When we take a serious look at what prayer really is, we should stand in awe. Think about it! In prayer we enter the Holy of Holies and interact one-on-one with the Creator of the Universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
Yet who totally understands prayer? The most knowledgeable theologian must concede he has much more to learn about the subject. At the same time, God’s ears and heart are open even to the cries of young children who have scant knowledge of God’s deeper truths.
It’s been my observation that while virtually every follower of Christ prays, most of us will concede our prayer life is less than it should be.
Are you on that page? If so, let me offer a couple suggestions.
First, it helps to get a clearer understanding of what prayer really is. I thank my friend Dave Butts, head of the National Prayer Committee and author of many books, for enlightening me on this issue. I particularly was helped by his recent publication Forgotten Power: A Simple Theology for a Praying Church.
Dave has defined prayer as “the communication part of the most important love relationship we have.” In Forgotten Power, Dave makes the case that prayer “is the way God has chosen to accomplish His will on the earth.” Perhaps an analogy will help unpack this idea. How do people come to saving faith in Christ? We may witness, but it is the Holy Spirit who convicts and draws them to the Savior. While God doesn’t need our help in bringing people to Christ, He chooses to partner with us, impacting eternity and giving cause for us and the angels in heaven to rejoice.
The same is true about prayer. God is sovereign and really doesn’t need our prayers. But, in His sovereignty, He has chosen to partner with us through our prayers. By His Spirit, he leads us to pray for things that He has planned to do. The result? God moves heaven and earth in response to our prayers, and we experience joy.
Jesus put it this way: “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:23-24)
So we need to ask: could it be that some of God’s intended blessings for His people never arrive because no one was willing to follow the Spirit’s leading to pray for it to happen? I believe Scripture would support answering this question in the affirmative. The Bible is full of “if” statements, including the one most of us are very familiar with in II Chronicles 7:14. God will not hear, forgive and heal unless we do our part of humbling ourselves, praying, seeking His face and turning from our wicked ways.
The importance of prayer is further underscored when you consider that Jesus never taught His disciples how to preach, but He repeatedly—through word and example—taught them how to pray. The great preacher Charles Spurgeon put it this way, “I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.”
Prayer warrior George Mueller also taught much on the subject as he, through prayer, brought in the resources necessary to feed, clothe and house over 10,000 orphans in England during his lifetime. He never directly asked people for money and still survived very nicely without a regular salary for 68 years!
Mueller understood that sometimes we don’t feel like praying. We still need to pray! He put it this way: “It is a common temptation of Satan to make us give up the reading of the Word and prayer when our enjoyment is gone; as if it were of no use to read the Scriptures when we do not enjoy them, and as if it were of no use to pray when we have no spirit of prayer; whilst the truth is, in order to enjoy the Word, we ought to continue to read it, and the way to obtain a spirit of prayer is to continue praying; for the less we read the word of God, the less we desire to read it, and the less we pray, the less we desire to pray.”
So, with this better understanding of the importance of prayer, what can you do to improve your prayer life? I suggest you work on both the quality and quantity of your prayers.
As to quality, when you know something you are considering praying about is: (1) consistent with the Word of God; (2) something that will bring God great glory; and (3) something the Holy Spirit is putting on your heart to pray for, then don’t quit praying about it until He answers.
That certainly is the encouragement of Jesus in His parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18. In verse 7, Jesus says, “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?” (emphasis added). In Luke 11, Jesus commends our persistence—even our impudence—as we approach our Heavenly Father. He does not chide us for being in His wonderful face with our needs. He loves us!
To increase the quantity of your prayers, consider that Christians in other parts of the world and followers of Christ in prior eras have had a habit of praying for two or more hours daily. In comparison, we American Christians look rather pathetic. While praying for hours might be too huge a first step for you to take, I encourage you to purpose for the next 40 days to add even 15 or 30 minutes per day more to your prayer times and see if that doesn’t grow your prayer life and bring you greater joy in your walk with Jesus.
Finally, what if even 5 percent of the Christians in your community began to cry out, both individually and corporately, in desperate prayer for God to move powerfully in revival and spiritual awakening? Would our Father not hear and would not that move His hand? And would not our joy then really be full!