Jesus taught many things about prayer and its central role in a believer’s life. He also promised that our petitions will be answered when we meet certain requirements.
One condition is mentioned in John 14:14: After receiving Christ as our personal Savior, we have the right to present requests in Jesus’ name, which means praying something that the Lord Himself might pray. To exercise this privilege, we must come to the Father, depending not on our own good works or character but on the merits of Christ alone. Jesus’ atoning death on the cross is the only basis for approaching God and being assured of receiving an answer to our petitions.
A second requirement is separation from all known sin. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” This refers to ungodly behaviors and thought patterns that we know are wrong but refuse to give up. Remember, God looks at our heart attitude. If we struggle against our sinful ways, grieve over them, and ask for forgiveness, He will hear our cries and respond. But when He sees a hard heart, He is not obligated to listen.
Next time you pray, start with words of praise to God for His sacrificial love and gratitude to Jesus for dying in your place (1 John 4:10). Express that you understand why your prayers are heard—because you have a relationship with the Father through Christ, and not because of anything you have done. Confess all known sin and ask for forgiveness. Then present your requests to God with anticipation, and trust His answers.
After an exhausting three-day journey, David and his men finally arrived home to find a scene of devastation. Their homes were burned to the ground, and their families were missing. Utter despair engulfed them. David’s distress soon increased when his men’s grief turned into bitter anger and they spoke of stoning him.
Most of us won’t experience this extreme a situation, but we can identify with David’s discouragement. Sometimes despair follows a personal tragedy or loss, but it can also result from the weariness of ongoing daily pressures. Family problems, financial difficulties, and health issues may make discouragement a constant companion. The same can happen with emotional struggles over feelings of unworthiness, failure to overcome an addictive habit, the pain of criticism, or fear of inadequacy.
Despair can afflict anyone unexpectedly, but the Lord doesn’t want us to linger in a fog of depression. We often can’t avoid the situations that lead us into discouragement, but we do have a choice whether to stay in that condition. Instead of caving in to misery, David chose to strengthen himself in the Lord. He recognized that God was the only one who could give him the proper perspective on the problem and provide the guidance he needed.
When you’re discouraged, where do you turn? Perhaps the last thing you want to do is read Scripture and pray—initially, the passages may seem like meaningless words, and your prayers might feel empty. But if you persist in crying out to God, you’ll eventually experience His comforting strength.
Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:24)
Christianity means change is possible. Deep, fundamental change. It is possible to become tender-hearted when once you were callous and insensitive. It is possible to stop being dominated by bitterness and anger. It is possible to become a loving person no matter what your background has been.
The Bible assumes that God is the decisive factor in making us what we should be. With wonderful bluntness, the Bible says, “Put away malice and be tender-hearted.” It does not say, “If you can…” Or: “If your parents were tender-hearted to you…” Or: “If you weren’t terribly wronged…” It says, “Be tender-hearted.”
This is wonderfully freeing. It frees us from the terrible fatalism that says change is impossible for me. It frees me from mechanistic views that make my background my destiny.
And God’s commands always come with freeing, life-changing truth to believe.
Prayer is the Christian’s way of communicating with God. We pray to praise God and thank Him and tell Him how much we love Him. We pray to enjoy His presence and tell Him what is going on in our lives. We pray to make requests and seek guidance and ask for wisdom. God loves this exchange with His children, just as we love the exchange we have with our children. Fellowship with God is the heart of prayer. Too often we lose sight of how simple prayer is really supposed to be.
When we make petitions to God, we let God know exactly where we stand and what we would like to see happen. In our prayers, we must admit that God is greater than we are and ultimately knows what is best in any given situation (Romans 11:33–36). God is good and asks us to trust Him. In prayer, we say, essentially, “Not my will, but your will be done.” The key to answered prayer is praying according to the will of God and in accordance with His Word. Prayer is not seeking our own will but seeking to align ourselves with the will of God more fully (1 John 5:14–15; James 4:3).
The Bible contains many examples of prayer and plenty of exhortations to pray (see Luke 18:1; Romans 12:12; and Ephesians 6:18). God’s house is to be a house of prayer (Mark 11:17), and God’s people are to be people of prayer: “Dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love” (Jude 1:20–21).
The most basic definition of prayer is “talking to God.” Prayer is not meditation or passive reflection; it is direct address to God. It is the communication of the human soul with the Lord who created the soul. Prayer is the primary way for the believer in Jesus Christ to communicate his emotions and desires with God and to fellowship with God.
Prayer can be audible or silent, private or public, formal or informal. All prayer must be offered in faith (James 1:6), in the name of the Lord Jesus (John 16:23), and in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26). As the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia puts it, “Christian prayer in its full New Testament meaning is prayer addressed to God as Father, in the name of Christ as Mediator, and through the enabling grace of the indwelling Spirit” (“Prayer” by J. C. Lambert). The wicked have no desire to pray (Psalm 10:4), but the children of God have a natural desire to pray (Luke 11:1).
Prayer is described in the Bible as seeking God’s favor (Exodus 32:11), pouring out one’s soul to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:15), crying out to heaven (2 Chronicles 32:20), drawing near to God (Psalm 73:28, KJV), and kneeling before the Father (Ephesians 3:14).
Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7). Worry about nothing; pray about everything.
Everything? Yes, God wants us to talk with Him about everything. How often should we pray? The biblical answer is “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We should keep a running conversation going with God all day long. Some find the ACTS formula of prayer helpful, but there is really no special formula for how to pray in the Bible. We should just do it. We can pray under any and all circumstances. Prayer develops our relationship with God and demonstrates our trust and utter dependence upon Him. Read Part 2 tomorrow.
The subject of sexual abuse has been very prominent in the news lately. For the average person who lives by a set of moral standards, the idea of sexual abuse must be of great concern to them. Society in general looks at the perpetrator as one who is sick, deranged or even a low-life. But how well do they know the individual behind those crimes? I would venture a guess they don’t know them at all. Basically, all we see are the after effects of their psychological problems.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not condoning the abuser’s behavior or standing up for them. What I am suggesting is that we look at their heart. You might say that’s easy because what you see is deep, dark sin. On the surface your observation would be correct but it goes deeper than that.
Studies have shown that abusers usually have been abused in some form or another. It doesn’t have to be sexual abuse. It could be mental or physical abuse. When you tie all of those together it makes for a rather ugly scenario and when they get out on their own the devil takes over and starts lying to them. At first the devil’s approach is very soft but as time progresses the devil has convinced the individual that since they were abused, it’s alright for them to do the same. They think its normal behavior because that’s all they’ve known.
After the individual commits the sin of abuse society looks upon them as if they had leprosy. The reaction and condemnation is very swift and painful to the accused.
If you look at the individual sinner the way Jesus did you would have compassion for them and not revulsion. There are many stories in the bible of Jesus healing the deaf, blind, paralytic and even lepers. In Jesus day, lepers were considered unclean and everyone steered clear of them. Not Jesus. He reached out and touched their rotten flesh and made them whole again.
Today instead of touching the abuser we can reach out to them through prayer. Prayer is a very powerful weapon that we have at our disposal. Much has been accomplished through prayer. Lives have been changed and redirected for doing good.
If you know someone who has been the victim of abuse or is committing abuse then powerful prayer would be beneficial to them. Instead of us looking down on that person as ugly and dirty, do what Jesus did. He reached out and touched the leper or like the Samaritan woman at the well, He didn’t condemn her but instead told her to go and sin no more.
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. (Hebrews 2:1)
We all know people that this has happened to. There is no urgency. No vigilance. No focused listening or considering or fixing of their eyes on Jesus. And the result has not been a standing still, but a drifting away.
That is the point here: there is no standing still. The life of this world is not a lake. It is a river. And it is flowing downward to destruction. If you do not listen earnestly to Jesus and consider him daily and fix your eyes on him hourly, then you will not stand still, you will go backward. You will float by.
Drifting is a deadly thing in the Christian life. And the remedy to it, according to Hebrews 2:1, is, “Pay close attention to what you have heard.” That is, consider what God is saying in his Son Jesus. Fix your eyes on what God is saying and doing in the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
This is not a hard stroke to learn so that we can swim against the stream of sin and indifference. The only thing that keeps us from swimming like this is our sinful desire to float with other interests.
But let us not complain that God has given us a hard job. Listen, consider, fix the eyes — this is not what you would call a hard job description. It is not a job description. It is a solemn invitation to be satisfied in Jesus so that we do not get lured downstream by deceitful desires.
If you are drifting today, one of the signs of hope that you are born again is that you feel pricked for this, and there is a rising desire in your heart to turn your eyes on Jesus and consider him and listen to him in the days and months and years to come.