by IHOPKC Staff Writer
Abraham and Sarah went through it. Joseph endured it. Elijah? Well, he was all too familiar with the topic. Even the Son of God has experienced the process of praying and waiting to receive an answer.
The entire Bible is filled with examples of God’s people waiting expectantly for answers to their prayers. The people named in the book of Hebrews prayed and waited in faith, much like many believers around the world today.
The married couple praying to have a baby, a widow praying for food for her children in the midst of social unrest, oppressed believers asking the Lord for their persecutors’ salvation, and yet, in the natural, requests seem to go unanswered.
Jesus taught on the importance of faith as a foundational principle in the kingdom of God. We will experience more of His kingdom activity and Jesus’ provision for us, as well as enjoy our relationship with Him more, as we believe for more.
We must intentionally cultivate growing in faith by hearing and speaking God’s Word over our heart and circumstances and against the works of the enemy—”So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). We must learn who we are in Christ and what is available to us in Christ.
Jesus described how faith operates. He indicated that we first “receive” our prayers in the spirit realm, and then we “have” them in the natural when we see them with our eyes. We need to be aware of the distinction between the spiritual and the natural realms to understand how prayer works.
“Whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore, I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them , and you will have them .” (Mk. 11:23–24)
Prayer is not about informing or persuading God, but about conversing and connecting with Him relationally. We believe God has approved of our prayer and released it to us in the spirit realm; therefore, we never stop reminding Him of it and thanking Him for it. As we remind God of His promises with thanksgiving, we position ourselves to receive them in the natural.
Faith is the substance and evidence that goes beyond what we see or feel with our natural senses (Heb. 11:1–3). Faith is the title deed of what we already possess in the spirit; it is not physical evidence, but it is evidence given by the Spirit.
In a message from August 2014, Mike Bickle gave five principles for having a biblical perspective on praying with faith, in order to help us understand how faith and perseverance relate to prayer.
Although we do not earn answers to prayers by our persistence or obedience, as we persevere in prayer, our requests move from the spiritual realm to the natural realm.
We often pray for things that are not specifically promised in the Scripture, but that are not in opposition to the Word of God. The Spirit may indicate or confirm that He will grant a request. Some circumstantial blessings are subjective rather than directly promised in the Word, so we must be careful not to be presumptuous and then become angry if the answer does not come.
Prayers that are in God’s will are always answered in God’s timing and in God’s way, so do not give up too quickly or become discouraged if the answer to your prayer is delayed.
We can trust His leadership in the timing and method in which He answers our prayers.
Read more about persevering prayer and other aspects of developing a fervent and fruitful prayer life in Mike’s latest book, Growing in Prayer: A Real-Life Guide to Talking with God.
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First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones. (Ephesians 6:18)
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument. (1 Timothy 2:8)
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
In the previous article, I described the call of each of us as Catholic men to be ministers of the Gospel (see Colossians 1:21-23). However, I believe it will be difficult to be faithful to this call if we do not develop a habit of coming into the Lord’s present each day to pray. I once had a priest tell me of a pastor who, every morning when he woke up, looked at his schedule for the day. If it was fairly light, he would then pray for one hour. If it was a very busy and demanding schedule, he then prayed for two hours. I smiled when he said it, but I got his point.
Br. Lawrence of the Resurrection once said that “Prayer to him was simply experiencing the presence of God” (The Practice of the Presence of God). St. Paul considered prayer vital for every Christian. Writing to Timothy, he encouraged his young coworker and all people to offer “prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving” for everyone (1 Timothy 2:1). Not only is prayer “good and pleasing to God,” it also has the power to transform lives (2:3).
God wants all of us to share in his desire that everyone “be saved and come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). And we do that by praying for people on a regular basis. However, being faithful to daily prayer can be a challenge at times. We all have days when we find it easy to pray, days when words of praise and intercession just flow effortlessly. But we also have days when prayer feels like nothing more than a burdensome chore – or we feel too busy, distracted, or harassed to pray.
What do we do on those days? Keep on praying (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)!
It should be comforting to know that we’re not alone in our times of dryness. Every saint has faced this exact same challenge. And we need to do exactly what every saint has done. We need to push through and knowing that Jesus’ “grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9). When she felt “incapable” of praying, St. Thèrése of Lisieux said: “I want to keep telling Jesus that I love him. It is not difficult, and it keeps the fire going.” Brother Lawrence had this to say about distractions during times of prayer:
One way of recalling the mind easily during prayer and of keeping it more tranquil is not to let your mind race . . . but to hold it close to the presence of God. Being in the habit of coming back to him . . . you will find it easy to remain peaceful during your prayer time, or at least to bring your mind back from distraction (“The Practice of the Presence of God”).
And from her own well-tested experience, St. Teresa of Avila said these words:
Imagine that the Lord is at your side … stay with so good a Friend for as long as you can . . . If he sees that you love him to be there and are always trying to please him, you will never be able, as we put it, to send him away, nor will he ever fail you. He will help you in all your trials and you will have him everywhere.
She knew that the “only remedy” when we have given up praying regularly is to “begin again.” Persevere in prayer. Have faith. This is truly pleasing to God (1 Timothy 2:3). Plus you will find great rewards in your own life as you spend time with the Lord everyday in prayer! Then you too can echo St. Paul’s words and “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
“Lord Jesus, I desire to come into your presence in prayer every day. I want to be faithful to you not only when my prayer is flowing but also when it’s a labor of love. Holy Spirit, keep the fire of prayer burning brightly in me! I believe your grace is sufficient.”
Many thanks to The Word Among Us for allowing me to adapt meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- Take some time to meditate and reflect on the Scriptures at the beginning of the article. What do you think God is trying to reveal to you through them?
- Why do you think the pastor mentioned in the article felt he had to pray two hours, instead of one, when he knew he knew his schedule for the day would be “very busy and demanding?”
- How would you describe the obstacles that make it difficult for you to pray every day? What steps can you take to overcome these them?
- If you do not pray everyday are you willing to commit to trying to pray every day for 10-15 minutes? If not, why not?
- If you do pray every day, what are some of the fruits that have come from it? Do you have a routine you use every day? How would you describe it?
- Take some time now to pray and ask the Lord for the grace to do whatever it takes to persevere in prayer every day. Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.
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Last week I had the opportunity to participate with a group of pastors in a round-table discussion. The topic was corporate prayer (i.e. prayer meetings), and each of the pastors spoke of his church’s practice of prayer. It was a fascinating discussion and I thought it might be helpful to share a few of my takeaways.
Prayer Is Difficult. We all know this theoretically and we all know it experientially. It was both encouraging and discouraging to see it and own it together. It was encouraging to know this is a shared battle and discouraging to know that real victory will be elusive. I don’t think there was one pastor there who believed his church was excelling in prayer and who was really comfortable with his leadership and the church’s participation in this area. We should not be surprised. If prayer is the means through which God works, Satan will inevitably make it an area of concentrated attack.
Many Have Given Up. While every church has had a weekly or otherwise regular prayer meeting at one time, many have since abandoned it. Usually this is a result of the church losing its enthusiasm for prayer and their belief in its necessity. Many have made prayer supplemental instead of instrumental in the life of the church. Some have replaced the prayer meeting with programs or small groups, and some have not replaced it with anything. It seems clear that the pastor needs to show leadership here; it is unlikely a church will be more enthusiastic about prayer than its pastor is.
It’s Easier To Talk About Prayer. In many cases churches talk about prayer more than they actually pray. If there are 60 or 90 minutes set aside for a mid-week prayer meeting, often only 20 or 30 minutes are actually used to pray while the rest goes to Bible study and sharing prayer requests. It is often easier to talk about prayer and prayer requests than it actually is to dedicate a sustained period of time to praying.
Persevere. It was a blessing to hear how many churches have persevered in prayer even when attendance at the meetings is far too low and even when enthusiasm has waned. Satan knows he can undermine a church’s effectiveness by undermining a church’s prayer life. Persevere in the face of his attacks!
I learned a lot of useful tips from those pastors. Here are a few of them.
Longer ≠ Better. We need to protect ourselves and our churches from believing there is a necessary correlation between the length of a prayer and the godliness of the person praying, or between the length of a prayer and the likelihood of God answering it. God is no more likely to hear and respond to a long prayer than a short one. Many prayer meetings suffer when the people pray for too long.
Pray Honestly. A pastor needs to remind himself and his church that we do not pray to impress the other people in the room, but to pour out our hearts to God. Public prayer still has that one-to-one dimension of a child before his Father.
Pray Scripture. The pastor can and should use the prayers in Scripture as a means of teaching his people how to pray. He should also model how to pray Scripture. Where our prayers tend toward “give me!” the Bible’s prayers are far more focused on God’s purposes and Christian character.
Identify Gifting. God blesses many churches with certain people who are gifted in public prayer. Consider strategically encouraging these people to commit to your prayer meetings, to pray often, and to see this as a ministry to and for the church.
Make It God-Centered. It is easy to slip into a pattern of man-centered rather than God-centered prayer. Man-centered prayers tend to ask “how can God help me with my problems?” while God-centered prayers consider “What is God doing in this? How can I join in God’s purposes here?” This changes not only what we pray for, but also the way we pray.
Pray in Small Groups. One church has one of their small groups each week dedicate their entire time to prayer. So while the entire church may not pray together that week, one of the small groups is interceding on behalf of others.
Variety Matters. Even something as good as a prayer meeting can grow stale over time. There is value in planning out a few different kinds of prayer meetings and changing it up on a regular basis. For example, one week have the men and women pray separately; another week pray only prayers of thanksgiving or confession; another week pray for only certain kinds of requests.
Prayer is and always will be a constant battle. Do not give up!
Something jumped out at me this week during our study of Psalm 119, something I didn’t quite expect.
We are nearing the end of the study and as much as we see David delighting in God’s Word during his affliction we see him persevering in his prayers for deliverance, with no real sign of it ending.
Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts. Psalms 119:134
He holds on to his faith that God is going to deliver him from this affliction. He doesn’t give up on this prayer.
Living in a society where instant gratification is at its highest can hinder our prayer life. It’s so easy to give up on our prayer requests when we don’t see an answer immediately.
We wonder if God is even listening. We give up hope and stop praying for that one thing that once meant a great deal to us.
I was encouraged by David’s perseverance. It reminded me of the woman in Matthew whose daughter was possessed of the devil and she came to the Lord for deliverance. At first, Jesus said nothing to her.
Nothing. Can you imagine? Take a look at the exchange between them:
Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. Matthew 15:21-28
She had to ask the Lord multiple times. She didn’t give up because God was silent. She proved her faith to Him.
But how do we persevere in our own prayer life?
We see David telling God how great and wonderful His statues are throughout this chapter. We also see this woman in the book of Matthew doing the same thing.
Worshipping someone else is humbling yourself and glorifying them. God is good and deserves to be worshipped! David is full of worship despite the situation he was in. We can follow his example when we are in tough times!
This woman went from a long drawn out plea to the simple phrase of “Lord help me”.
God doesn’t need fluff in our prayers. We don’t need words of grandeur to try to convince Him into action.
He knows our hearts. Be real. Be bold like David.
Determine who your master is.
Are you being drawn away from God? What idles do you have in your life that need to be cast aside?
We all need to examine ourselves from time to time. Perhaps our prayers are being hindered because we aren’t serving the right master?
And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. 1 John 3:22
Rest your faith upon His Word.
Our God is a God who answers prayer. He is alive and in the miracle making business! Let’s not forgot we serve a mighty God!
When despair comes, go back to His Word for strength and hope.
Meditate on His promises.
Record answered prayers.
Friend, this is so important when you feel that God is continually silent in your life! Get in the habit of writing down your prayer requests, every last one. Then write down the date when its answered and cross it off. The longer you do this the more you will see that God is listening and answering!
When you get discouraged, take a look at your crossed off prayer list and be encouraged!
Keep asking until you receive an answer.
Don’t give up! Prove your sincerity to God by your persistence. Is there a lost loved one you’re praying for, a family member with an addiction, or a wayward child? Don’t stop praying until you see results. It may take years but when it happens, you’ll see the mighty hand of God at work! And that will be an exciting time!
Are you willing to put in the work? Are your prayer requests important enough to you to not give up?
I imagine we’d all say yes. A loud yes, right?!
Stay optimistic. God is at work!
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16b
Your turn! Are you persevering in your prayer life or have you let it slip? How can I pray for you today?
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About Anastasia Safee
Just an average woman inspiring women to pursue holiness in their lives. Hopefully, you can find encouragement and tips on being a godly, frugal wife and mother here at my blog. Anastasia