God has of His own motion placed Himself under the law of prayer, and has obligated Himself to answer the prayers of men. He has ordained prayer as a means whereby He will do things through men as they pray, which He would not otherwise do. . . . If prayer puts God to work on earth, then, by the same token, prayerlessness rules God out of the world’s affairs, and prevents Him from working.1
Those words perfectly communicate the importance of God’s people praying. Prayer is no light thing, yet at the same time it is simple communication between the Father God and His children, and as E.M. Bounds said in his book Purpose in Prayer, “The driving power, the conquering force in God’s cause is God Himself. ‘Call upon Me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not,’ is God’s challenge to prayer. Prayer puts God in full force into God’s work.”2
Let us then receive His challenge and engage ourselves in a life of fervent prayer. For “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).
Why Should We Pray?
Pray because God tells you to. What more reason do we need? It’s a command that we are given over and over again. Luke 18:1 says, “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Ephesians 6:18 also instructs us to pray. Pray about everything, small things, big things and all things. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Pray because God has promised to answer. If you want to see things accomplished, ask. God says, “Yet you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). Do you want to see Bhutan, India, Mongolia or some other nations changed? Do you want to see another 50 people added to the staff of Gospel for Asia? Do you want to see more workers raised up on the fields? Do we need funds for various projects? Are there dreams and visions you want fulfilled? You can talk about it all you want, but it won’t happen unless you ask. Without prayer, nothing of lasting value is going to happen.
God delights in answering the prayer of faith. The last part of Hebrews 11:6 says, “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” In Matthew 7:7 Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” John 15:7 says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” We are given this promise over and over again in Scripture. God answers prayer.
Cornelius, a Gentile, prayed, and God sent Peter to talk to him (see Acts 10:1–2). God is eager to answer our cries for help.
Elijah was a man, weak like all of us (see James 5:17). Yet he prayed that there would be no rain, and for three and a half years there was a drought. Then he prayed for rain, and a storm came.
Daniel prayed, stood firm in his God and saw the victory (see Daniel 9).
From the belly of the fish Jonah prayed, and God heard him (see Jonah 2:1). Hagar prayed. Moses prayed. God answered them. I think also about people that I know. Our own experiences tell us that God really does answer prayer.
Let me tell you a story from the village in which I was born and raised. One particular year, the entire rice crop was failing. It was a disastrous year for our community. But there was one believer who really trusted the Lord. When the rice crops began to fail, he said, “I belong to the Lord. My field belongs to the Lord. I know the entire community is facing this problem, but I trust my God to take care of my crops.” He fasted and prayed, amazingly, God did a miracle that no one could explain. In the midst of thousands of acres of failing rice fields, his five or ten acres were protected.
Week after week in GFA’s headquarters, we read letters from people who write to us saying, “Would you please pray for this?” We get prayer requests from all over, and we take these requests seriously and pray. Later we hear the praise reports: “Nobody can explain how it happened, but God answered prayer . . . The money that we needed came in . . . We found the perfect individual to do the work . . . The Lord healed him.” All kinds of unbelievable things happen when people pray.
Pray because major events must transpire in our lifetime. God wants things to happen. The work’s forward progress depends on our praying. It really does. Let this sink in. God really answers prayer. As you ask Him, He answers specifically and miraculously. I have seen it so many times.
Prayer is a sure way to see God do miracles on our behalf. Gideon, Moses, Daniel, Elijah and Paul all prayed, and things happened. Jesus prayed before He raised Lazarus from the dead and before He fed the five thousand. The Bible is filled with people praying and things happening in answer to those prayers. Right now God is waiting to answer the prayers from your lips. Sometimes the answer may take longer in coming, but keep on asking. Keep on seeking. Keep on knocking. God truly answers prayer.
Pray so that your joy may be full. In John 16:24 Jesus said, “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
Do you want to be full of joy? Then let God show you some answers to prayer. All of us can testify to the joy of answered prayer.
When our children were growing up, we encouraged them to pray for their needs. One time my son, Daniel, was praying for a particular pair of tennis shoes. A stranger who knew nothing about this prayer bought the exact shoes that Daniel was praying for and gave them to him as a gift. Imagine the joy and the thrill of a young heart experiencing God’s answer to prayer! So it is with us as adults too.
Pray because it is the best cure for worry and concerns. When we pray, we leave the matter in God’s hands and are free from worry and concern.
Someone once said, “Why pray when you can worry about it?” But Philippians 4:6–7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” God has given us the invitation to cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us (see 1 Peter 5:7). What is bothering you? Please, just pray. When you are troubled about anything, pray.
Pray because it makes our God happy. Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” It brings joy to the heart of God when we turn to Him in prayer, depending on Him to move in the circumstances of our lives.
How Should We Pray?
Pray with absolute confidence that God is on our side. When we pray, the devil will bombard us and make us feel sinful and horrible about ourselves. We will never come to the place of being holy enough for God to hear our prayer. Rather, we stand before the Lord pure, transparent and righteous because it is a gift He has given us through His Son. It is not something we can earn. We are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. It is nothing we attain. It is only by grace that we are children of God. As we come to Him and say “Father,” He truly is our Father. He is our confidence.
He answers prayer not based on how great or mighty or holy we are. No. It is His grace. “[Nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). This truth needs to be drilled into our hearts and minds if we are to have a confident, effective prayer life.
Pray with a thankful heart. Be committed to thank Him for what He has done, for who He is and for what He will do. Praise Him. Give Him glory. Say, “Lord, let Your name be praised. Hallowed be Thy name. May Your name be lifted up.”
When you come before the Lord, look back and see what He has already done for you and thank Him for all that. Look forward also to see what the Lord has promised to do and thank Him in advance for what He will do.
Pray remembering your relationships with others. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). When you pray, make sure there is no bitterness, anger or unforgiveness in your heart toward anyone. This is very important. If you have these sort of feelings, ask the Lord to give you true forgiveness and love for the individual. Ask the Lord to help you love him as He loves him.
Be specific in your prayers. Matthew 6:11 says, “Give us this day . . .” Ask Him for exactly what you need. What do you need today to sustain His work and accomplish His will? Don’t pray in general terms. Have specific things that you want God to answer. Tell Him the name and place. Let Him know who, what, where and so forth. Tell God specifically. Don’t tell Him how to answer, but be specific in what the needs are.
Pray with a burden. Breakthrough in prayer comes through a heart that has been burdened by the Holy Spirit. Read Nehemiah 1. Nehemiah was so burdened that he could not even regulate his own expression and emotion because of the grief he had over the suffering of God’s people.
Study the lives of Hannah, Moses, David and Paul. You will find this passion in their prayers as well. In Ephesians, you read about Paul praying for these people. It’s like he is in anguish. He talks about his “tribulations” for them (see Ephesians 3:13). In Galatians he says, “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).
How do we get this burden? We simply seek it. We ask God to change our heart. We say, “Lord, what is on Your heart? What is Your concern? Lord, please let me understand it.” Then He brings the thoughts and gives us the burden to intercede. We cannot create this burden on our own. God does not care about lip service. He wants us to enter into the reality of what He feels for the suffering humanity all around us. He wants to share with us His burdens and His joy in seeing these prayers answered.
I was in Singapore for a leaders meeting in 1971. There I heard Dr. Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, tell of his early years when he visited China. He said that when he saw the multitudes in China, he was broken-hearted. He wept on the streets of that nation. Then he took his Bible and wrote on the leaflet inside, “Let my heart break for the things that break God’s heart.” Let that be our prayer also.
Pray in faith. We must believe. Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24). Matthew 17:19–20 says, “Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’ ”
“All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23). I don’t understand how it works, but God said as we pray we must keep believing that He has answered our prayer. The believing comes from Him. He is the author and finisher of our faith (see Hebrews 12:2). Faith is not something we can work up in ourselves. We can’t convince ourselves to believe. We have to ask Him for believing faith. The father of the afflicted son did that. He said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
Pray in the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we don’t know how to pray when God lays a burden upon our hearts. But the Holy Spirit can pray through us. It can be in a language that nobody understands. It can be in groanings and cryings too deep for words. Please don’t try to figure this out. God is so wonderful that when we don’t know how to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes through us. When our ability to pray comes to an end, God takes over (see Romans 8:26).
Our God is eager to hear our prayers. Let us then come before Him in the morning, in the evening, while we are waiting in line, driving to work or washing the dishes. Prayer need not be an activity we engage in for only an hour each morning. Rather, let us live in the atmosphere of prayer, our hearts continually being lifted up in prayer to Him. In doing so, we will come to experience the wonder of being colaborers with God as He works through our prayers (see 1 Corinthians 3:9).
1 E.M. Bounds, The Weapon of Prayer (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1996).
2 E.M. Bounds, Purpose in Prayer (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1997).
© 2004 by KP Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.