June 1, 2019
Prayer is our greatest Christian privilege but—we may as well admit—our greatest Christian failure. All of us need to learn to pray more and pray better. But one of the reasons we don’t pray better than we do, or any more than we do, is that we have questions about prayer. We feel uncertain. We hesitate—not sure how or what to pray.
But prayer is vital to the Christian life. If we’re going to impact our families, our nation, and our world in these critical days, prayer is where it begins. Immediately after Jesus ascended home to Heaven, the Early Church “returned to Jerusalem…to an upper room” and “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…” (Acts 1:12-14). It was the first thing they did.
The disciples totally depended upon prayer—they dared not make a move without seeking God’s guidance and deliverance.
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).
“Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer…” (Acts 3:1).
“But we will give ourselves continually to prayer…” (Acts 6:4).
“…prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God…” (Acts 12:5).
If those who walked beside the Lord Jesus for three years were dependent upon prayer, how much more should we be! What a grave mistake if we’re casual about our prayer life.
But people have questions about prayer. To many, it’s mysterious. Here are the most frequently asked questions about prayer:
Thank God we don’t have to understand everything about prayer in order to pray. We have some valid questions about prayer, but these mustn’t hinder us from praying.
As we look at the subject of prayer, remember 2 important guidelines:
So if we don’t pray to impress or inform God, why do we pray? We pray to invite God. It’s very important to understand this: when we pray, we are inviting God into our lives.
When we pray, we experience—
Prayer binds us to God. That’s why we tell God what He already knows. He knows what we need before we ask, but we’re definitely, specifically told to pray and to ask—not to impress or inform Him, but to invite Him, so we might have fellowship with Him, grow, and learn to depend on Him.
We never want to presume upon God’s goodness or take Him for granted. Our dependency upon God will prevent us from falling into that trap.
Philippians 4:6 gives wide-ranging permission: “...in everything....”
There’s nothing in life outside the reach of prayer. If it concerns you, it concerns God. We sometimes try to divide life into two separate categories: the secular and the sacred. We say, “This is the sacred part of life. We’ll pray about this. But this over here is secular. I’ll handle this myself.” But for the child of God, everything that concerns us, concerns Him.
Many years ago when Dr. Charles Stanley was the new pastor of First Baptist Church, Atlanta, the deacons and finance committee were holding a meeting. The church had been through some turmoil, and they came to a halt over a financial problem. Charles said to those around the table, “Men, let’s pray.” One of them answered, “Preacher, this is business. We don’t need to pray about this.”
Now that’s the mind-set a lot of people have, dividing life into sacred versus secular. Can you imagine Jesus dividing His life into the sacred and the secular? Of course not.
Life isn’t supposed to be segmented like that. We don’t divide our lives into the secular and the sacred but into the spiritual versus the profane. And if it’s profane, it’s out of bounds. If it’s spiritual, we pray about it, whether it’s in the natural or supernatural realm. What should we pray about? Everything.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).
“Can I pray about small things? A parking space? That’s silly, that’s too small.” Can you think of anything that’s “big” to God? Nothing is “big” to God. Things are neither big nor small to Him. The biggest thing you can think of is small to God, and the smallest thing you can think of is important to God…if it’s important to you.
You may ask, “Suppose there’s something I want, and I know it’s not God’s will. Should I pray about that?” Absolutely. Pray: “Lord, there’s something wrong with me. I want something You don’t want. Fix my want-er.” Pray about it. If there’s something you want and you know it’s out of the will of God, tell God about it. He already knows what you’re thinking anyway.
Acts 10:1-4 answers that. Cornelius, a Roman army officer, was unsaved, and God certainly heard his prayers. He was a Gentile, a pagan, but notice how he’s described: “a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.” Here was an unsaved man, but God was aware of and answered his prayer.
Think of it this way—let’s say a banker gives money to a charity or worthy cause. He doesn’t have to. There’s no law that says he must. But he may decide it’s what he wants to do. On the other hand, let’s say I have money on deposit in his bank. I can go in and write a check and expect that he will give that money to me. Do you see the difference?
We who are Christians have the great prayer promises, and we can “write checks on heaven’s bank,” signed in the name of Jesus, if we’re asking in the will of God. For those who aren’t saved, God is sovereign. He can hear and answer the prayers of an unsaved person.
For more questions and answers on prayer, go to Pesky Problems with Prayer.