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There is much teaching available on prayer. Reams of conference notes and stacks of tape teachings on the subject fill our desks. I counted more than twenty books on prayer in my bookcase.
When it comes to prayer, many of us have more knowledge in our heads than we have pled with our hearts. Acquiring knowledge on prayer doesn't replace obtaining answers through prayer (John 13:17; James 1:22).
In the same vein, conflicting opinions about prayer exist among Christian leaders. Some say that if you petition God for a request more than once, your faith is weak. Others teach that prayer helps build your character, so you can endure the trials of life. They believe the ability to handle frustration is more important than God's answering a prayer request.
When our favorite teachers differ, is it any wonder that prayer is often relegated to a last resort? Prayer is not a rote formula revolving on a prayer wheel; it involves developing a relationship with God.
The following lessons are intended to supplement the valuable teaching available in Teresa Seputis' book, "Revolutionize Your Prayer Life," and GodSpeak's Online Prayer School. In this series, we want to help you establish a firm foundation for your prayer life. That way, you'll feel more comfortable about talking over issues with your Heavenly Father. And the enemy won't be able to shake your confidence in prayer so easily.
Some of the building blocks we'll examine are: the importance of prayer, the power of agreement in prayer, how to find time to pray, and why prayer often involves waiting on God.
I would like to make the following points about prayer:
Let's look at each one...
If a Christian doesn't pray, he or she becomes prey for Satan (Ephesians 6:10-19; 1 Peter 5:8-10).
Prayer invites God's angels to protect and occupy the area of your life you're praying over. Prayer also is the way you buckle the armor of God on yourself. The Christian that doesn't pray is an unarmed Christian.
Satan's job description says that he seeks to steal, kill, and destroy those things that are important to us (John 10:10). First, Satan wants to destroy your life. Second, Satan wants to steal your children away from the Lord. Third, Satan wants you to live like a beggar. But God wants you to be an overcomer.
When you pray, you place obstacles between the enemy and the ones you love. You also place obstacles between the enemy and you. Each day a Christian doesn't pray, he or she loses ground to the enemy. How do you find time in your day to pray?
The Bible says, "Commit your 'commute' to the Lord, and your 'prayers' will be established" (Proverbs 16:3, 'quotes' from DSV--De Laughter Standard Version).
Look for dead times in your day. The largest chunk of dead time in my schedule is getting to and from work on a commuter train. It could be just as easy commuting in a car or bus. What do you usually do then? People on my commuter train pretend to sleep, or they read news they've already heard on the radio or TV. They might even be listening to or reading suggestive materials. Don't follow their example. Turn wasted time in warring time. Why not make something happen (through prayer) while you're waiting for something to happen. All that waiting time adds up.
Also, check for dread times in your day. Those are the minutes we spend worrying over things we can't change. We lose sleep over fear. Fear complicates our relationships with uninvited jealousy. And worry harms our health. We often worry about things we should pray over. When we give in to fear, we come into agreement with Satan. The fears you sow becomes the facts you reap (Job 3:25).
On the other hand, when we give into faith through prayer, we come into agreement with God. Prayer is God's way of removing fear from us. As 1 Peter 5:7 says, "...casting all our anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you."
We don't get answered prayers because we don't tithe (Ecclesiastes 5:5-6; Luke 6:38, 7:1-10, 16:10-11; Acts 10:1-5).
You must prove faithful in little before God trusts you with much. If you fail to give Him $10 when you get $100 now, why would He answer your prayer for $10,000? He knows you're not going to give Him the $1,000 then either. God isn't dumb.
If He can't trust you with unrighteous mammon, can He trust us with true treasures? And did God miss our wallets when He baptized us with the Holy Spirit?
Many try to excuse themselves from tithing by saying it's legalistic. They complain that we're no longer under the law. Those arguments don't hold water for reasons that reach beyond the scope of our discussion. Let's state a few points that show why those excuses aren't biblical.
First, the tithe was established in God's economy before the law and the rite of circumcision were given (Genesis 14:18). Abraham practiced it, and as children of Abraham by faith, so should we. Second, Paul emphasized the benefits of following one of the Ten Commandments in Ephesians 6. Paul's admonition came after the cross and the gospel were preached.
Now, don't misunderstand me. The Apostle didn't refer to commandments as a means to establish righteousness before God, or to gain or keep our salvation. Paul quoted the commandment to establish the blessings of God that come with doing the right thing. God's laws aren't just written on stone tablets. They are operating principles written into the fabric of the universe.
When you combine sacrificial giving with heartfelt prayer, you raise a memorial before God in heaven. God will send angels to answer your prayers.
Christians are responsible for helping each other get answers to prayer (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,12; Matthew. 18:18-20; Colossians. 4:12).
For example, if you miss a day of prayer, another's prayer keeps your petition fresh before the throne of Grace. Also, Jesus said agreed-on prayer releases the power of Heaven onto the earth.
Prayer of agreement is very important! Let me share a few examples with you.
In one instance, I partnered with a friend to pray over an issue, but he never told me exactly what I was praying for. All I knew was that he wanted me to pray for a "breakthrough." Occasionally, I would ask if the breakthrough had come yet. This went on for over a year.
God later validated my covenanting in prayer for my friend--during a personal prophecy he received from a total stranger. In this prophecy, God acknowledged my role--though not by name--in partnering with the person before God over the prayer request. One day, I got word that my friend had finally gotten the breakthrough he'd been seeking. Although I never did learn what the prayer request was, God knew, and that's all that mattered.
Here is another example: The missions committee in our church requires that every person who's about to go out on a short-term missions trip must enlist at least five people to pray for them before they can go to the mission field.
Why do they require that? It is be because prayer multiples a person's ministry (Acts 1:1-8). Prayer is an agreement with God as to what He wants done on the earth. It's either your show, or His show. If you don't pray, then God is usually a no-show.
Did you know that the prayer of agreement can help restore backslidden people? (See 1 Samuel 12:23; Galatians 6:2). Let me give you an example of this. Three years ago, I covenanted with God and a mother to pray over her large family. One of her children had been living an immoral lifestyle, but is now an honest, law-abiding person who is pleasing to the Lord. Another of her children is about to graduate from college with a pre-med degree. God is healing the third and setting that one's feet back on the paths of righteousness.
God is able to do through prayer what we cannot achieve through the power of persuasion, or the promise of punishment.
In order for God to save an unsaved loved one, you must release that one to God. He doesn't save our loved ones to make our lives easier or for our convenience. He saves them to glorify His name.
Sometimes, God can't take possession of a person's life because we won't let go of them. Hannah, Samuel's mother, didn't receive a son from God until she released the fruit of her womb to Him (1 Samuel 1: 10-11; 2:11).
So when praying for the salvation of an unsaved loved one, we have to answer the following questions:
These questions emphasize the point that we must be willing to allow God to do whatever is needed to bring our loved ones to Christ.
This teaching is not a quick path to the salvation of a loved one. If there was anyone who knew how to pray for results, it was George Mueller. Known as a man of faith, he fed thousands of orphans during his lifetime through prayer alone. Yet, even Mr. Mueller had to pray for sixty-three years before one of his friends finally was saved (source: The Kneeling Christian). The purpose of this teaching is to help you identify and overcome potential hindrances to your prayers.
Prayer opens the door to effective soul-winning (Ephesians 6:19-20; Colossians 4:2-6).
Did you ever wonder why some people say the sinner's prayer, but never give up the sinner's way? It's not the lack of good teaching, Bible study, etc. It's because their conversion was based upon the wisdom of man rather than the power of God (1 Corinthians. 2:1-5).
Before Paul went to Corinth, he spoke on Mars Hill. It is one of Paul's most eloquent, apologetically-based messages. This sermon, though full of persuasive words and points of illustration, was short on one thing--power! Few got saved, or convicted. Based upon that experience, Paul decided from then on, he would preach the gospel with demonstrations of the power of God.
Prayer sets appointments for soul winning, sends sinners to their knees, and saves souls so they cannot escape the narrow path to salvation. And prayer instills boldness into the heart of the soul-winner.