Prayer is of interest to every Christian, whether they are beginning the journey or nearing its completion. Perhaps neither ever feels really competent at it. Surely no one has ever gotten from prayer all there was to be had.
The more intelligently we pray, the more effective we can be. George Bailey said, “We cannot, by prayer, snatch stars from the heavens. We cannot, by prayer, transform winter suddenly into springtime. We cannot, by prayer, cause the sun to rise in the west, and set in the east.” We must learn to pray within the will of God.
Psalm 32:6 is a study in prayer:
What? “This”–confession of sin, forgiveness (in context).
Whatever our godly needs are, we should feel free to take them before the “throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16).
Need and desire select the things, Faith and prayer nominate them, and God commits himself to do them. In this case, the inscription reads: “A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the LORD. Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee” (Psalm 102:1). Paul wrote, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).
We are to ask for spiritual needs. This includes praying for the lost, the erring, and our own spiritual lives (cf. Matthew 6:13). Saturate upcoming services of worship with prayer. Before our preacher gets up to address the congregation, the congregation should have “bathed” him in prayer.
We are to ask for physical needs. This includes prayer for:
- Our daily bread (Matthew 6:11).
- Good health (Judges 16:28; 3 John 1:2).
- Help in times of distress (2 Samuel 22:7). “In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me” (Psalm 120:1). “Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD” (2 Kings 20:5).
- Marriage relationships. Every married Christian should pray for their spouse and the longterm health of their relationship. There are many temptations and destructive forces, but prayer can fortify partners against them. We may know of a marriage that is in trouble; if so, commit to pray for this marriage once a day for thirty days. Prayer Is the Least I Can Do; Prayer Is the Most I Can Do
- Our children (1 Samuel 1:27). Our children can and should be changed through prayer. It is good to provide food for children; it is good to cook for them; it is good to make up their beds and wash their clothes; it is good to play games with them and talk to them; it is good to go for walks with them and take them to the library and McDonalds; but it is better to pray for them. Parents brought their children to Jesus, not so He would play with them or even teach them, but so He would lay his hands on them and bless them (Mark 10:13-16). We have the same privilege to “set our child” on God’s knee and ask for His blessing. Pray with them when they are underfoot in the daytime; pray for them when they are asleep at night. We should also pray for the children of others. Is it not ironic that some who get worked up over prayer in public schools may not be praying for schoolchildren, outside of school.
- Our nation. Prayer can help change the atmosphere of a nation if thousands would constantly pray—especially pray at election time. “Units of prayer combined, like drops of water, make an ocean which defies resistance.”
- Against evil. We must not wait until we feellike praying before we pray for others.
Who? “Everyone that is godly.”
To Whom? “Thee”—God the Father, through Jesus the Mediator. “Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee” (Psalm 102:1). We are privileged to the eternal God through His beloved Son, Jesus (Hebrews 7:25). We are not to pray to the Holy Spirit, the apostles, or any saints. We are to pray to God.
When? “In a time thou mayest be found.” “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). “Praying always” (Colossians 1:3). “Praying at all seasons” (Ephesians 6:18). “always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1; see also 1 Chronicles 16:11; Luke 21:36; Colossians 4:2.)
A Christian may have an audience with the Father any minute of any hour of any day. He can stay and talk for as long as he desires. Bankrupt is the person who knows about prayer but feels no need to pray. Prayer is not meant to be emergency rations; it is an everyday staple.
We are to ask in the evening (Psalm 55:17), the morning (Psalm 55:17; Proverbs 8:17), and at noon (Psalm 55:17). We are to ask when we have a need (Philippians 4:6), when things are going well (Nehemiah 5:19), and when things are going badly (Lamentations 3:55).
It is important to pray intelligently, but equally so to pray with enthusiasm. Heaven has a mighty poor market for ice.