There is a story told of a young lad who came to the gates of Buckingham Palace begging for an audience with Queen Victoria. Of course, the guards sent him away each day with no help or access to the Queen. He returned many days with the same response.
Hebrews 4:14-15 explain that we only have access to the Heavenly throne room because we have a relationship with the Son! What a blessed privilege we have to come into the throne room of our God through prayer! Yet how often do we leave this blessed privilege neglected? Let me share some practical points about prayer from God’s Word.
1. Prayer is a command.
The Bible is clear that God wants us to pray, but it is not an option.
"And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;" Luke 18:1
Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6 how we should pray—“and when thou prayest…” There is an assumption that, as God’s children, we will be praying to Him because it is what is expected of a father with his children. Are you fulfilling the command to pray?
2. God desires to hear from His children through prayer, and He promises to listen to us!
There are so many verses that remind us that God wants to hear from us and that He will listen to us when we pray according to His will.
3. God promises blessed results from our praying.
Some people have wondered if prayer really changes anything in the mind of God. There are several times in Scripture, especially in the prophets, where the Bible speaks of people’s begging God not to bring judgment they deserved, and the Bible says that He “repented” of the evil He had planned for them. What does that mean? God changed His mind (the literal meaning of repentance) and withheld judgment. Why? Because people prayed! (See Jonah 3:10, Jeremiah 18:7-8, and Amos 7:3, 6 for a few examples.) James speaks of this truth in James 5:16b – "The effectual fervent (to perform according to its design) prayer (earnest, urgent request to God) of a righteous man availeth (sufficient to meet the need) much." God has given us a very powerful tool as believers.
One famous passage that teaches us there are blessed results from prayer is 2 Chronicles 7:14—"If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." God wants to bless us personally and even nationally, but we must come to Him in humility and through prayer! That is part of this promise that He gives.
One of the greatest blessings of prayer is the peace that God gives when we realize He wants to carry all our burdens for us. Paul and Peter both refer to this blessing in the following passages.
"Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you." 1 Peter 5:7
God’s desire is for Him to carry our burdens when we cast them (literally “hurl them with all our might”) on Him through prayer. He doesn’t want us to be anxious or worried about anything. Instead, we can have the blessed peace of God that is beyond understanding when we take our burdens to the Lord in prayer. Prayer is an expression of our trust in the sovereign care of our loving Heavenly Father. The blessing of peace only comes when we spend time in prayer with our Lord.
Where do I start?
Maybe by this point, you are thinking, “Ok, I am with you. Prayer is powerful, and I need to do something about this deficiency in my walk with the Lord. But how? Where do I start?” I am so glad you asked! I do not claim to have all the answers, but let me share a couple of simple ideas and resources that may help you get to know God even more intimately through prayer.
I need structure in my prayer life.
If I don’t have structure, I find my mind wandering and my prayer time not being effectual or fervent like James spoke about. A prayer list or journal of some sort is always helpful to record specific things we don’t want to forget to pray for. Keeping a list also allows space for me to note when God answers that prayer as well so I can go back and be reminded of what God has done in the past!
What exactly should we be including in our prayers?
A lot of the time we end up spending our whole prayer time asking God for things we need or for the needs of others. Most people who keep a prayer list will attest to the fact that there are lots of things to ask God for in our own lives and on behalf of others. That is not a bad thing, but is there more to prayer than that?
Are these things we should be doing on a regular basis? The answer, I believe, is yes!
Praise requires time spent talking to God about Who He is and what He has already done in my life and the lives of others. The Psalms are a great place to go to be reminded of Who God is. It is not cheating to pray His Word right back to Him! Start with Psalm 101-107 if you’re not sure where to begin. The Lord desires to hear us praise Him!
Repentance, as I mentioned before, is a change of mind. When you have sin in your life that you refuse to let go of, prayer is a pointless exercise (Psalm 66:18). Use this time to make things right with the Lord where you have sinned. We are encouraged to keep short accounts with the Lord, but making time each day when you pray to specifically name your sins and turn from them (repent) is what God wants from us. (See Isaiah 59:1-2 and 1 John 1:9.)
Asking is probably the easiest of these things for us. But it is not something to overlook. Jesus told us in John 14:13-14 and 1 John 5:13-14 that He wants us to ask Him for things according to His will. He delights to answer those requests for us so that God can be glorified! Those answers to prayer will give you more for which to praise Him!
Yielding to the Lord is something that we need to reminded to do often if not daily. It was Paul who said, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). Romans 12:1-2 reminds us that we are commanded to be a living sacrifice. This is our reasonable service. All of this requires humility and brokenness before the Lord. Psalm 34:18 says it this way—"The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit." Yielding our lives, our wills, our emotions, and literally everything about us is an essential part of prayer.
Let me say here that not every prayer you offer to the Lord MUST include all four of these areas because there are times that we are just crying out to the Lord in repentance at the moment of our sin or crying out for deliverance or help. All of that is prayer too, but maybe this structure will help you when you purposefully plan to spend time with the Lord in prayer.
One resource that I have found extremely helpful recently in focusing my thoughts even within this structure is a book entitled A Way to Pray by Matthew Henry. He has compiled Scriptures that help us focus on these areas of our prayer using God’s own words! I highly recommend this book to you!
I know there are many other things we could talk about when it comes to prayer, but I will leave you to do some study on this for yourself as you seek to know the Lord even more through your prayer life. I am still learning and growing in this area which makes me even more thankful for a patient Savior who continues to teach me. Maybe our next prayer should be like the disciples – “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). May we come to know Him even more through the access we have to His throne room!
What are some things that have helped you enhance your prayer life?
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