Someone told me the other day, “I’ve learned a lot from you about how to pray.” I was taken aback (because who thinks their prayer life is up to par!!). But, I was also grateful that some of the things I’ve learned from mentors and friends are being channelled through me.
All of us want to be effective in what we do. No one wants to coast or waste time. With our prayer-lives, I think many of us are in this cycle of feeling like “we need to do better,” while at the same time being uncertain of how to grow. Everyone can spend more time in it… but is that the only answer?
What are some ways to grow in effective praying right now and today? In other words, how can we see more of our prayers answered?
Here are three quick things that I’ve learned from others:
God will never break his Word. He just won’t. He will always fulfill it, always complete it, always bring it to pass. The promises of God, the warnings of God, the instructions of God… these are things that will be accomplished. Pray them.
- Pray the Psalms – These are amazing both for praise/worship and for hurts/deep need. Twenty years ago, when a friend was dying of a long cancer struggle, a buddy and I prayed Psalm 94:18-19 for her many many times: “When I said, ‘my foot is slipping’, your love, O Lord supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” We also prayed for healing of cancer, but we watched God’s love and consolation sustain her in her battle.
- Pray Paul’s prayers – At the start of most of his letters is a prayer for the growth of the recipients. How you’ll bless family, friends, and local church to pray that for them. “…that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work…” (Col 1:9-10). If God brought these requests to pass in the life of your friends and family, it would be victory!
- Pray Revelation’s songs – Line for line, there is more worship in Revelation than any other book outside of the Psalms and Isaiah! Work through them, and grow in your adoration of God. “Hallelujah for the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. let su rejoice and exult and give him glory…” (Rev 19:6)
God will always fulfill his Word. He’ll never turn his back on it. The more you pray it, the more you will see him answering those prayers.
Pray with Single Focus
If a friend comes to you to ask for help, but then can’t decide what they are asking, can you help them? Or, If a friend comes to you to ask for help, but you see through their request to the “reverse psychology” they are using to get you to do what they want, do you automatically help them?
We often pray without a single focus. Either we don’t really know what to ask for, or we ask for things that will help us get something else. “Lord, please grow our church,” prays the leaders… all the while because they long to be successful and stroke their ego. “Lord, please grant my child acceptance at X university,” pray the parents… because their identity is tied to their kids’ accomplishments.
James challenges us – “you ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (Jas 4:3). God is very willing to help, but be straight up with him! Ask him for what you really want. Don’t hide what you really want behind a veneer request that sounds more godly. If you want a better job because you are sick of the way this crummy manager treats you, ask him for it; don’t couch it all sorts of “and Lord, then I can be better rested to serve you at church, and paid more to give more…” Just be straight up.
BUT. BUT. BUT… weigh your straight-up requests before you ask them of God. Here’s the litmus test for your prayers: are they prayers Jesus would pray? When we pray in Jesus’ Name, we are saying, “Lord, to the best of my ability, I think this is what Jesus would say if he were on his knees right now.” His agenda. His purposes. His kingdom. Remember “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt 6:33). If Jesus would pray it, and if it’s in line with the Kingdom purposes of God… then pray it out and pray it confidently.
Prayers for healing? YES – pray them. Prayers for provision of needs? YES. Prayers for friends to come to Christ? YES. Prayers for relief from testing/trials/wounds? YES. Ask and ask boldly. Which brings us to the third way to see prayers answered:
If you are praying with a single focus, then pray with courage and clarity. Ask God for the things you are convinced of. Ask directly, not indirectly. Actively, not passively. Esteeming his ability, not hoping to squeak one by.
“And Jesus told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Jesus then tells the parable of the persistent widow – who finally gets justice from the unjust judge even though she–as a widow–has no real legal standing before the court. Jesus says, God is not unjust, and you are not right-less widows (v7).
Pray without giving up. Pray with tenacity, perseverance, boldness, clarity, courage, conviction. Pray in the night, in the morning, through the day, with a friend, in a group, all alone, out loud, writing in your journal, on your knees, while driving or walking or running… or while doing mindless tasks at work. And, for Pete’s sake, ask using active verbs, not passive ones: “Lord, please heal my sister.” Not: “Lord, please let the disease be treated by this medicine.”
Just pray and pray boldly.
We must reverence the Lord. No doubt. But we don’t reverence him by pussy-footing around what we really want. We reverence him by saying, “Lord, here’s this huge problem, and I think you are the only one who can solve it. Would you? Please?”
These are some of the things I’ve discovered over the years. What about you? Leave a comment about thoughts or ideas you use. We’d love to learn them!