God's Plan for Prayer
- Mary Southerland Journey Ministry, Inc
- 2021 24 Aug
I am not a seamstress. But when I was in high school, friends convinced me to take a home economics class that supposedly had minimal sewing. I was confident I could slide my way through that section. However, I did not count on a very determined teacher who seemed convinced she could teach me to sew.
Mrs. Hill brought out the pattern for a "simple blouse" and told me to cut out the material according to the lines displayed. Easy enough! I began cutting but soon grew bored and threw the design away. I wanted to be more creative. The result was disastrous. I needed a pattern, a plan to follow.
As I have walked with Jesus Christ through the years, I have discovered the truth that I am much more successful when I follow God's plan. Obedience is the heart of discipleship.
One of the most critical areas of discipleship is prayer. And God has a plan for prayer that answers these questions:
- Why pray?
- Where should I pray?
- When do I pray?
- How do I pray?
Why Should We Pray?
Have you ever wondered why we should even bother to pray since God already knows the outcome? Isn't prayer just a religious exercise? The word of God is filled with many reasons to pray. Here are just a few.
To Glorify God
John 14:13 "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father."
To Obey God
James 5:16 "Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective."
To Find Victory
Matthew 26: 41 "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing, but the body is weak."
To Please God
Proverbs 15:8" The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him."
To Receive What We Need
John 15:7 "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you."
To Help Others
James 6:18 "Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.
To Disarm Our Enemies
Luke 6:28 "Pray for the happiness of those who curse you; implore God's blessing on those who hurt you."
2 Thessalonians 3:2 "And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith."
James 5:14-15 "Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up."
Prayer is the fruit of an intimate relationship with God. Simply put, we should pray about everything. If it is important to us, it is important to God.
Where Should We Pray?
Matthew 6:5-6 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
Prayer is the source of power for the believer. Praying in secret is the idea of a daily quiet time, sitting at the feet of Jesus, talking with him, and listening to him. All of Hell will stand against that time because all of Hell knows how powerful it is.
In 1959, Catherine Marshall was newly remarried and trying to raise three stepchildren. She and her husband, Len LeSourd, could not seem to find the time to pray together. So, they began what they called The Coffeepot Experiment. An automatically timed percolator aromatically woke them every morning at six. They spent that time in prayer - and it changed their marriage and their lives. The best time for prayer isn't found. It's made.
Public prayer is an essential part of worship. But our private prayer is what determines the validity of our public prayer.
Hebrews 10:25 "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
Praying in public allows us to pray with others. Doing so not only strengthens and encourages the body of Christ, but it also unifies believers. Recruit a prayer partner. Pray together in person, in prayer groups, in large group worship, and during family devotions.
When Should We Pray?
1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray continually!"
"Continually" literally means" direction of the sunrise." I love the perspective of praying from morning until evening – praying continually. Prayer should be as natural as breathing. Prayer is not a particular position or posture. It is a two-way conversation. Don't miss this vital truth - there is a talking part of prayer and a listening part. We tend to approach prayer with a vending machine attitude. If we say the right thing in the right way, we will receive the correct answer. I have come to think of prayer as talking on the phone and never hanging up.
I thought our daughter Danna was on the phone with one of her best friends, Amanda, but when I walked into the room to let Danna know dinner would soon be ready, I saw the phone lying on the sofa beside her. "What are you doing, honey?" I asked. "Amanda and I are watching television together," Danna replied. Then, seeing the look of confusion on my face, she continued, "Amanda had to eat dinner, but she'll be right back." That's the idea of praying without ceasing. It's not God's availability that is in question – it is ours. He is always waiting to hear the voice of his children in prayer. It is not the unanswered prayer that is the problem. It is the "unoffered" prayer. Pray without ceasing.
How Should We Pray?
I love the story of a grandfather who saw his granddaughter kneeling beside her bed, head bowed, and hands folded, repeating the alphabet. "What are you doing?" he asked her. She explained, "I'm saying my prayers, but I couldn't think of just what I wanted to say. So, I'm just saying all the letters. God can put them together however He thinks best."
The words we say when we pray aren't nearly as important as the attitude of our heart, the life behind the prayer, and the honesty of the conversation. However, I am convinced that a plan can help us get started. Here is a simple plan for prayer. It addresses some crucial elements that are present in effective prayer.
A - Adoration
Exodus 15:2 "The LORD is my strength and my song. He is my God, and I will praise him, my Father's God, and I will exalt him."
We should come into God's presence with adoration, with an acknowledgment of who He is. Adoration is not praising him for what he's done but a confession of who he is. Why is adoration so essential?
- Adoration reminds us that God is holy.
Isaiah 37: 16 "O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth."
- Adoration reminds us of God's power.
Psalm 68:34 "Power belongs to God! His majesty shines down on Israel; his strength is mighty in the heavens."
As we praise God for what He has done, we are reminded of his power and willingness to demonstrate that power in our lives.
- Adoration refocuses our prayer.
As we praise God, our agenda in prayer may change because we begin to see what matters. Our gaze should be upon him while our glance is on our circumstances.
Psalm 143:10 "Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground."
C - Confession
One of the barriers to powerful prayer is unconfessed sin. To confess sin means to "agree with, acknowledge, or speak the same thing." Confession of sin is a response to the holiness of God. We need to become brutally honest about our sins, confessing each one specifically. When we fail to confess our sins, it not only saddens the heart of God but also renders our spiritual walk powerless and our prayer life ineffective.
2 Corinthians 7:10 "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death."
God wants us to agree with Him and return to a love relationship. The New Testament uses "forgiveness" in two ways. One way is the legal sense of forgiveness. The death of Jesus on the cross takes care of every sin - past, present, and future. So, when we sin, we know it is forgiven from a legal standpoint.
A second way "forgiveness" is used in the New Testament is the relational sense. Sin breaks the intimacy we have with God. Satan likes to accuse us of our sin, which brings "worldly sorrow." It's time for us to get serious about sin and call it like it is. For example:
When Jane called, I told her I was leaving when I wasn't. I just wanted to avoid her call, and that makes me a liar. The cashier at the bank gave me $20 extra. I didn't correct her and kept the money. That makes me a thief. Get the picture? As we become honest about our sins and diligently confess them, we become more aware of and dissatisfied with corruption in our life. That is when sin begins to lose its power over us, and we become more like Christ.
T - Thanksgiving
Psalm 103:2 "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits."
We can feel grateful and never actually give thanks. In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus tells the story of the ten men healed of leprosy. Imagine how they felt as they walked away - whole! I know they all probably felt grateful, but how many came back to thank Jesus? Just one. Jesus was disappointed in the nine who didn't come back to thank Him but joyful over the one who did.
When we practice thanksgiving, our focus begins to be on the blessings of God. That focus can change a negative outlook to a heavenly one.
S - Supplication
"Supplication" means requests.
Philippians 4:6 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
Adoration. Confession. Thanksgiving. Then requests! We often pray backward, starting with requests. God is interested in every detail of my life. Nothing is too big or too small. Therefore, I need to pray specifically and personally.
Consider breaking down requests into groups: Family; Friends; Personal; Church; Seekers; Special needs; Government.
That is seven groups for seven days, emphasizing one each day. Some people like to write out their prayers. Do what works for you! Just pray!
Here's the truth! We are all guilty of praying for a specific need, but we give up when that need is not immediately met. We go to every other source in the world, hoping to find someone or something that can either alter the circumstance about which we are praying or make the prayer request happen! If we come to God honestly, he will direct our prayer. He will either change us or change our circumstances because we participate in God's work as we pray. And God is all for that.
Related: Listen to our FREE prayer podcast, Teach Us to Pray with Christina Patterson. You can find all the episodes at LifeAudio.com. Here's Episode 1:
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/AntonioGuillem
Mary Southerland is also the Co-founder of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotion ministry for women. Mary’s books include, Hope in the Midst of Depression, Sandpaper People, Escaping the Stress Trap, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, 10-Day Trust Adventure, You Make Me So Angry, How to Study the Bible, Fit for Life, Joy for the Journey, and Life Is So Daily. Mary relishes her ministry as a wife, a mother to their two children, Jered and Danna, and Mimi to her six grandchildren – Jaydan, Lelia, Justus, Hudson, Mo, and Nori.