Answers to common questions about prayer

One area many Christians struggle with is their prayer life. There are many questions that arise when one thinks about what a proper prayer life is and how to go about a prayer life that is both pleasing and acceptable to God. First and foremost, one must realize that prayer is our direct communication with God our Father and should not be taken lightly. Probably the number one problem in a person’s prayer life is that they don’t fully understand the gravity of prayer and fail to realize how important it is or how we should treat prayer with reverence and respect. After all, we are talking to our Heavenly Father, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It’s quite ironic how we as Christians can give so little reverence when we pray as if we are praying to some imaginary being and not the Creator of the universe. If we were to meet the president of the United States or the leader of some other country, no doubt we would conduct ourselves in a manner respectful to their authority. How is it then that one could fail to give reverence where reverence is due? We must come to God with love and respect and speak to Him as our Lord and Savior. We should remember that when we pray it’s not just some game or practice we do because we try to be religious. It’s our life line. Prayer defiantly changes things but often we become discouraged when we feel our prayers are not being answered. This causes some to lose their faith because they feel that God, instead of being the provider of our needs, is some magic genie that will grant us all our wishes. The Bible clearly states that God will give one who serves Him all their needs. Philippians 4:19 "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." We often want to insert the word want instead of need in this passage. This is one reason that our prayers are not answered. We often pray for what we want and expect it to be given to us. One may think that they are praying for something that they need but it’s actually just something that they want. Another point to this is that God’s will and plan for our lives are much greater than our own. We often don’t realize that something we think we want and wish God to provide for us is something that will hinder our walk with Christ. We as humans can only see what is right in front of us. God on the other hand, can see all and sees the whole picture of our life so we need to learn to trust in Him and His will for our lives. For anyone who thinks they know better than God is fooling themselves. God has a plan for our lives and we need to trust Him to give it to us. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” So we need to realize that we have to accept ”no” to some of our prayers. Also, we need to accept the words “not yet”. Sometimes God plans on answering our prayers but does it in His own perfect time. This could be for several reasons. We might not be ready or strong enough spiritually to have the prayer answered, the Lord may be trying to teach us a lesson like surrendering to Him and His will and leaning not on our own understanding of things. Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding." Our heavenly Father will often put a trial in our lives to teach us this important lesson. We will start to pray that the situation be reversed and that we will be delivered from the trial that God has placed before us but instead of getting angry with God or thinking that He doesn’t hear us we need to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit inside us that will guide us in the right path and will help us understand what God is trying to

do for us, which shouldn’t be confused with to us. If we are truly serving the Lord we should always keep this verse in mind to help remind us that no matter what, if we serve God with all our heart, mind, body and soul all things will work toward the good of us. Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Again, we should be reminded that we must put God first in our lives. Mark 12:30 "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment." If we fail to do this, which is the first commandment of God from the New Testament, how can we expect God to answer our prayers? That’s about the same as saying you do for me and when I get time or feel like it I’ll do for you. This is unacceptable for a person who desires to have a successful prayer life. Often we go after our own thoughts and desires failing to give heed to God’s will and commandments for our lives. Prayer is a direct connection with God. However, we must remember that Jesus is the mediator between man and God. 1 Timothy 2:5 "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;" Prayer should always be prayed in Jesus’ name. I.E. when we finish a prayer it should be something to the effect of “In Jesus’ name we pray”, “In Jesus name” etc… We also usually end the prayer with the word Amen. Some do this without even knowing what it means; they just do it because they have heard others do it so they in turn do it themselves. According to Strong’s concordance it means: "verily, truly, amen, so be it" from the Hebrew. From the Greek it means: “so it is, so be it, may it be fulfilled” In essence when we close a prayer with amen we are affirming our belief that God will bring to pass what we have prayed. Bearing in mind that this isn’t saying that everything we pray will come to pass but one vast aspect of a successful prayer life is that we believe that God is able to do what we ask of Him. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:6 "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." So if we pray and don’t have faith that God is able to do what we ask or we lack faith that God will bring to pass what we ask, we can rest assured that our prayers will greatly be hindered. This is one of the biggest hindrances in a person’s prayer life. Why should we expect God to answer our prayers when we lack even the very faith we need to please Him? It can be tough in certain situations to have the faith we need, but one must realize that faith is an essential part of prayer. Another aspect of a successful prayer life is not to use vain repetitions when we pray. Matthew 6:7 "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking". What this is basically saying is that we shouldn’t have some type of formal prayer that we pray all the time. We shouldn’t pray the same thing over and over or use some type of repetitious speech that is mainly used for show and not sincerity. Not saying that we shouldn’t pray for the same thing more than once, rather we shouldn’t fall into a system where our prayers are always the same or something similar which becomes more of a ritualistic act rather than a true and sincere conversation with God. You wouldn’t talk to one of your good friends in this manner, saying the same things over and over like a broken record. Why then would one choose to pray and talk to God in this way?

People shouldn’t pray just to be heard of people. Matthew 6:6 "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." We can clearly see from the last couple Scriptures that if one prays to just be heard of man and to do it for a show then that will be their reward. They also tell us we are to pray in secret. One shouldn’t confuse this with it saying that we shouldn’t pray in public, rather we should, when we pray publicly, do it for the glory and honor of God and in a reverent conversation with our heavenly Father. We should do no service including prayer to be seen of men or to hope to be glorified for what we do having people give us praise. All praise, honor, and worship should be directed to the Father. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t exhort one another, as we should, but we shouldn’t do it in a manner giving man glory that is due to God. Some would read this verse and think one should go into a closet and pray, however this may work for some this is not what the verse is talking about. It is saying that we should pray in secret and not boast to others about our prayer life trying to act as if we are some type of religious “holy roller”. The Lord’s prayer is an excellent reference to how we should pray. The Lord’s prayer from Matthew 6 says: 9 "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." The first part “Our Father which art in heaven” reminds us that we are talking directly to God. Any time one talks to God it should be done out of reverence and respect. It tells us that we are not directing our prayers to someone or something random but rather to our heavenly Father. The second part “Hallowed be thy name” again is telling us that God is holy and we should treat Him as holy. Also, we should treat Him love, honor, reverence and respect at all times not just when we pray. It is also telling us that we are to worship Him as He is the only one worthy of our worship. The third part “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” is telling us that we need to be in submission to His will. We should always walk in the will of God and a big part of one’s prayer life should be praying that God will show us His will for our lives and give us the means and desire to follow whatever His plan for us should be. The fourth part “Give us this day our daily bread” tells us we need to daily make our requests made known to God. We should pray daily for what we need to stay in and complete His will for our lives. We should also not fail to pray for others and their needs as well. We need to train ourselves to be able to distinguish between what our wants are vs. our needs. We should pray daily for God to give us what we need. The fifth part “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” means that we should make it a point to daily confess our sins to God. It reminds us also that we need to always, not just sometimes or when we feel like it, forgive others. We must bare in mind that if we don’t forgive others, God will not forgive us. Matthew 6:15 "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." If we have unconfessed sin in our lives, or we fail to forgive others as we are forgiven, then that breaks our communication line with our heavenly Father. This is another major area that affects one’s prayer life. God will not be able to look upon us if we harbor sin in our lives, so it is essential that we daily ask for forgiveness. It is also a good idea to daily ask God to show us our sin. We often sin without even realizing it and often need it pointed

out to us. One should always start their prayers out asking God to forgive any unconfessed sin in their lives. The sixth part “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” is saying that we face temptation on a daily basis. There is so much temptation out in the world today that it is hard to even fathom. We are weak creatures with a sinful nature geared to sin and falling into temptation. We should be in constant prayer that God will deliver us from the temptations that we face and for Him to give us a way out. God will not put more temptation on us than we are able to bear. 1 Corinthians 10:13 "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." We must remember that in order for this verse to hold true we must be in God’s will and ask Him daily to give us the strength to overcome the temptations we are faced with in life. God does allow us to go through trials and temptation to build our faith and reliance on Him. We shouldn’t get discouraged when faced with trials and temptations; rather we should view them as a way to gain a closer walk with Christ. We should constantly be growing and developing as Christians! The last part “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” This last part of the prayer shows us how we are to acknowledge God as having all power and authority. We should praise Him daily. When we pray we should be mindful to add some praise into our prayer life. We should praise Him for being the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, the creator of all. When we pray we should also give Him the glory for everything He has done for us. We should include in our prayer life thanksgiving for the many things we have to be thankful for. We often concentrate on the bad and never really think about the abundance of great things the Lord has blessed us with. We have so much to be thankful for! Just the fact that we are alive and breathing is one thing we often fail to give thanks for. The food on our table, the clothes on our backs, the shelter of our home from the elements, we could go on forever here really but we need to focus on what we are thankful for and what God has blessed us with instead of grumbling against the most high God for what we feel we are lacking. Just take a look at what God did to His people, the Israelites, when they grumbled against Him after He brought them out of the bondage of Egypt. This should be a good lesson to us how God feels about us grumbling against Him and not being thankful for what He has provided and done for us. A good verse to look at in the Bible concerning prayer is this: James 5:16b "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Note that it says the “effectual fervent” prayer of a “righteous man”. Effectual fervent according to Strong’s concordance means: to be operative, be at work, put forth power. We must realize when we pray that we have to be focused on our prayers when we come before God. At times when we pray it seems like it is so hard to focus. Often our minds want to wonder and think about other things that are totally off topic of our prayer. We have to teat prayer as our job. We must stay focused when we come before the Lord in prayer. We can’t allow our minds to wonder off but must stay focused on the job at hand. Strong’s concordance lists righteous man as: righteous, observing divine laws, upright, righteous, virtuous, keeping the commands of God. So in order for our prayers to be effective we must be living in God’s will keeping His commandments. Psalm 66:18 "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:" Availeth much means to greatly accomplish. So in essence this is saying that if a person is living in the will of God and prays in a manner that is

focused on the communion and communication with God that they can and will accomplish great things in their prayer life. Talking to God can change things in a dramatic way. A couple illustrations from the Bible are when Lot was saved from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and when Moses convinced God not to utterly destroy the people of Israel for the sins and trespasses they had committed. Therefore, we can rest assured that our prayers are not in vain and great things can be accomplished though our conversations with the Lord. Maybe one reason that the average Christian struggles with their prayer life is the fact that they don’t treat the house of the Lord as not only a place of learning and worship, but also a house of prayer. Matthew 21:13 “And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” How many times when we’ve been going through a tough trial in our lives, or have had something we were praying for that the Lord had laid a heavy burden on our hearts to pray for, have we failed to go to the alter and pray about it. We have become a generation of Christians that worry more about what other people think then what we know is the will of God that we do. How many times have you been in a church service and when they had the alter call at the end, felt that little nudge from the Lord to go up to the alter to pray, but for some reason, whether it be we are worried that if we go to the alter to much the people of the church will think something is wrong with us or that we are living in some dire sin and therefore we don’t go and we quench the Holy Spirit then wonder why we have such a hard time connecting to Him in our prayer life. Maybe it’s that no one else has gone up and you don’t want to be the first one going up because all eyes will be on you. Thinking everyone will be looking and wondering “wonder what they are going up for this time?” We should in no way hinder the Holy Spirit when He nudges us to do things. There are many reasons that Satan will give someone not to go to the alter to pray, but we must remember, this is an essential part if one truly wants to have a successful prayer life. Going up to the alter should have nothing to do with anyone else in the room. It’s a special time that one can take to humble themselves before the Lord and submit to His will. Not saying that one should go to the alter every time the opportunity presents itself, rather when you get the nudge from the Holy Spirit to go to the alter you should always obey it. Besides helping to have a successful prayer life, there is so much more that can come from yielding to God when He calls. One sobering thought: What if you get to heaven one day and you see someone that is going to be sent to hell because you didn’t go to the alter to pray? Many new believers are afraid to go up in front of a church and accept salvation. One feels more comfortable if someone has already gone up, so maybe the Lord speaks to you not because you have something specifically to pray for, but because just going up gave someone, who wouldn’t of otherwise, the courage to step out and receive salvation. In conclusion, a successful prayer life is not something that is unattainable. In order to have it one must remember to daily ask forgiveness for their sins as well as forgive others. We must also strive to live a sin free life and not regard iniquity in our hearts. We need to pray earnestly giving reverence to God and remember to give thanks for what He has done for us. A person must also have faith in God that He is able to do what we ask of Him. As Christians, we should also remember to live in God’s will and understand that sometimes we will get a no or not yet when we pray. We must be patient and wait on the Lord and not get angry or give up when we feel we don’t get the answers we desire, or that the Lord is not operating on our time table. We must pray to God our Father and do it in Jesus’ name. We

must be honest and sincere when we pray and keep our minds focused on our prayer as well as our communion with the Lord. We should dedicate our lives and our faith fully and completely to God and His will. When we do so and our desire is to serve Him then we can hold these passages true. Psalm 37:4 "Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." Mark 11:24 "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."

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