How effective, stirring, successful are your prayers? When you pray, does God ANSWER? Do your prayers GET RESULTS? If not, WHY not?
PRAYER has been banned in the public schools of the United States since 1963 when the well-known atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hare won her suit before the Supreme Court. Because of her suit, Bible reading and prayer in the public schools have been outlawed — declared unconstitutional. But why all the commotion, all the furor, about prayer? Is there more to prayer than most people have realized? The truth behind the assault on prayer in the United States and the Western world — if it were known — would astonish the world. Believe it or not, the archenemy of prayer is not any particular out-spoken atheist or group of men, but a sinister, diabolical spiritual being who seeks the destruction of mankind! That nefarious being is Satan the devil. Satan especially hates the prayers of God's people for one simple reason: he knows what they can accomplish! He knows the potential POWER of prayer!
Official BAN on Prayer
Centuries ago, Satan inspired another nation to officially ban prayer. Any petition of any god, even the true God, was denied for a period of thirty days. Anybody who violated the civil regulation forfeited his life! You can read about this intriguing historical parallel to our day in the book of Daniel. The kingdom of Persia passed a law which outlawed prayer for thirty days (Dan. 6:7). Those who broke the law were condemned to be cast alive into a pit of voracious, ravenous lions! Daniel, however, was a praying man. He did not falter. He did not reason to himself, "It's only for 30 days. Then I can pray once again, as I used to do." He made no excuses. Even though praying endangered his life, we read: "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and PRAYED, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime" (Dan. 6:10). Because of his fidelity to God, Daniel was hailed brusquely into court, tried and condemned, and his sentence was immediately carried out. He was thrown to the lions (verse 16). Prayer to God could have cost him his life! But God was with Daniel and delivered him from his enemies. The hungry, lean, gaunt lions did not touch him (verses 20-22). He wasn't hurt in the least (verse 23). Prayer obviously meant a great deal to Daniel. How much does it mean to YOU? Do you pray regularly and earnestly to your heavenly Father? Do you value prayer — contact with the God, the One who MADE you — as being more important than your life itself? Daniel did. And his life reveals the POWER, the effectiveness, of constant, diligent prayer! He was a man greatly beloved in God's sight (Dan. 10:11, 19). An angel of God told him: "Fear not, 0 Daniel! fur ever since you applied your mind to gain understanding, and to humble yourself before your God, your prayers have been heard..." (verse 12, Goodspeed translation). God answered Daniel's prayers, gave him special wisdom, visions, and revelations of prophecy. He used Daniel in a great way in His Work during that time! The truth is, those who do not pray are CUT OFF FROM GOD — from the Source of all spiritual POWER in the universe! Those who scoff at the concept of prayer have overlooked something. They have bypassed a HIDDEN DIMENSION of reality which is far more real than the physical earth itself! They are in deep ignorance of the existence of the Creator God who does answer prayer! Have you established contact with that supreme God through prayer? Do you pray to Him daily? Do you bring the problems and affairs of your own life before His throne of grace and mercy? Is prayer something which often seems like a waste of time, certainly nothing to get "carried away" about? How often do YOU pray? How seriously do you regard prayerful contact with the Almighty God who fashioned the universe and who gives you every breath of air you breathe? How important is prayer to you, personally?
The DYNAMISM of Prayer
Few people realize in our godless world today that even in the atomic nuclear age there is a tremendous POWER available to mankind which has seldom been tapped — the power of prayer! Prayer — when rightly used — packs explosive power. It is spiritual dynamite! It gets things done; it accomplishes MIRACLES; it is the driving thrust behind the Work of the living God; it provides the irresistible ENERGY which motivates, moves, and inspires articles in TOMORROW'S WORLD, and which inspires the power-packed sermons of God's true ministers as they preach the Gospel to the world! Prayer is a mighty source of spiritual dynamism, because real, efficacious prayer puts you right in contact with the supreme Power of the whole UNIVERSE — it brings you right before the glorious, resplendent, dazzling Throne of the great Creator GOD! Have you ever thought about prayer in that light before? If not, maybe it's time you did! Notice, from the Bible, just a few of the accomplishments of real prayer. The Bible is full of examples of effective prayer, examples which were written down and recorded for OUR benefit, today (See Rom. 15:4). For instance, Moses was a humble man — a man who didn't think he had the ability to lead Israel out of Egypt, a man who didn't feel he was particularly eloquent (Num. 12:3; Ex. 4:10). Perhaps he stammered or stuttered when he spoke. Nevertheless, when Moses prayed, God took notice. Even when Israel fell into depravity and corruption and God was angry with them; and determined to destroy the whole nation, Moses fell on his face and interceded for Israel — and God still listened! Because of the one prayer of this one man, God changed His mind, and the whole course of the future of the world was CHANGED! (See EX. 32:7-14.) Does that example show you the unconquerable power of heartfelt prayer? Elijah was a human being with similar drives to most people (James 5:17). When Jezebel sought Elijah's life, he fled into the wilderness (I Kings 19:1-4), very discouraged. He was spiritually and physically exhausted. Yet this was the man God listened to when he prayed that there would be no rain on the earth for three years (I Kings 17:1). This was the man who made an altar, put wood under a bullock, and poured four barrels of water over it, drenching it three times in that manner, and who then prayed to God: "Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again" (I Kings 18:36-37). How effective was this short, 20 — second prayer? "Then the FIRE of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench" (verse 38). There is a convincing testimony of the DYNAMIC POWER of earnest prayer!
Other Examples of Prayer
Or take the example of Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, a Levite. She was barren and had no children (I Sam. 1:5). As any woman knows who desires children but hasn't been able to have them, this is a particularly moving trial. It is even more of a trial if relatives make fun of you, scoff, and jeer at you — as happened in Hannah's case (verses 6-7). We read that Hannah was "in bitterness of soul, and PRAYED unto the LORD, and wept sore" (verse 10). This was not a proverbial "sleepy-time prayer." She was greatly moved emotionally. She continued praying earnestly and persistently, though not audibly. In verse 13, "Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only HER LIPS MOVED, but her voice was not heard...." The High Priest Eli saw her lips moving and assumed she was drunk and was about to reproach her for it. But Hannah answered, "No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD" (Verse 15). Hannah was not some sort of "privileged person." In fact, there is "NO RESPECT OF PERSONS with God" (Rom. 2:11). She was more or less just like any other woman, not a "spiritual giant" as such. But she was sincere; she prayed from her heart; she poured out her whole being into her prayer — AND SHE WAS HEARD! (Verses 19-20.) Take one further example of effective prayer — prayer that really accomplishes things! In Acts, the fourth chapter, we read that the early New Testament Church of God assembled together and lifted up their voice to God in prayer (Acts 4:23-24). They recounted before the God who made heaven and earth the persecutions which they were experiencing, and concluded, "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings; and grant unto thy servants, that with all BOLDNESS they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy servant Jesus" (verses 29-30). What was the result of this prayer? "And when they had prayed, the place was SHAKEN where they were assembled together; and they were all FILLED with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the word of God with BOLDNESS" (verse 31). An earthquake occurred, jarring the building in which they were gathered - God moved the earth as a sign He was answering their prayer! We could go on and on, telling of Hezekiah's prayer, when the sun went back ten degrees (II Kings 20); or the prayer of Joshua, when the sun and moon stood still in the sky (Joshua 10:12-13); the prayer of Samuel when the Philistine army was supernaturally struck down (I Sam. 7:9-10); the prayers of King Jehoshaphat (II Chron. 20:12) and even the wicked King Manasseh who humbled himself and besought God while in captivity, and God heard him and restored him to his throne in Jerusalem (II Chron. 33:11-13). The point is simply this — God ANSWERS PRAYER! But the question is this: Does God answer YOUR prayers? If not, there has to be a reason! God does not "play favorites." But there are certain KEYS to powerful, effective, answered prayer. Perhaps these keys can best be summarized by this question:
Do You Put Your HEART Into Your Prayers?
In every example of answered prayer in the Bible, it is self-evident that those who prayed really PUT THEIR HEARTS into their prayers! They did not pray halfheartedly, nonchalantly, disinterestedly, languidly, or lethargically. Even Christ, who set us an example by the way He lived and prayed, prayed with His whole being. On at least one occasion He "continued all night in prayer to God" (Luke 6:12). Another time He rose up Ira great while before day... and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed" (Mark 1 :35). One time He prayed so earnestly that "His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44). Christ's prayers were all answered! Why? Here's the answer: "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and TEARS unto him that was able to save him from death, AND WAS HEARD in that he feared" (Heb. 5:7). Christ "emptied Himself" in prayer. He poured out His whole being in prayer. He prayed with strong crying and tears! How often do you pray like that? Christ pulled out all the stops. He didn't hang back. He didn't pray lethargically, as so many do, today. He prayed INTENSELY. He prayed BOLDLY! How earnest — how intense — how bold — are your prayers? God rebukes His people, modern Israel, saying, "Though it was I who redeemed them, they have lied to me; they never put their heart into their prayers" (Hosea 7:14, Moffatt translation). The Apostle Paul wrote of a Christian in his day, "Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring FERVENTLY for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a GREAT ZEAL for YOU..." (Col. 4:12-13). Just as a huge ladle of molten steel in a steel plant contains metal that glows brilliantly from the HEAT that has been applied to it, so your prayers should be filled with energy, with your whole being poured into them! Those kind of prayers are the kind that get RESULTS! Those kind of prayers God will ANSWER! Says the Apostle James, "The effectual FERVENT prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). If that's the way you pray, then your prayers, too, will work MIRACLES, in your own life, and for the Work of God!
PREVAIL in Prayer!
Needless to say, if you want to have your prayers answered, you must BELIEVE there is a God, and that His Word is true (Heb. 11:6). You must have FAITH in His promises (Matt. 9:29). And you must OBEY Him, and keep His Commandments, to the best of your ability (I John 3:22). Also, there are times when you must persevere in prayer, and never give up (Luke 18:1) — never grow weary, fainthearted, or quit. But even if we do these things, we must pray FERVENTLY, with feeling, emotion, intensity, and zeal. Effective prayers are not merely mental gymnastics or intellectual exercise. They are not necessarily replete with detailed, logical arguments. But they are heartfelt, and fervent! When Jacob wrestled with the One who became Christ, he fought and strained every muscle of his body until he prevailed (Gen. 32:24-28). He endured and wrestled until he To prevail means "to overcome, to succeed, to win the victory, to conquer, to win the fight." An army that prevails over an enemy is VICTORIOUS. A nation that prevails in war emerges the victor. In a race, a 100-yard-dash, man who prevails is the one who wins! Even so, if you are going to PREVAIL IN PRAYER, and have your prayers answered, and get RESULTS, then remember the faithful example of stalwart Daniel; remember the tenacity of Jacob; remember the fervor of Elijah; remember the humility and intensity of Moses; remember the brokenhearted, wholehearted prayer of Hannah — and above all, remember the fervency of the prayers of Jesus Christ! The Apostle Paul wrote: "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come BOLDLY unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:14-16). How "bold" are you in prayer to God? How fervent? Your prayers can work miracles, accomplish great good, influence kings and presidents in favor of God's Work, open doors for the Gospel to be preached to new areas, help open the hearts of those being called by God, help raise up the sick and afflicted. Your prayers can make a real difference. PREVAILED! Will they?