Prerequisites For Effective Prayer
- 2003 22 Jul
Bob Russell has seen his share of answered prayer. As senior minister of Southeast Christian Church, where more than 17,000 attend worship services weekly, Russell has seen lost people saved, sick people restored, threatened homes unified and barren wombs opened. And though he doesn't offer readers "easy steps" to getting what one wants from God, Russell 's new book, When God Answers Prayer, does reiterate one iron-clad principle: prayer works. Through examples, drawn from his own experience, the experience of those in his congregation, and from scripture, Russell's new book leaves readers freshly convinced of the power of prayer.
Rather than teaching the reader how to pray, Russell shares stories to motivate the reader to try prayer in his/her own life. He points to the character of God to reveal how, like a loving father, God is moved by the requests of his children. Following is an expert:
In Jesus' Name
James says a prerequisite to powerful prayers is that they be "in the name of the Lord" (James 5:14). Jesus said, "The Father will give you whatever you ask in my name" (John 15:16). There is power in the name of Jesus. When you pray in Jesus' name, the Holy Spirit intercedes for you. He knows you better than you know yourself. He also knows the will of God because he is one with God. Only the Spirit of God can bring your heart and God's heart together to make something happen that is agreeable to both parties!
Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, `Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:20). If you want God to answer your prayer, begin with the confidence that there is a God who created you, loves you and wants to respond to your prayer. God wants you to come to him with a genuine heart, believing that he is good and has the power to answer your prayer.
Right Relationship With Others
The Bible in 1 John 4:20-21 makes it clear that we cannot have a right relationship with God if we're full of hatred for our brother. A loving parent wants his children to get along with one another. Before God grants credibility to your prayers, he wants you to be in harmony with your Christian brothers and sisters. When you are at odds with another Christian, you are at odds with God, and you are not ready to pray. Go make things right with your brother, then offer your prayer to God. Once you have made every effort to restore a right relationship with others, by confessing to them your sins and asking forgiveness, or forgiving their sins toward you, then you can pray with a clear conscience.
Do you pray in your prayers? A lot of people don't. They just lazily say religious words and their hearts are never really in their prayers. Jesus said, "When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words" (Matthew 6:7). The pagan worship consisted of repeating chants over and over again to their gods. They thought there was merit in their droning on and on. Jesus told his followers that prayer was not to be like that. Prayer should be an intimate conversation between two beings who care about each other. God is not concerned with verbosity - he's concerned with intensity. It's not the length of your prayer or the cleverness of the words, but the sincerity of your heart that matters to God.
James 5:16 in the King James reads, "The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." God is more likely to answer your prayer if you ask "fervently." When you are having a casual conversation with your wife or husband, you might allow the television to distract you or a phone call to interrupt you. But if you are asking for something that to you is very important, you probably turn off the television and refuse to answer the phone so there are no distractions. It must be difficult for God to think your request is serious when your mind wanders, or you refuse to set aside a special time to talk to him about it apart from ringing phones and other demands, or when you fall asleep!
"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened" (Luke 11:9-10). The words for ask, seek and knock are in the present tense, which in the Greek language denote continual action: Keep on asking, seeking and knocking. So don't quit praying just because your prayer isn't answered on the first request.
I'm convinced that we don't pray big enough. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him" (Mark 11:23). One of the reasons our church has been blessed so much by God is that our elders have been bold. They have a slogan, "We are going to try something so big that if God isn't in it, it will fail." We've tried a lot of big things, and some of them have failed! But more often than not, God has blessed those audacious requests, and we've seen some mighty big answers to prayer.
From "When God Answers Prayer" by Bob Russell, with Rusty Russell. Available Aug. 5, 2003,Howard Publishing.
About the Author: At just 22 years of age, Bob Russell became the Pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Thirty-five years later, that small congregation of 120 members has become one of the largest churches in America, with 17,000 people attending the three worship services every weekend. An accomplished author, Bob has written over a dozen books. He also has a weekly column in The Lookout , a magazine printed by Standard Publishing. A highly respected speaker, Bob is heard weekly on The Living Word, a nationally syndicated radio program.