

God loves pesky prayer warriors. He loves folks who paitently, persistently plead with Him until their request is granted. (Think of Joseph wrestling the angel (Gen 32:25-28) and the woman of Canaan (Mat 15:22-28)

What About You?

  • Who or what did you used to pray for passionately, but you’ve quit?
  • What desires do you have that mean enough to you to keep on praying until you get a clear answer?

Wrong Relationships

Introduction

The way we relate to others has a direct impact on whether or not God answers our prayers.

Bible Reading

Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (Mar 11:24-25)

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Mat 5:23-24)

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. (1Pe 3:7)

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.(Mat 18:19-20)

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

God wants His children to get along. When we wrong others, we sin against God. And, as we saw on Tuesday, sin closes God’s ears to our prayers. Jesus made the connection between prayer and right relationships in Mark 11. Pray, believe and forgive, He said. this is so important to God that He would rather have you get right with an offended brother than bring Him a gift. God enforces a loving relationship in the home by refusing to hear the prayers of a husband who won’t understand and honor his wife.

God loves it when His children get along, so He offers a special promise to those who will agree together in prayer.

What About You?

  • Did the Holy Spirit bring someone to mind as you read this study – someone you need to get right with? Will you do it today?
  • If you’re a husband, are you treating you wife with understanding and honor? If not, it will hinder your prayer life.

Unbelief

Introduction

God’s has great power, but doubt can keep us from getting our prayers answered.

Bible Reading

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Heb 11:6)

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. (Mar 9:23-24)

And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching. (Mar 6:5-6)

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. (Jam 1:5-7)

He is a Rewarder

God wants us to trust Him. When we pray, He wants us to have confidence in His power, wisdom, and love. We must believe that God is willing to hear our prayers if we are right with Him. We need to know that He has the power to do whatever needs to be done. We have to trust that He has the wisdom to know what is best. And we must be convinced that God, in His love for us, will exercise His power with wisdom in our behalf. God rewards that kind of childlike faith.

Potential Power

Jesus said that all things are possible to the believer. So why don’t Christians experience more divine answers to prayer? Why don’t we see more of the “only God could have done that” kind of activity in our lives? Well, Jesus didn’t do many miracles when He returned to His hometown, either. Why? Because of their unbelief. Let’s get this straight – He could teach them, but He couldn’t do many miracles for them because of their unbelief. Faith comes by hearing (Rom 10:17), so Christ taught them in order to build their faith. Christ has the power, but it’s potential power until you trust Him to do what He is will and able to do. Until then, “let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”

What About You?

  • Is God working supernaturally in answer to your prayers?
  • Do you believe that He is willing and able to do what you are asking?
  • Do you believe that God will say yes, or give you something better, in answer to your prayers if you are right with Him?

The Discipline of Prayer

Introduction

This week we’re going to look at what you can do to build a better prayer life. We’ll start by looking how to make time for daily prayer.

Bible Reading

Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up. (Psa 5:2-3)

And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him. And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee. (Mar 1:34-37)

As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
(Psa 55:16-17)

And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; (Luk 6:12-13)

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. (Mat 6:6)

A Great While Before Day

Remember, the Lord’s Prayer makes it clear that our we should be praying for daily bread. How do you pray for daily bread if you don’t pray daily? Daily prayer takes discipline. I know you’re busy – most people are. But we also manage to make time for the things we really want to do. We all have the same amount of time in each week, so it’s really a matter of how we choose to use it.

The Psalmist said he would direct his prayer to the Lord in the morning. Jesus was constantly busy, so He had to get up “a great while before day,” to make time for prayer. It’s a great idea to begin your day with the Lord before the world comes knocking at your door. It will take sacrifice to begin each day with prayer.

You might have to get up a little earlier to have time to pray. So, you’ll probably have to go to bed earlier. That, it turn, might mean missing your favorite TV program. How much do you want to have a vibrant prayer life? How much do you care about pleasing God?

Not only did Christ get up early, but He also went to a solitary place alone to pray. He also taught us to go into our closets, close the door, and pray. You might be fortunate enough to have a study, or some other room of your own where you can pray. Maybe you’ll have to claim some public room at home for some time. Maybe you can pray in your car on your 30 minute ride to work. (Turn off the radio, the cell phone, the CD player, but keep your eyes open!) Instead of doing nothing because you can’t do everything you want to do, do what you can.

When Christ got to that solitary place, He did what He came to do – “and there prayed.” Prayer takes focus. Everything under the sun will come to mind when you set out to pray. You have to keep on turning your thoughts back to prayer. It takes practice and discipline. You need to realize that this is spiritual warfare and it will not go unopposed.

Some needs are so important that prayer becomes our highest priority. Fasting is one way to focus on prayer to meet deep needs. Jesus skipped a night’s sleep to pray before He chose His apostles. The decision would influence the world, even today, so Christ bathed the decision in prayer.

What if you can’t work out praying in the morning? Then pray at noon, on your lunch break, or at evening, before you go to bed. Pray is too important for you to decide not to do it. If you’re too busy to pray, you’re too busy – something needs to change.

What About You?

  • Do you take time to pray each day?
  • If not, how will you adjust your life to make time for prayer?
  • Do you need to improve your focus during your prayer time?

A Portrait of Persistence

Introduction

One of the essential disciplines in prayer is persistence. Today, we’re going to look at a great example of persistence in prayer.

Bible Reading

Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. (Mat 15:21-28)

Obstacles Overcome

The heroin of this story was in a heartbreaking situation – her young daughter was demon possessed. She couldn’t fix the problem, so she went to Jesus for help. She was wise. But before she got the help she came for, she had to overcome many obstacles.

First, she was not Jewish. Mark tells us that she was Greek (Mar 7:25). The Jews didn’t have a very high opinion of Gentiles. Even so, she came to Jesus for help.

Next, notice that she had to seek Jesus. She had to make the effort to find out where He was and go to Him. It also meant leaving her daughter – and who knows what might have happened while she was gone. She had to change her routine and make a special effort to reach Christ.

She had to endure the Savior’s silence. Matthew tells us that “he answered her not a word.” She realized, though, that no answer is not a no. He didn’t say “yes,” but He hadn’t said “no,” yet, either.

Notice that the disciples wanted Jesus to send her away. They weren’t very compassionate. They didn’t share her burden. To them, she was a pest. If she was following Christ and they were complaining to Christ about her, she probably heard them. How would you react if you came to church, brokenhearted and in need, and the membership gathered around the pastor and said, “Pastor, tell this woman to leave – she’s disrupting our service.” You’d probably storm out before the pastor even had a chance to respond. “What a bunch of hypocrites,” you’d say to yourself. “If that’s what this church is like, who needs them?” But this woman didn’t let these cold-hearted Christians turn her away.

When Jesus did finally respond to her, He wasn’t very encouraging. “You’re not in my target demographic,” was the essence of His reply. Well, that’s not exactly a “no,” either, so she persisted. In fact, she persisted elegantly. Listen to her reply:

“Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

She agreed with Jesus.

  • She didn’t ask, “Why them and not me?”
  • She called Him Lord, acknowledging His right to make the rules.
  • She spoke of herself as a dog and Jesus as her Master.
  • She spoke of this need, which was impossible for her to meet, as a crumb, a trifle for Jesus to deal with. She publicly professed her confidence in His power.

Christ responded to her statement of faith in two ways. He commended her publicly for her great faith and He granted her request.

What About You?

  • Are you willing to adjust your routine and inconvenience yourself to get hold of Jesus in prayer?
  • Do you stop praying if He is silent for a time?
  • Do you get discouraged and quit praying if others don’t share your burden?
  • Do you let anything other than a clean “no” from Heaven stop you?
  • Do you have the kind of faith this woman had: submitted, humble, persistent, and publicly confident in Christ?

Making Intercession

Introduction

Intercession is praying for others. A large part of the prayer time of a mature Christian is devoted to praying for others.

Bible Reading

Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. (Rom 8:34)

Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:25)

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; (1Ti 2:1-3)

Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, (Eph 1:15-19)

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: (Col 1:9-12)

Christ, the Great Intecessor

One of the great comforts of the Christian life is that Christ prays for us. That’s one reason our salvation is secure – He lives forever to pray for us. Remember, God wants us to be like Jesus, so we should follow His example of intercession. Not only that, but we are specifically commanded to pray for all men.

But, What Do I Pray?

Obviously, you can pray for specific needs in the lives of people you know. But what if you don’t know what people need, specifically? You could just ask God to bless them, or you could follow Paul’s example and pray for things that most believers need. Here are some of his requests for the Ephesian and Colossian Christians:

  • He thanked God for them.
  • He ask God to give them wisdom and to reveal Himself to them.
  • He asked to enlighten them so they could understand their hope and God’s power.
  • He prayed that they would know God’s will.
  • He prayed that they would walk worthy of the Lord and please Him.
  • He prayed that they would be fruitful in every good work.
  • He prayed that they would grow in their knowledge of God.
  • He prayed that they would be strong so they could patiently endure their trials.

What About You?

  • Is your prayer life mainly focused on your needs?
  • How much of your prayer time do you spend praying for others?

Praying According to God's Word and Will

Introduction

One way to improve the effectiveness of your prayers is to find out what God want and ask Him to do that.

Bible Reading

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son 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: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. (1Jo 5:13-15)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 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. (Joh 14:12-14)

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (Joh 15:7)

Ask … According to His Will

John told his readers how to pray with confidence. If we ask according to God’s will, we can be confident that He will hear us. This is the way to ask and receive. I think that means we that both how we pray and what we pray for should be in line with God’s will. This prayer principle makes perfect sense. For God to deny your prayer, He would have to deny His own will.

Jesus asked told us to pray in His name. If you think that saying, “in Jesus name,” at the end of your pray is all this means, your missing something important. The name of Jesus isn’t a magic word. Jesus meant that we should pray as His representatives – to ask for what He would ask for.

So how do you pray according to God’s will, how do you know what Jesus would ask? The obvious answer is to search the Scriptures. Knowing the Word of God is the best way to know the will of God. In fact, you might find it helpful to actually pray Bible passages for specific people and needs. here are some examples:

  • Lord, You are not slack concerning Your promise, You are not willing that _____ should perish, but that _____ should come to repentance. (2Pe 3:9)
  • God, please supply all _____’s need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Phi 4:19)

What About You?

  • Do you seek to find God’s will about the things you pray for?
  • Do you know God’s Word well enough to know God’s will?

Praying for Civil Leaders

Introduction

Over the next few days, we’re going to be looking at some items that God wants you to pray about regularly.

Bible Reading

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1Ti 2:1-4)

First of all…

Paul encouraged Timothy as a pastor to lead his people to pray. Intercession was to be their first priority. They were to pray for their civil leaders and all men. God wanted them to do this for for two reasons.

First, we are to pray for our leaders because God wants them to be saved. Also, one of the benefits of our prayers is that we can live tranquil, peaceable lives. Having godly leaders will make it easier for us to live godly lives. We can protest the wickedness in government, but how much of the deterioration is due to our failure to pray?

What About You?

Do you pray for your civil leaders such as the president, governor, etc.?

Praying for God's Servants

Introduction

As we continue to consider the things you should be praying for, today we’ll look at the need to pray for those in ministry.

Bible Reading

Brethren, pray for us. (1Th 5:25)

Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; (Rom 15:30)

Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. (Col 4:2-4)

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Eph 6:18-20)

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. (2Th 3:1-2)

Study

You’ve read several of Paul’s prayer requests. There are others. Obviously, Paul thought it was important to have others praying for him as he served the Lord. So what did this servant of the Lord want his friends to pray about? He wanted them to pray that he would have:

  • Opportunities to preach the gospel.
  • Clarity in presenting the gospel.
  • Boldness to preach the gospel.
  • Effectiveness in preaching the gospel.
  • Deliverance from the enemies of the gospel.

You may not have a lot of money to give to help those in ministry, but you can pray. Come to think of it, Paul never asked for money for himself, but he often asked for prayer. You can help those in ministry by your prayers.

What About You?

Which of God’s servants and ministries do you pray for regularly?