Principles of Prayer
For the Christian, praying should be like breathing. Just as breathing is the response of physical life to the presence of air, so prayer should be the response of spiritual life to the presence of God.
Belief and Prayer
A tavern was being built in a town that until recently had been dry. A group of Christians in a certain church opposed this and began an all-night prayer meeting, asking God to intervene.
Lightening struck the tavern building, and it burned to the ground. The owner brought a lawsuit against the church, claiming they were responsible. The Christians hired a lawyer, claiming they were not responsible. The judge said, “No matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear. The tavern owner believes in prayer and the Christians do not.”
Belief and Prayer
The story is told of a time when a great Scotch preacher prayed in the morning service for rain. As he went to church in the afternoon his daughter, said, “Here is the umbrella, Papa.”
“What do we need it for?” he asked.
“You prayed for rain this morning. Don’t you expect God to send it?” his daughter replied.
They carried the umbrella, and while they came home they were glad to take shelter under it from the drenching storm. Such should be our faith when we pray, just like that little child’s—with no doubt, and expecting an answer.
God’s Will and Prayer
When children first start to color, they have two problems. First, they might choose colors that are inappropriate. Secondly, once the colors are chosen, they have a difficult time keeping the colors within the boundary lines. As they mature and keep on coloring, they learn to keep within the guidelines and to choose the appropriate color, resulting in a satisfying picture.
As children of our Heavenly Father, our prayer life often resembles a child’s coloring. At first, we don’t know what to pray for nor do our prayers stay within the guidelines of His will. As we mature and continue praying, though, we pray for the right things and stay within His will, resulting in a satisfying prayer life.
The elders of a certain church once came to a young man to criticize some of the theology and vocabulary he used in the prayers he prayed publicly in the church service. After they had laid their load on him, he turned to them and said, “Are you gentlemen finished? I have just one thing to say: I wasn’t speaking to you.”
Confident Access in Prayer
In Saudi Arabia, according to Arab custom, reinforced by a 1952 decree of King Abdul Aziz, every subject has the right of access to his ruler-whether the ruler is a tribal sheik, and governor, or the monarch himself-to present petitions of complaint or pleas for help. Even the poorest Saudi can approach his sovereign to plead a cause. Crown Prince Fahd, speaking about this custom said, “Anyone, anyone can come here. That gives them confidence in their government…They know they may look to us for help.”
Every Christian has the right to approach an even greater monarch, the King of kings.
Principles Of Prayer
1. One of the greatest blessings enjoyed by Christians in this life is
the privilege of PRAYER, by which we can approach God
a. Through prayer, the Christian can find FORGIVENESS for sins
- 1 Jn 1:9
b. Through prayer, the Christian can find PEACE to replace anxiety
- Ph 4:6-7
c. Through prayer, the Christian can receive STRENGTH from God
through His Spirit - Ep 3:14-16
2. For such reasons, Paul frequently exhorted Christians to be diligent
in their prayers...
a. "praying always with all prayer and supplication..." - Ep 6:18
b. "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanks-
giving" - Co 4:2
c. "Pray without ceasing" - 1 Th 5:17
3. Yet Jesus knew that people would tend to become slack in their
prayers - Lk 18:1
a. It is out of a similar concern that prompts two lessons devoted
specifically to "PRAYER"
b. It is hoped that you will be encouraged to be more diligent in
prayer as we examine:
1) Basic PRINCIPLES of prayer taught in God's Word
2) Suggestions concerning the PRACTICE of prayer in our daily
[In this lesson, then, PRINCIPLES OF PRAYER, beginning with...]
I. CHARACTERISTICS OF ACCEPTABLE PRAYER
A. IT MUST BE OFFERED "IN FAITH"...
1. "And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you
will receive." - Mt 21:22
2. We must have faith in God, and in His ability to answer
- He 11:6
3. Otherwise, prayer will not be answered - cf. Ja 1:5-8
4. Is our faith weak? Then increase it with the help of God's
Word - Ro 10:17
B. IT MUST BE OFFERED "IN THE SPIRIT OF HUMILITY"...
1. Notice the example of the Pharisee and the publican
- Lk 18:9-14
2. Remember, "The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart,
and saves such as have a contrite spirit" - Ps 34:18
3. As quoted by James: "God resists the proud, but gives grace
to the humble" - Ja 4:6
C. IT MUST BE OFFERED "IN HARMONY WITH GOD'S WILL"...
1. God answers prayer that is offered "according to His will"
- 1 Jn 5:14
2. Jesus provided the example for us in His prayers at
- Lk 22:42
3. Too often, prayers are unanswered because they are more con-
cerned with OUR will, rather than GOD'S will! - cf. Ja 4:3
D. IT MUST BE OFFERED "BY THOSE RIGHTEOUS BEFORE GOD"...
1. "For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears
are open to their prayers; but the face of the LORD is against
those who do evil" - 1 Pe 3:12
2. The prayers of the righteous person are effective
- Ja 5:16-18
3. But those continuing in sin He will not hear! - Pr 28:9;
4. To be righteous before God...
a. Requires that we submit to the "righteousness of God"
offered in Christ - cf. Ro 10:1-4
b. I.e., respond to the gospel of Christ - Ro 1:16-17
E. IT MUST BE OFFERED "IN THE SPIRIT OF THANKSGIVING"...
1. "giving thanks always for all things to God" - Ep 5:20
2. "in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving"
- Ph 4:6
3. "...prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving" - Co 4:2
4. "pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks"
- 1 Th 5:17-18
-- Do we think God will help us with our PRESENT BURDENS if we
don't take the time to thank Him for PAST BLESSINGS?
F. IT MUST BE OFFERED "WITH PERSISTENCE"...
1. Jesus illustrated this aspect of prayer through two parables
a. The parable of the persistent friend - Lk 11:5-10
b. The parable of the persistent widow - Lk 18:1-8
2. The virtue of persistence is demonstrated in the prayers of:
a. Jesus at
Gethsemane- Mt 26:44
b. Paul, pertaining to his "thorn in the flesh" - 2 Co 12:7-8
c. The early church - Ac 2:42
G. IT MUST BE OFFERED "IN THE NAME OF JESUS"...
1. "Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ" - Ep 5:20
2. This means much more than simply adding a little phrase "in
Jesus' name" at the end of our prayers!
a. We must realize that Jesus is the only way by which we can
approach God - Jn 14:6
b. We must view Him as our "high priest" who intercedes for us
- He 7:24-25; Jn 14:13
3. Appealing to God in the name of His Son can give us great
confidence that God will give us what we need! - He 4:14-16
[Such are the conditions that make prayer acceptable to God. But it
might be helpful to also notice a few...]
II. OBSTACLES TO PRAYER
A. UNCONFESSED SIN...
1. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear"
- Ps 66:18
2. The BASIS for prayer rests upon our being in fellowship with
Him; such fellowship is broken if we do not confess our sins
B. IMPROPER TREATMENT OF OTHERS...
1. How we treat others has a bearing upon whether God will hear
a. E.g., how we treat the poor - Ps 41:1-3
b. E.g., how one treats his friend - Mt 5:23-24
c. E.g., how a husband treats his wife - 1 Pe 3:7
2. We must correct our relationships with others (if possible)
before we can expect God to hear our prayers!
3. Especially if we desire to receive forgiveness for our sins!
- Mt 6:14-15; 18:21-23
[Finally, it is important to bear in mind that God answers prayer in
III. ANSWERS TO PRAYERS
A. "REQUEST GRANTED"...
1. God may answer "YES" , and grant the petitions we ask of Him
2. Such will be the case the more we try to do His Will in our
lives - 1 Jn 3:22
B. "REQUEST GRANTED, BUT NOT YET"...
1. God may grant our request, but in time and according to His
purpose for our lives
2. "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose
under heaven" - Ec 3:1
3. So we may think God is saying "NO", when He is really saying
"YES, BUT WAIT"
C. "REQUEST GRANTED, BUT NOT AS YOU MIGHT EXPECT"...
1. Sometimes God says "YES", but answers it in way differently
than we anticipated
2. Remember, God's thoughts and methods are often much different
than ours - Is 55:8,9
3. Like asking God for strength and perseverance...
a. He may give us trials to bear
b. Which in turn develops the virtues we prayed for!
4. We should be careful and not dictate to God HOW to answer our
a. Limit the "HOW" and we might be limiting the "RESULT"
b. For example, the way some pray for the sick, they limit God
as to how He might restore them
D. "REQUEST DENIED"...
1. Often God says "NO"
2. But we must trust that God, who knows all and what is best,
would do so only if granting our request might not be for our
good - cf. He 12:5-11
3. We may not fully understand, but we can still fully trust Him!
- cf. Hab 3:17-19
4. Especially in light of the promise in 1 Co 10:13
1. The ability to pray to God and receive answers in our lives is truly
one of the greatest blessings we can have as children of God!
2. Hopefully, understanding and applying the principles discussed in
this lesson will assure greater success in having our prayers
3. Our next lesson will deal with "THE PRACTICE OF PRAYER", offering
suggestions on the when, with whom, how and what of prayer
SOME QUESTIONS TO STIMULATE YOUR THINKING...
1. Do you find it easy or difficult to pray?
2. Do you believe in the power of God to answer prayer?
3. Should you be disappointed when it appears that God has answered
your prayer with a "NO"?
4. Are you spending time every day devoted to prayer?