Prayer is one of the most intimate ways to connect with God, one of the most powerful spiritual warfare tools, and for me, the clearest way God demonstrates his love. But what’s amazing is after more than 15 years of being a Christian, I’m still learning so many principles about prayer that I never realized. Sometimes we either treat prayer too lightly, or pray about half the things, half of the time we should. It’s easy to forget or take for granted the sheer awesomeness of being able to talk to God, but here are some scriptures some I’ve recently re-discovered that reinforce the power of prayer.
James 1:6 (NIV) “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind”
I recently went through some old prayer journals, paying special attention to prayers remaining unanswered, and really thought about this verse. How much have I really believed what I’ve prayed will come true? I’ve found there are certain areas of my life, like finances that I’ve always trusted and prayed wholeheartedly about, not doubting for a second that God will come through. But other areas, like relationships, I haven’t always prayed with total faith and belief. In my younger years I’d pray for a husband, and then continue “missionary dating” non-Christians, and wonder what the holdup was on finding my prince. Now I’ve learned to pray with belief, literally giving God whatever I’m praying about, and learning to trust him through the wait. Doubt is so natural, and it’s so much easier said than done, but if we train ourselves to trust and have faith, our prayers will be answered, in His time, in his way. I still can’t believe the answered prayers I’ve witnessed-physical healings, mended relationships, financial breakthroughs and literal miracles like a leg straightening out before my eyes – all prayed by believing hearts, I’m sure.
Philippians 4:6 (NIV) “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything”
We’ve repeated this prayer ‘til we’re blue in the face from Sunday school through adulthood, but do we really pray about every single thing we worry about? I was recently having a mid-day worry/complaint session in my co-worker’s cube when this verse instantly popped in my head. The Holy Spirit seemed a bit angsty that day because it sounded more like “just shut up and pray.” But I think sometimes we feel our smaller worries – can we afford a vacation this year, our child’s slipping grades, relationship tension – are just part of life, and we shouldn’t come before the Lord with such minutia. But God urges us to pray about everything, reassuring that he cares what happens to us, including the little decisions and the minor aches and pains. And oddly, some of my most profound experiences with God have been when he answers specific, detailed prayers that I’m always floored he cares enough to answer. It’s so humbling and overwhelming to know he cares about every concern in your heart, and so amazing to know there’s no worry too big or small for God to take on.
James 5:16 (NIV) “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”
This is one we’d rather not read after a less than gracious fight with a spouse, or watching some scummy movie on TV. Would all of our closest friends, co-workers and family members describe us as righteous? I usually tap out at pure. I’m good with pure. The Bible describes the righteous person as “just or right, holding to God and trusting in Him” (NIV: Psalm 33:18–22). A non-Christian friend was recently explaining why she doesn’t believe in God: “He’s never answered any of my prayers the few times I’ve asked for help.” The concept of having to be righteous, or close to God, in order for prayer to be effective, can make God appear unmerciful, or ambivalent, without understanding the whole point of prayer is communion with Him. God wants us to be in right standing with him for our own good. What if he answered all our prayers, no matter the amount of sin in our lives, or level of belief in Him? Most likely unbelievers never take time to know Him because he’s become a spiritual Siri – just another method of getting what we want, when we want it, without ever getting to know the one who gives the answers, which is the only way we find true peace. It’s quite a wakeup call, considering the important things I pray for, like my children’s health, hinges on the cleanness of my heart. I’ve broken into tears trying to pray in the past, and realizing the sin in my heart is absolutely hindering my boldness before him. Thank God for this concept, as it helps us deal with the sin and “self” keeping us from Him.
Matt. 18:20 (NIV) “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
There are so many things I feel guilty for not praying about, and they’re mainly all very weighty, global issues: Christian persecution. Sex trafficking. Strife in the Middle East. Why do I always remember to pray for my friend’s job hunt, but not world hunger? I really feel this is where corporate prayer comes in. The need for group prayer used to stump me. I never understood the point of having to pray as a group, when we have full access to God on our own. But there’s just something about uniting with other believers to pray for a specific need that empowers the spirit so much more than when we’re alone. We experience a special part of God’s heart when joining with fellow believers in prayer. I think it’s meant to ensure we don’t isolate ourselves or fall into spiritual pride, believing we can handle everything on our own, which is just where the enemy wants us to be. The world is too unstable and desperate for Him, for Christians not to fully use our gift of prayer.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)” Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I think many times we forget to express thanks for all we have, before telling God how much we want that raise. So many scriptures remind us to come before God with a grateful heart, but more often than not my prayer sessions sound like congressional hearings making a case for financial, emotional, physical needs, “…and please help my neighbor to stop mowing his lawn at 7 a.m. on Saturdays.” I’ve found when I dedicate part of my prayer time to meditate on all the ways God has provided and helped me, it increases my faith, and reminds my spirit to be patient waiting for answered prayers, because God has been so good. Praise him ahead of time for answering our future prayers … he’s so faithful!