Effective Prayer June 07, 2016

God speaks.

He pursued a relationship with the first man and woman by speaking with them. Since communion was broken by sin, God repaired a friendship to where His people can again speak with Him. His speaking is ultimately for His glory, and He gets glory when that which He created speaks with Him (Lk. 19:40). Effective prayer results in both our good and His glory.

By effective, I mean “stuff happens.” We ask and He gives. He asks and we give. We lack and He provides. He comforts and we abide. We hurt and He grieves. He promises and we believe.

What do we pray? Can we change the mind of God, or make Him do something He wasn’t going to do? It feels like that’s what we’re up against at times in our prayers. These are good questions, but may distract from the simple conversation to which we are being invited.

God has placed a new heart in every Christian, one that longs for close communion. Yet, many wouldn’t describe their relationship with Him as ‘close’. There is something keeping us from purpose-filling, all-satisfying prayer with God, and we should seek it like priceless treasure.

What is Prayer?

Prayer is speaking with God, not speaking at God. Many speak at God. Maybe they pray when times are bad; but when all is well, they never pray. This is not the relationship God set out to create in a people in whom he put a heart that longs for Him (Ez. 11:19).

Prayer leans on God for rest and strength (1 Sam. 30:6), boldly asks for needs (Jam. 1:6), trusts that God hears (1 Jn. 5:14), returns to celebrate when God delivers (Ps. 147:12-20). Prayer is not a mechanism to stir up a mystical deity. Rather, it is a work from faith (Jam. 2:18). John Calvin says that the “chief exercise of our faith is prayer” (Institutes III, title of chapter 20). In Why We Pray, William Philip calls prayer “the audible form of Abraham’s faith” (Philip, 36). Effective prayer comes from faith that has affected you.

Who is the Pray-er?

There is only One who prays to God purely of his own merit: Jesus Christ. Jesus lived sinless, is called the second Adam, the true second man (1 Cor. 15:45-47). There is no fellowship with God apart from Jesus. Phillip writes “Whereas we are sons of God, Jesus is the only true Son of God. He is the only true human being, therefore he is the only true pray-er to God” (Phillip, 43).

Jesus didn’t die for sin so that God may change requirements for entry to His presence; he died to change us to meet those holy requirements (Eph. 1:4). Once we are in Him, we remain in Him. A person who remains prays without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17) and is heard by God. Our prayers “will not be heard by God because of our sincerity but because of our status” (Phillip, 52).

Prayer As Relationship

If you feel like you are not spiritually clean enough, or you can’t get into the right mind for prayer, then you are basing your relationship with God on your own merit. Consider that it was the honest cry of a criminal being executed that received Christ’s attention (Lk. 23:42). Christians are free to pray knowing that “our prayers will be heard not because we deserve a hearing, but because Christ does” (Phillip, 55).

Do not always expect warm fuzzies when you pray. This, too, is merit-based! You are basing the actuality of God hearing on your emotions rather than on Scripture. The goal is to speak with God who longs to speak. Miller writes “You don’t experience God; you get to know Him” (Miller, 21).

Prayer As God’s Word

Finally, knowing God’s word will boost your faith and prayers. We are privileged to have God’s complete Word within our reach...hundreds of English translations. In the Bible we see God’s character, his compassionate intervention, what he expects of his people, and his promises to his people. Familiarize yourself with the Scripture and begin to see your life through the Word.  

In Isaiah, God promises “I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (Is. 46:11). This is how we pray and confidently believe that God will answer: according to His Word. When we remain in Christ as we relate to God, prayer will be “affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God...for such things as God has promised” (John Bunyan, A Discourse Touching Prayer).

Next Steps

Here are some suggestions for beginning - maybe beginning again -  an effective prayer life:

Start today

There’s nothing keeping you from praying today about that which weighs heavy on your heart, or that for which you need strength to endeavor in a God-honoring way.

Start honestly

If you have little desire, pray for desire. If you have no time, ask God to show you where to carve out time. Pray to pray.

Start simply

Pray simple, short prayers, and pray frequently. “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner,” when you fail. “Lord, I need your grace,” when you need God’s strength for something. “Thank you God for hearing my prayer” at the beginning and end of each request.

Start with Scripture

The Bible is filled with promises from God. Familiarize yourself with them and pray them. Begin to view your life and trials through the lense of God’s unending faithfulness; pray, being reminded that in the light of this hardship, God is good and faithful.


Michael Carter is the Director of Worship at Westover Church. Follow him on Twitter @michael7280.