If Jesus was walking on earth today in His human body, I believe His message to today’s church would be similar to what He said to Peter at the Garden of Gethsemane. I think He might say: “It’s time to AWAKEN from your spiritual slumber and pray!”
If you look up the word AWAKEN in a dictionary, it means to wake up from sleep and to action. Today, much of Christ’s church is in a spiritual slumber. We need to be stirred to action. We need to pray.
I haven’t been sleeping well recently. I’ve had a hard time getting to sleep, so when the alarm goes off in the morning I tend to push the snooze alarm to get just a little more sleep. This isn’t good physically – my days are usually full of things that need to be done. But “pushing the snooze alarm” spiritually is even more dangerous. God is calling His church to prayer, and to pray effectively we need to be spiritually awake.
Let me start by saying I am not an expert on prayer. Like most of you, I am a learner. I’ve made a commitment to spend time daily in prayer, and that usually begins by responding to the Scripture passages I’ve read that day, praying God’s Word back to Him. This is one easy way to know that my prayers will be heard.
There are many keys to effective prayer, so I will just list a few. This is an area in which most of us have room to grow, and numerous resources are available for more in-depth study.
Keys to Effective Prayer:
1. Remember that prayer is an incredible privilege that God has given us. Whether we personally are facing a time of need, or someone else we care for has a need for prayer, we can come before our Lord with confidence that He is listening.
- “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
- “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15 NIV)
2. Effective prayer begins with becoming quiet before the Lord and focusing on His presence. Be still, slow down and turn your mind from the things of this world to the presence of God, through praise and thanksgiving.
- “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”(Psalms 46:10 NASB)
- “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:4 NIV)
3. Sin separates us from God, so the next keys to effective prayer are to humble ourselves, confess our sins, resist the devil, and submit to God.
- “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV)
- “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.” (Mark 11:25 NASB)
- “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:6b-7 NIV)
4. Next, be sure that you are praying according to the will of God. Take time to listen to God’s voice, allowing Him to direct your prayers. And as mentioned above, pray the Word of God, as specific verses come to mind. Pray with faith that God will hear and answer, because He has been involved from the beginning of your prayer time.
- “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” (Mark 11:24 NASB)
5. Pray for your personal needs, whether you need wisdom in a difficult situation, a financial need met or whatever is on your heart, lift it up to God in faith that He hears.
- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)
- “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” (James 1:5-8 NIV)
6. Effective prayer looks beyond our own needs to the needs of others. Whether pleading with God for those lost in their sin, for others in the body of Christ who are struggling in some way, or for those needing physical, emotional, or spiritual healing, lift the needs of those God has put on your heart up to His throne of grace.
- “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” (1 Timothy 2:1 NLT)
- “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:44 NIV)
- “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.” (James 5:14-15 NIV)
7. Finally, we need to pray for our city, state, nation and the world. Pray for the church, including those facing persecution for their faith. Pray for missionaries, who have the only message that can change individuals and nations. Pray for spiritual leaders, who need wisdom in these difficult times. Pray for those in civil authority. Ask God to show you who especially needs your prayers today.
- “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” (Colossians 4:2-4 NIV)
- “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44 NIV)
- “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV)
- “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 NIV)
James 5:16 says that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (NIV) – and if you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are clothed in His righteousness. So wake up! Receive your prayer assignment for today from God. And pray.