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How To Pray Meaningfully

How do you pray effectively, enthusiastically scripturally, spiritually, consistently, constantly and joyfully? How do you address God? How do you get through to Him? The Bible is replete with instructions about prayer. Let's look in the Manual and learn how to pray effectively, enthusiastically and energetically in the will of God and see real answers to prayer.

1. By Praying First

"Therefore, I exhort first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men" (1 Tim. 2:1). The Bible is filled with priorities. "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). If "your brother has something against you, first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Matt. 5:24). Before you correct someone [remove a speck from someone's eye], "first remove the plank from your own eye" (Matt. 7:5). We must place personal priorities on prayer. Paul taught his young minion, Timothy, that "first of all" prayer be made. If you are going to have an effective prayer life, it must head the list of do's for the day. It cannot be an addendum to the agenda of the day. It is not an appendix to your schedule. You cannot afford to tack it on when you "find time." It is not enough to be industrious, so are the ants. Do the first things first.

As certainly as you plan other activities in your life, plan to pray. Many people have appointments for golf, for bowling, for the hairdresser, for the barber, and 1001 other things. How much more must God's people keep a daily appointment with God. The haves and the have nots can be traced to the dids and did nots. It is the way of the flesh to play the blame game. Put a scriptural priority on prayer.

2. By Praying Faithfully

"Men always ought to pray and not to lose heart" ["faint" in KJV] (Luke 18:1). The line of least resistance is to run in spurts and squirts. During a revival people get "all fired up" to pray and for a week or two, do good, and then fizzle out like a faulty firecracker on the Fourth of July. The Christian life is not a hundred-yard dash, but a marathon. "Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Elijah challenged the children of Israel, "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him, but if Baal, then follow him. But the people answered him not a word" (1 Kings 18:21). Good grief, they were totally unresponsive. To be faithful, one must be committed to pray. Remember the parables that teach, "keep on praying." One must be faithful.

Hannah prayed faithfully and God gave her Samuel. Did her faithfulness ever pay off? Noah faithfully preached for 120 years without one response. God thought so much of it that He made special mention of it in the Bible. Be faithful to keep an appointment with God every day. Learn to have a continual dialogue with Him all day long. Aren't you glad "God is faithful" to you? You be faithful to Him in prayer. Let's get into it for the long haul.

3. By Praying Factually

"Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:24). There is a right way and a wrong way to do most everything. Remember when David was bringing the ark back to Jerusalem? They put it on a cart instead of carrying it by the staves as God had instructed. The cart shook, Uzzah put his hand on it to steady it and God killed him. Coming to the throne of God in the presence of God is serious business. We need to follow His instructions.

3a.  Pray to the Father

"How much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him [the Father]?" (Matthew 7:11). We are to pray to the Father. Jesus taught, "When you pray, say, Our Father." Jesus did! In John 17:1 He said, "Father, the hour is come. Glorify your Son." In the garden of Gethsemane he prayer, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup from me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42). Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34. Many prayer are directed to the Lord Jesus and to the Holy Spirit that should be prayed to the Father. We are asking Them for the things Jesus Himself taught us to ask of the Father. Well glory, this just came to me today. Jesus told the disciples, "And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say, whatever you ask the 
Father in My name He will give you." Jesus is saying, don't ask Me, ask the Father. Don't pray to Me, pray to the Father! My word, I had not noticed this until this very day, after I had written the first part of this paragraph months ago. We should praise and worship the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but we are to ask of the Father.

A lost person must "believe on the Lord Jesus" to get saved. The devils believe in one God and tremble but do not get salvation. One's faith must be directed toward the Lord Jesus to get salvation. Prayer is to be directed to the Father to get answers. Mull it over. We should pray Scripturally as well as sincerely.

3b.  Pray Through the Son

We are to approach the Father through the Son. We are instructed to pray "in Jesus' name." "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus: (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus stated, "And whatever you ask in my name, that I will do that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it" (John 14:13-14. Asking "in Jesus name" is not a cliché to be tacked onto the end of our prayers. It is our sole access to God and our only right to ask and expect anything from God. "There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12) and there is no other name by which we come to God in prayer. If you walked into a bank with a check written for a million dollars and signed with my name, they would laugh you right out of there. But if it were signed by a well-known billionaire, you would have your money. Obvious, isn't it? You must ask "in Jesus' name" if you expect to receive anything.

It is appalling how often prayer is closed blandly. At more and more public events, prayer is either left out, or the person leading the prayer is asked to make it "nonsectarian," being cautioned beforehand not to end with "in Jesus' name." How sad to hear a minister pray at a public event--and lest he offend other religious groups, or even agnostics and atheists--merely close with an "amen." Many would have no respect for a Muslim who did not make his prayer to Allah. Christians should not dishonor God by leaving out His Son's name. When you pray "in Jesus' name," weigh those words and make it sincerely the prayer of your heart.

3c.  Pray in the Spirit

We are to pray to the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit..." (Ephesians 6:18). Jude exhorts, "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit" (Jude 20). Maybe you have seen the commercial about the energizer battery that just keeps going and going and going. Well, the Holy Spirit is the energizer that makes prayer effective and makes us keep going and going and going.

What does it mean to "pray in the Spirit"? We are encouraged to "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). Christians must walk under the control, in dependence upon and in the power of the Holy Spirit in order not to fulfill the lust of the flesh. Likewise, Christians must pray under the control, in dependence upon and in the power of the Holy Spirit to have their prayers answered. To walk in the Spirit denotes living in "conscious," not unconscious or subconscious dependence, but in total dependence and harmony with the Holy Spirit. Likewise, to pray in the Spirit implies that we pray in conscious dependence on and in total harmony with the Holy Spirit. We must not "grieve the Holy Spirit" by sins of commission nor "quench the Holy Spirit" by sins of omission.

The Holy Spirit was sent into the world to take up where the Lord Jesus left off when He ascended to heaven. To be rightly related to Christ, totally depending on Him for salvation, makes one a Christian. To be rightly related to the Holy Spirit, totally depending on Him for sanctification, makes one a spiritual Christian. It is vital that we include the Holy Spirit in all that we do. The Holy Spirit is the primary Person of the Trinity at work in the hearts of believers today.

To pray in the Spirit, then, means to pray in total dependence on the Holy Spirit. When you do, you will have the kind of liberty in prayer you may never before have experienced; for "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Corinthians 3:17). In the sports world they talk about being in a groove or being in a zone when everything goes right. Who can ever forget Michael Jordan in the 1996 championship series when he hit all of those three-pointers. It seemed he could throw the ball in the air and it went through the hoop. After one three-pointer he looked at his coach and shrugged his shoulders almost in unbelief at himself. The same way Tiger Woods was in the 1996 Master's Golf Tournament. He was in a zone. Bless God, there is a "zone"; a "groove", if you please, in prayer when we really "pray in the Spirit" and prayer just flows out and "there are few ho find it." Don't you dally, don't teeter, this whole idea ought to be provocative enough for you to get in on it.

Then you will know for certain that your prayers are reaching God. You will be astounded at the answers to your prayers. John was "in the Spirit" and "heard a loud voice" and got insights right from God. Learn to pray in the Spirit and you will get insights from God you never had before. Someone said Mr. Moody had a monopoly on the Holy Spirit. No, the Holy Spirit had a monopoly on Mr. Moody. Learn to walk and pray "in the Spirit" and let Him have a monopoly on you.

It makes sense to pray factually as God has spelled it out for us. We are to come to the Father through the Son and in the Spirit. It is not complicated at all. We just need to do it.

4.  Pray in Faith

"And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive" (Matthew 21:22). "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). There are two indispensable reasons why we should pray for all of these things in the first chapters as God has directed us: first, we can pray for these "believing", knowing we are praying in His will and secondly, it will increase our faith to pray for other concerns as well.

You can pray for the Lord of the harvest to "send forth laborers", believing, no, knowing, He will send forth laborers whether or not you personally see Him do it. One of the superlative faith-builders in my fifty-seven years as a Christian has been to pray as God requires and watch as these prayers are answered, often in dramatic fashion. 

"And He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (Matthew 13:58). How sad. This was in His own boyhood town of Nazareth. What possibility and potential were theirs! But they "blew it." It reminds me of a Whittier poem I learned as a kid: "The saddest words of tongue or pen are these: it might have been!" Jesus could perform no miracles there--because of their unbelief. The terrible tragedy of what they missed. 

What does God want to do for you and through you? You have remarkable untapped resources the Lord is waiting to unleash through your prayer potential. "If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:20). Fill your heart and mind with the Word of God, for "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). There is no excuse for not having faith. You can have all you want if you will soak your soul in the Word of God. 

Perhaps you have heard this story about Charles Haddon Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers in Christian history. A young preacher asked, "Mr. Spurgeon [Spurgeon refused to be called "Reverend"], why is it that when you preach people always come to Jesus, but when I preach nothing happens?" Spurgeon replied with a question, "You don't expect people to be saved every time you preach, do you?", "Well, no," came the answer from the young preacher. Quickly, Mr. Spurgeon observed, "Well, that is just the reason they don't." Let's believe God. In the words of William Carey, the founder of the modern mission movement, "Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God." 

Abraham "staggered not" (KJV) "he did not waver at the promise of God though unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was able also to perform" (Romans 4:20-22). Be a copycat!

One of the most encouraging and energizing passages in the Bible is in Acts when Paul and the others were on the way to Rome, they went through the "tempest" and were about to sink. "But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, ‘Men, you should have listened to me, (that's just like a preacher) and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss, And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel from God saying, ‘do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.' Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me" (Acts 27:23,24).

Right now I am shaking inside with excitement. The faith that moves mountains is not great faith but it is the object of the faith that matters. You might believe a bridge will hold you but as you cross it, it caves in. Another bridge you feel sure will not hold you won't even quiver as you cross it. You faith did not make the bridge hold you. So our faith may be as a mustard seed but if we "believe God" as did Paul we will see great and mighty things others never do! That makes sense!

5.  Pray Frequently

The Lord Jesus, Peter and Paul seized every opportunity they could for prayer. They prayed frequently. Jesus began the day in prayer, "Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place, and there He prayed" (Mark 1:35). It is no secret how the early church started out praying. "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers" (Acts 1:14).

In the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost, they were gathered to pray when the Holy Spirit descended, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Because of their preaching, 3,000 were converted. What did they do? "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). They prayed frequently, shouldn't we?

Consider Peter who certainly represented the up-and-down believer. "Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer" (Acts 3:1). Trace him through the book of Acts and notice the frequency of his prayers. When Peter was arrested for preaching the Gospel, but finally released with threatening, he reported to his own company, and they prayed. "And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the word of God with boldness" (Acts 4:31). It all happened because they were praying instead of pouting. Peter prayed frequently, shouldn't we?

"But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. And the prisoners were listening to them" (Acts 16:25.) The end result was that the Philippian jailer got saved. Millions more have been saved through preaching from this account. What enormous and eternal dividends Paul received. Paul prayed frequently, and so should we.

The psalmist sang, "Evening and morning and at noon, I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice" (Psalm 55:17). David prayed frequently and so should we.

Remember, we are not heard for our much speaking. When Peter walked on the water and was about to sink, he prayed very few words, "Lord, save me!" and got his answer! We should pray a few words for a lot of things rather than a lot of words for a few things. Pray few words more and get more!

"Pray without ceasing." There should be a constant conversation going on between us and God. As you read the newspaper, why not pray for each leader and incident as you read about them? Breathe a prayer for "the good, the bad, and the ugly." Pray for their salvation and God's will to be done in each situation. As you pass people on the streets, pray for them and their salvation. In a restaurant pray for those who are there. You have to train yourself to do this since it does not come naturally, but it pays gigantic dividends here and hereafter. By doing this you will see Isaiah 26:3 fulfilled dramatically: "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in you."

A blind man approached Jesus, asked once, and received his sight. In the parable, the man who went to his friend at midnight, evidently asked several times, and was given his answer that night. Paul prayed three times for his "thorn in the flesh" to be removed and got his answer of no that quickly. Hannah prayed for years before she beheld her answer with the birth of her son Samuel. There is no set pattern about how soon God will answer or the way in which He will answer. There is, though, a clue as to how to receive and that is to "keep on asking" and "you will receive."

6. By Praying Fearfully

"But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy, in fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple:" (Ps. 5:7). Like David, Christians need a fear of Almighty God. Paul wrote of the unsaved, "There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Rom. 3:18). Not to speak of the world at large, but that almost characterizes Christendom today.

When the priests entered into the tabernacle to worship and offer incense (prayer) they had to be clean "lest they die" (Ex. 30:21). None dared come unwashed. When the high priest went into the holy of holies on the day of atonement he wore bells on his robes so the people could hear him move and know he was still alive. It was an awesome thing to come before God. We are to "come boldly to the throne of grace" (Heb 4:16), Italics mine) but not brashly. One should not blabber in the presence of a king. Neither does one demand of a king nor scream at a king. One should approach a king with respect and awe. How infinitely more should believers demonstrate reverence and respect for the God of glory!

7. By Praying Fervently

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16). You cannot fake it or force it. You cannot fool God. It must be real. There are times when a person's heart is burdened to the point that his prayer is fervently poured out to God. Hannah is a poignant example. With tears she acknowledged, "I have poured out my soul before the Lord" (1 Sam. 1:15). Because of her fervent prayer, God gave her Samuel who was mightily used of God to judge His people. He is the only man in the Old Testament to serve as prophet, priest and judge. Her passionate prayers, from a crushed heart, were worth the burden. David literally poured himself out as he sang, "A broken and a contrite heart...These, O God, You will not despise" (Ps. 51:17). If only we would pray with that fervor today.

Every prayer is not going to be of such intensity. Paul wrote that he "made mention" of the Ephesians in prayer (Eph. 1:15). This does not sound like "fervent" prayer, but it is effectual prayer. Quite frankly, most of our praying will be done in that manner. When Elijah prayed for the fire to fall and consume the sacrifice in 1 Kings 18:37 it was in contrast to the wailing of the prophets of Baal. Elijah asked (with sixty-seven words, KJV), and God answered with fire from heaven. Only a few moments later Elijah was praying fervently for the rain...and it came.

When fervent prayer emanates from a broken heart, it is a "sweet-smelling savor" to God. To pretend, though, stinks to high heaven. No doubt you have heard certain people try to impress people and God with a holy whine in their voices or the pretense of a broken heart, complete with "crocodile tears"...and that just stinks. God hates hypocrisy, but genuine, fervent prayer from the heart is always in order. Do bear in mind, though, you are not going to pray "fervently" all the time.

Remember the Lord Jesus, in the garden, prayed fervently, "Father, if it is your will, take this cup away fro Me, nevertheless not My will, but Yours be done" and He still went to the cross. (Luke 22:43). The Lord's prayer list (the Lord's prayer) "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" really does apply to everyone and in every situation. Even fervent prayer will not bring your will to pas when it is not in the ultimate will of God.

What is the secret to keeping a hot heart and praying fervently? For sure, you must stay in love with the Lord Jesus. Remember the fire that burned the incense (the picture of prayer Rev. 5:8; Ps. 142:1,2) in the tabernacle, came from the coals off the brazen altar where the lambs were slain and sacrificed, the picture of Calvary and the cross. Keeping near the cross will keep the fires burning and prayers fervent. "Remember the Alamo" kept people fired up with patriotism and likewise "remember Calvary" will keep us fired up to pray. Don't be indolent and apathetic, but stir yourself up to pray fervently for those things that really matter.

8.  By Praying and Fasting

"However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting" (Matthew 17:21). Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:2). Paul fasted (2 Corinthians 6:5). Jesus predicted, "The days will come when the bridegroom [speaking of Himself] will be taken away from them [his disciples], and then will they fast" (Matthew 19:15). Jesus also commented in another place, "When you fast..." (Matthew 6:16). He expects believers to fast today, even as then, and gave instructions about fasting. Emergencies and critical issues will at times call for believers to pray and fast together in order to get answers. Fasting is a God-sanctioned spiritual exercise that too many believers have missed. Many today are learning afresh the powerful profit of prayer and fasting. There is a resurgence of fasting all across the Christian community today. Through prayer and fasting, God may well unlock sacred secrets and treasures for you.

Esther fasted and got everyone she could to fast with her. She thwarted wicked Haman and saved her people tragic consequences. Kings, such as Josiah, Jehoshaphat and Asa, have humbled themselves, rent their clothes, prayed and fasted and turned the tide of their nation from despair and defeat into restoration and revivals. We can do it today. Who knows but what you, like Esther, "have come to the kingdom for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14)?

A student in his thirties came to see me. His son was incorrigible and breaking his heart. He wanted to know what could he do. Without hesitation I said, "Pray and fast for him." To my amazement he knew nothing about fasting. As I shared with him some Scriptures he was amazed to hear about actually fasting. He went home and talked to his wife about it. They spent the weekend praying and fasting. Sunday night his son came into the house, weeping like a baby. God had broken his heart. He prayed to receive the Lord Jesus and his life was transformed. This kind comes only by prayer and fasting.


KEY: A good checkup and tune-up are vital to good health. Examine your prayer life. How do you rate it? Why not get a good tune-up by establishing specific priorities and practices. Pray to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit.

LET US REASON TOGETHER. What a waste to race the engine on a Rolls-Royce when it is running on only two cylinders. It needs a tune-up. Christians often race their motors and spin their wheels with little results when they need a tune-up of their prayer life. Is your prayer life effective? Check up and tune-up if you need it.

DECISION TIME: The four lepers in 2 Kings 7:3 reasoned and said, "Why sit here until we die?" and they did what made sense and saw dramatic results. Make a decision to do what makes sense to you in this chapter and see dramatic results.

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