The National Day of Prayer is annually celebrated on the first Thursday in May. It has been said that “nothing else can move the hand of God” like prayer. Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1). Jesus set the example. The Bible mentions that Jesus “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). Jesus prayed some notable prayers on the mountain, in the synagogue, at the temple, and in the Garden of Gethsemane.
A prayer can be a simple, spontaneous request or an eloquent, reverent petition to God. Even if you’re not sure how to say it, He will know what you mean. “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs that cannot be put into words” (Romans 8:26). “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” (Ephesians 6:18).
Does God really hear our prayers?
Prayer is meant to be a personal conversation with the Creator of the universe, not just an empty ritual. Prayers are a way of talking to God, in hopes that He will listen and respond. This direct contact with God is not served by an approach that is unfeeling or indifferent. For example, have you ever talked to someone on the phone while watching TV or playing a computer game at the same time? The person on the other end can sense that you don’t really care about the conversation. It’s the same way with God. He demands your full attention.
God will know the difference between a prayer that is a passionate plea from the heart, or just a rote series of words repeated with no thought given to the meaning behind it. While memorizing Bible verses as a basis for prayer and worship is a wonderful habit, God is moved by prayers offered with heartfelt feeling. This is suggested in the Bible when God speaks through the prophet Hosea, saying “…they have not cried out to me with their heart” (Hosea 7:14). But God told the prophet Isaiah, “Go back and tell Hezekiah… ‘I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears'” (2 Kings 20:5).
So how should we pray?
One of Jesus’ disciples came to Him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus then gave the following perfect example: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, as we forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Luke 11:1-4; see also Matthew 6: 9-13). “The Lord’s Prayer” is the most widely used model prayer from the Bible.
Furthermore, Jesus instructed, “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men…But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father in secret; and …when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him” (Matthew 6:5-8).
Why should we pray?
Why should we bother praying if God already knows what we need and is going to just do what He wants anyway? Because He tells us to. In fact, the Bible reminds us to pray so many times over and over again, that it must be pretty important.
1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 – “Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Luke 22:40 – “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Matthew 26:41 – “Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak.”
Luke 6:28 – “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who misuse you.”
God loves us. He wouldn’t tell us to do something that is bad for us. So prayer must be good for us. Are you in a rotten situation, getting ripped off, being lied about? Pray, pray, pray. The power of prayer comes from the power of God.
Are you right with God?
God wants to hear that we need Him, so God listens to us when we make an effort to speak to him. If you want God to consider your requests, however, it helps to be right with God; that is, with a clean conscience and not involved in sinful activities that are disobedient to God. For example, Psalm 66:18 tells us that “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Here’s how the apostle John explained this principle: “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (I John 3:21-22). Likewise, the apostle James said “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).
The miraculous power of God that came from the prayers of Moses, David, Elijah and Paul (men used by God to liberate His people, slay giants, restore life to a dead boy, and bring sight to the blind) occurred, not because of the words they uttered, but because they chose to seek and do God’s will with all their heart and without compromise. Therefore, the prayers in their hearts expressed God’s will. God says of the person who obeys Him, “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him” (Psalm 91:14-15). Because Moses and these other men took time to know His Word and will, God “spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).
What if God doesn’t answer your prayer?
God is not a magic genie that grants your every wish. Many have testified to miraculous answers which demonstrate God’s love, mercy and intervention on behalf of those who seek Him. Yet these amazing interventions and anecdotal stories don’t prove that God always answers specific prayers. While in some cases God has acted on just one short prayer, sometimes the answer doesn’t come until years later. Keep in mind that God’s reply may be a definite “No” or “Not yet.” God knows what is best for us, and it may be simply that what we are praying for is not what God wants for us at this time.
So, ask yourself, are you placing too much emphasis on your own wants and desires instead of saying “Thy will be done?” Jesus always prayed and served according to His Father’s will and purpose on each and every occasion. Also, Jesus demonstrated an important principle concerning effective prayer in Luke 18: perseverance reflected in repeated petitions. This does not mean that God wants us to nag Him, but don’t be afraid to keep asking with a sincere purpose in mind. Also, don’t forget to pray for others as well as yourself. Proverbs 21:13 warns, “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he will also cry himself and not be heard.”
Are you too distracted to pray regularly?
Many people in their busy, hectic lives tend to take the time to pray only when there’s a crisis. But it is important to stay close to God and seek His continued support and guidance in our everyday lives. Jesus prayed constantly, and we can all learn to faithfully pray to God always in everything that we do. In the morning, prayer opens us up to God’s wisdom. At mealtimes, prayer gives thanks for God’s blessings. At bedtime, prayer closes our day and reminds us of God’s care. If you want to have a relationship with God or improve your existing relationship with Him, spend some quiet time alone with God. Praying is easy to do – just talk to Him! “God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me” (Psalm 66:19-20).
It is important to have God on our side when we want to meet our goals and accomplishments. But we must first invite God into our life and ask for His blessings. When you are praying, don’t forget to tell God how much you appreciate all that He has already done for you. Prayers of thanks aren’t just for Thanksgiving. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Did You Know…?
In the days of Jesus, rabbis would often use prayer outlines, which provided a pattern for longer prayers. Many students of Biblical history believe that “The Lord’s Prayer” was a prayer outline. It serves to remind us to include certain points in our prayers that would be pleasing to God. For example: Praise God and give thanks for what you have. Confess and repent of your sins. Ask God for help and wisdom. Show faith and trust that He will provide for your needs.
However, the prayer outline is not to be confused with a formula prayer, in which you mindlessly repeat certain words. While it can be easier to simply memorize and recite a formula prayer, God wants you to seek Him with all of your heart. Throughout the Bible, God shows us that the state of a believer’s heart is more important than the particular words used. Besides, if you believe that repetitions or certain words will add strength to a prayer, then you may be putting more trust in mere words rather than in God himself.
Five Fingers of Prayer
You can use your five fingers as a prayer memory aid!
- Begin with your thumb, which is nearest to you. It’s easy to remember to pray for family members and loved ones closest to you. C.S. Lewis said that praying for those we love is a “sweet duty.”
- Second, the index or pointing finger. Pray for those who teach, instruct, and heal. This includes teachers, doctors, and ministers. They need support and wisdom to point others in the right direction.
- Third, the middle finger which is the tallest. It reminds us of our leaders. Pray for the president, government officials, school administrators, leaders in business and industry. These people shape our nation and guide public opinion. They need God’s guidance.
- Fourth, the ring finger. This is our weakest finger, and was once thought to have a nerve or vein leading straight to the heart. It reminds us to pray for those who are weak, discouraged, in trouble or pain.
- Fifth, the pinkie finger, which is the smallest finger of all. This reminds you to pray for yourself last. By the time you have prayed for all of the others, your own needs will be put into proper perspective and you will be able to pray for yourself more effectively.
Pray for the Nation
The Bible tells us to pray for those in authority. So we need to pray for our current governmental leaders and also for God to raise up godly leaders. Pray for the state you live in as well as our nation as a whole. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
The times we’re living in right now feel very uncertain. Much of modern society is characterized by violence, hate, disorder, confusion and division. We have laws not being upheld, crime running rampant, homelessness out of control, millions of illegals coming over the border, a mental health crisis, a drug crisis, and the list goes on. The conflict goes far beyond politics. It’s no longer left vs. right. Liberal vs. conservative. It’s good vs. evil. We are engaged in a spiritual battle and our weapon is prayer.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the Truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
How to Pray for America: https://www.nationaldayofprayer.org/prayforamerica
Get a free copy of The Postures of Prayer. This guide explores the various postures of the heart during prayer—surrender, thankfulness, repentance, forgiveness, and petition.