Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, and you mention prayer, and they reply, “Pssshh prayer doesn’t do anything..”? I have..
What is the definition of prayer: a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.
You may recognize this scripture, as it is on t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I want to first share an illustration I heard listening to Pastor Voddie Baucham, of how to see prayer. Image a boat and a dock. A boat is tied to the dock to keep it secured. God is the dock, and we are the dock. Prayer is the rope that we the boat, pulls on to be closer to God. So now the question, how often do you pray? Is the distance between God the dock, and you the boat, becoming really far? Or, are you rejoicing always, and praying continually, growing closer and closer to God? To expend this illustration. What happens when the boat is further and further from the dock, and into more open waters? The water becomes extremely choppy, and you the boat can easily capsize and go under. .. Now let’s break this puzzle down into its pieces.
Rejoice always.. Rejoice (verb): Greek word “χαίρω” (chairō), means: that no matter the situation, we will be actively praising God, because we know His plans for us are for our good, even though we may not like it. Why does rejoicing come before prayer?
The only way to be rejoicing is to have joy and peace. This is received from by God, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, salvation in Jesus. Romans 15:13 tells us, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
And why is being filled with joy, and to be rejoicing so important? “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:11-13.
God fills the Christian with the Holy Spirit, which helps us to get to know His character, that we can trust Him, that He has plans for us, good plans, great plans, because He wants the best for us. As we seek Him will all of our heart, our joy and peace grow, and we rejoice, knowing Him more, being in His presence in prayer, and experiencing His love, as a parents loves their child. This is how we come before our God, our Father in prayer. Like a little child, climbing up in their Fathers lap, to love Him, because He loved us first (1 John 4:19).
Why is all of this important? Because without Jesus, a person is not a child of God, but rather an object of His wrath, because of their sinful nature, living in their fleshy and selfish desires, which is against God. A person who seeks after their own desires, wants their own desires. When a person only wants what they want, the list of wants never ends, they are never content, and can only feel happy for the moment, because they are temporarily satisfied.
God does not make us guess, but tells us what the acts of the flesh are, so we can identify them in our lives. “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:16-21.
“Lives like this” means a consistent lifestyle without repentance. This makes perfect sense as we look at the world around us. For example, look at the media. When a situation arises, how often do we see the masses praying together for God’s hand to come over what is going on, or for peace? Instead, we respond by our flesh, with anger, by yelling, with rioting, hating, etc. When a person reacts to life like this, over and over, it grows in them, becoming more and more of their “what is normal” lifestyle. When more and more people live like this, it becomes the “standard”, and prayer is either left out completely and forgotten, or twisted into something false.
Matthew 5:11-12 below tells us, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Being a Christian is not easy! When a true Christian shares the Gospel, lives their life to love and honor God, to love others, to be Jesus in the flesh (Matthew 22:37-40), to mature in their faith walking with Jesus, to be molded more and more into the image of Jesus.. Do you think the strength it takes to face this world, that opposes God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God’s Word, comes from the Christian person themselves..? No way! A true Christian is completely dependent upon God’s strength. One of my prayers, is to receive God’s strength, peace, wisdom each day, as some days can be very challenging. It is not blind faith.. rather having seen God’s amazingness, because the Holy Spirit gives me the eyes to see, and to share.
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” – John 3:19-21
When a non-believer faces challenges, they often fall and crumble, because they have only themselves to hold onto when their world shakes. They go to people with their challenges, who have no ability to help them, only hear them, and are left with the same challenges with no resolution. As this keeps happening, they slip deeper an deeper into sinful habits, and grab at anything that will provide a temporary rest, which is something that usually causes them more harm, creating an infinite loop that never ends. Jesus is their only solution, which is usually the last anything on their mind.
Now what about praying continually?
First off the Greek word for Pray (verb) is “προσεύχομαι” (proseuchomai). Proseuchomai is from two Greek words. The first being πρὸς (pros), meaning: to, towards, with, with regard to. The second being εὔχομαι (euchomai) (verb) meaning: to wish, to pray, to pray for.
It is very important to understand the meaning of euchomai because this tells us what to pray, what to approach God with. More often than not, when we pray, we are praying for our own selfish desires, what we want, what will make us happy, what will satisfy us, what God can do for us to make us happy, or what God can do to make us love Him more. God is not a magic genie or a puppy desiring to make us happy so we love on Him more.
A popular question people have is does God hear the prayers of the nonbeliever? This we will answer further down.
1 John 5:13-15, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
See the part that says, “IF we ask ACCORDING to HIS WILL.. HE WILL hear us”. This means that when we come before God in prayer and “asking” (euchomai) in accordance with His will, it is guaranteed that He will hear us. So you know He is not ignoring you. So the question comes, “what is God’s will, and how do we pray according to it“? The answer to the first question is, “we don’t know God’s plan, only God does” So if we don’t know God’s plan, how can we pray according to it? Great question!
Where our prayers used to be to satisfy our own desires, for our own wants, for our own plans for our life. Now we know that God hears our prayers when we pray according to His will, and His plan. Our prayer should now be “to pray for God’s will to be done”, in our lives and in others. Why? Because God’s will is perfect. Psalm 18:30 tells us, “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” When we trust in and remain in God’s will, we can have peace in it, even if the outcome does not result the way we wanted. As we trust in His will, the Holy Spirit opens our spiritual eyes, and we receive peace, confirmations, to see doors opening, and we trust Him to take steps by faith.
When we pray, it should be without ceasing, continually, over and over. To pray continually does not mean to quit your job, and lock yourself in your room and pray non-stop, and do nothing else. It means that when we pray on something, we continue to pray upon it, over and over.
As an example, if you are unemployed and searching. If the end result of God’s will is that you will be blessed with a new job in 1 month, until that day comes, which you don’t know before hand, keep praying, each day, multiple times a day, that God will lead you, bring you to the place where you can extend the Kingdom in the name of Jesus, that the lost will be found. In the mean time, pray for God’s provision, with anticipation and expectation of God’s blessing. Pray also that through all of this, you will grow closer to God, and experience His love in a new way, that will deepen your love for Him, and share your testimony with others, which will draw their eyes to Him as well.
There will also be times when you are praying for something specific, for someone’s health, for someone to get a job, for the church, for the country, or for your children. Since we are to pray according to God’s will, and you don’t know if what you are praying for is God’s will, your prayer does not change, “this is my desire, but your will be done”. This is the same thing Jesus prayed before they arrested Him to be crucified. “He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” – Luke 22:41-42. Jesus did not want to go to the cross, as He knew what He was going to face, but He also knew it was His Fathers will, and that was what He lived for, and was His purpose. Jesus prayed for strength to take the next step according to His Fathers will.
Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. – Psalm 37:1-7 I encourage you to read the entire Psalm 37 as it is a great expression of prayer and thanksgiving from David.
Please see a few things here, “trust in the Lord“, “take delight in the Lord“, “commit your way to the Lord“, and again, “trust in Him“, “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him“. Now look at the last part, “and He will do this“. This means, do this and this and this, AND this will happen.
This is the biggest challenge that Christian have and also why nonbelievers don’t like or think prayer is ineffective.
First off those who reject God and His Son Jesus (agnostics or atheists). They are not filled with the Holy Spirit, and therefore do not seek or desire for the will of God in their lives, rather their own desires. Therefore they not praying for God’s will in their lives, rather their desires of what will make them happy and satisfied. So therefore, if they are not praying for God’s will, according to scripture, their prayers are not heard. This is what nonbelievers do not like and do not understand. They want God to answer their selfish prayers, but do not want God in their lives. So because they “pray”, and do not get what they want, they choose to believe that God does not exist, that God does not love them, that God is being mean, that God does not care about them, that God is not real, and they reject God and His Son. So because of this, they choose to live a lifestyle against God, and do the things that His Word says not to, because they think God is just being mean. This is called living a defiant life. Defiant means: to be boldly resistant or challenging. This is very sad! Sad because as an nonbeliever, they are an object of God’s wrath, in their current state, destined for an eternity without God, in hell.
You also from nonbelievers, “there is so much bad happening in the world, why does God not do anything about it?” Remember the illustration of the dock and boat? If you are not close with God, how will you see when He does something that is not as obvious to your eyes as let’s say fireworks. If my eyes are fixed on God, I am getting to know Him, and the Holy Spirit gives me spiritual eyes to see little details, then I will see more than someone who does not have the Holy Spirit. Is God doing something in these bad situation.. most definitely! God’s will is perfect.
I heard a story of a tornado that hit a city. A mom and her 10 month old baby were in a house, and the walls fell down because of the winds. When this happened the mom slipped, and the winds grabbed the baby, taking her 15 miles away, and landing her in a wet mud. The baby survived, and is alive many years later to tell tell the story. Many might have said, “how could God allow that to happen?” God’s will is perfect, and the baby may have died from the house falling down had God not relocated her. This is called faith in God’s perfect plan. Do you think the mom began praying right away for her child? I’m sure yes. Do you think this brought both mom, child, and many who heard this story closer to God in Jesus? I’m sure yes.
For Christians, where prayer could be our strongest weapon, next to the Bible, for showing the world God’s amazingness, our human nature often kicks in. We often allow the devil to mess with us, in the same way he messed with Adam and Eve, making us think that God did not hear us, does not love or care about us, and other lies. These lies can make us doubt God’s answers to our prayers. These doubts make us loose our patience for waiting on God’s timing, that He forgot about us, or that He wants us to suffer without His help. These lies can make us believe that God has kicked us out of His safe pasture. These lies can move us to trust less in God’s promises to us. When a Christian begins to believe these lies, is a sign that they are drifting from God. In the illustration I started with, that the boat is drifting away from the peaceful water nearer to the dock, and away into the choppy waters.
The hope here is that another Christian brother or sister will notice this and pray for them, with them, and ask God for guidance, wisdom, and mercy to bring them back toward the dock, and into repentance.
Prayer is not a waste of time, but rather, next to God’s Word, our strongest weapon against the devil and his stronghold on our friends, family, and those whom we come across who are nonbelievers.
2 Corinthians 10:2-4, “I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”
Ephesians 6:18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
An illustration for God’s answer to prayer is a phone. When you are expecting it to ring, you are alert, listening for it, expecting it to ring. When we pray, it may take time, along time, but when we stay alert, keep our spiritual eyes and ears open, we can be blessed to witness God’s answer, and that is a wow experience.
For the true Christians, I beg that we would see the bigger picture. That we would use this most valuable weapon, that never wears out, that is available to us 24/7/365, and that God’s ears are always open for. It is so important that we the boat, keep pulling the rope that will bring us closer to the dock. The dock never moves, we do.
The problem with this world is us, people. We have allowed the devil to destroy, lie, and kill humanity. Because of our human nature, our sinful nature, our desire for self, the devil has used it, without much effort, to turn us against God, His Son, and each other. Our guns, our anger, our opinions, our self desires have broken this world. Sin has broken this world. Jesus is the only solution to the problems in this world.
I go to God in prayer, that in accordance with His will, according to scripture, that those who are under the devils lies, who be broken free by your mercy of the Gospel, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. I go before God in prayer, that the body of Christ, the Kingdom of God, that more souls would be won for Jesus, and that we would all be in prayer together, as the Body is supposed to, according to scripture. I pray for God’s mercy on those who are living a life of defiant sin, defined by scripture, that they would see this sin, acknowledge it, repent of it, receive Jesus’s death as payment of their sins, God’s mercy, and be wiped clean, their sins forgiven, and to be white as snow, a new creation, a child of God.
“I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”” – Luke 15:9