Keys to Effective Prayer Part 2
KEYS TO EFFECTIVE PRAYER–PART 2
In Part 1, we considered one of the lessons from Mark 9:14-29 – that we are invited to partner with God in His kingdom work by praying earnestly to Him. This call to pray is a call to pray expectant, faith-filled prayers:
- “All things are possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23 ESV)
- “[Whatever] you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24 ESV).
- “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14 ESV)
Then we identified one of the keys to effective prayer: Scripture saturation! That is, our hearts should be so full of Scripture’s priorities, perspectives, and promises that these are the very things that inform and energize our praying. Jesus makes this connection for us: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7 ESV) Therefore let’s pray into God’s revealed will with a heart that is aching for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 ESV).
That was Part 1, now onto Part 2. Here I want to highlight five other keys to effective prayer. Let these keys function as motivation for you to be transformed into a fruitful vessel of prayer.
First, living righteously is key to effective prayer. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16 ESV) “The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the LORD is against those who do evil” (Psalm 34:15-16 ESV). The priorities of prayer (“Your kingdom come” comes before “Give us this day our daily bread”, Matthew 6:10, 11 ESV) must be reflected in the way that we actually live: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [such as food and clothing] will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 ESV). God delights to show Himself faithful toward those who are walking blamelessly before Him.
Second, forgiving others is key to effective prayer. After Jesus teaches us to pray with faith and confidence in Mark 11:24, He immediately adds: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25 ESV) Would you like to be effective in praying for the Father to grant awakening, reformation, and spiritual breakthrough to our dry and weary land? Would you like to be effective in praying for revival and renewal in our churches and in our families? Then start here: put away bitterness, grudges, petty complaints, foolish disagreements, and a vengeful spirit, and be gracious to forgive others. Truly seek to be at peace with your imperfect brothers and sisters. Effective prayer warriors are conduits of mercy.
Third, praying with perseverance is key to effective prayer. Jesus told one parable – called the parable of the unrighteous judge or the parable of the persistent widow – to make this very point: “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart… And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?” (Luke 18:1, 7 ESV) If we pray about something occasionally or sporadically, then we have only a minimal or moderate burden for it. But if we pray earnestly day and night, if we do not cease to pray for others (Colossians 1:9), if we always struggle on behalf of others in prayer (Colossians 4:12), if we stay alert (Ephesians 6:18) and keep praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17), then this demonstrates a deep and sustained burden – a longing and yearning for the Lord to display His grace and power. Pray into the answer. How long? Until the answer comes.
Fourth, praise and thanksgiving are key accompaniments to petition and supplication. Scripture both models and teaches this principle. The 150 psalms mingle praise, thanksgiving, and supplication. Paul is full of thanksgiving as he prays for the Colossians (Colossians 1:3-12). The instruction to “pray without ceasing” is sandwiched in between “[rejoice] always” and “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV). Before the earthquake that set the stage for evangelizing the Philippian jailer, “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25 ESV). Later Paul wrote a letter to the Philippian church, which included this instruction: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6 ESV). It is good and right to present our requests to the Lord. But we ought to remember that the Lord whose help we seek is praiseworthy before the specific answers to prayer ever come (thus we praise Him). And we also ought to remember that the Lord whose help we seek has a proven track record of faithfulness and mercy toward His people (thus we thank Him).
Fifth, praying together is key to effective prayer. It is true, of course, that “[the] prayer of a righteous person has great power” (James 5:16 ESV). And yet there is also a peculiar power that attends God’s people when they pray together. Jesus said, “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:19-20 ESV) While this instruction was given in the context of instructing the church how to exercise discipline against an unrepentant person (see Matthew 18:15-17), the promise of Matthew 18:19-20 seems to point to a more general principle, namely, that the Lord is with His people in a heightened way when they are gathered together in His name for the express purpose of doing His will. In our recent Resurrection Day sermon we looked at Acts 3:1–4:35, and this included a great prayer in Acts 4: “And when they heard it [what the chief priests and the elders had said to Peter and John], they lifted up their voices together” in prayer (Acts 4:24 ESV). God heard and answered their prayer in a mighty way (Acts 4:31)!
So, with an open Bible and a believing heart, get together with your brothers and sisters and call upon the Father to glorify His name, manifest His kingdom, and accomplish His will. Who knows what the sovereign Lord might do if we His people, indwelt richly by His Word, would live righteously, forgive graciously, and – with praise and thanksgiving – pray together persistently until the answers come?
NOTE: Header Image/Featured Image Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash