Why Prayer is Important
Prayer is among the most important disciplines that mature Christians learn in their walk with the LORD. The saying goes that “prayer changes things.” That is not exactly true. If it were not for our loving, merciful and sovereign God, prayer would accomplish nothing. But since we have a God who answers prayers, the importance of prayer cannot be understated.
Most Christians agree with this assessment, so proving the value of prayer is not necessary. Even the most immature Christians recognize and acknowledge that they should pray – that it would be good for them if they did pray, and that prayer would change their lives if they did it more often.
The Bible reminds us again and again that when God’s people pray, things happen:
“Abraham prayed to God, and God healed…”
“Isaac prayed to the LORD …and Rebekah his wife conceived.”
“Moses prayed to the LORD, and the fire died down.”
Hannah prayed for a child. She “called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the LORD.””
“Elisha prayed” and some eyes were opened, others were blinded.
“Hezekiah …and Isaiah …prayed” and stopped the Assyrian army from invading Judah.
“Ezra prayed” and his people repented of their rebellion.
Daniel prayed and God delivered him from the lions.
Jonah prayed, and God delivered him by the fish, and then from the fish.
Jesus prayed, and taught his disciples to pray.
They prayed, and taught the church to pray.
But in spite of this biblical evidence, I dare say that we all stand convicted that we do not pray enough, and feel defeated by our sad attempts to reach heaven in prayer. We read Paul’s challenge to “pray without ceasing,” but are ashamed to admit that we do not live up to that challenge. Like a writer, who knows she should be writing, but suffers from writers block, we pray-ers are often stricken with pray-ers block.
There are no easy, automatic solutions to the problem of pray-ers block. Like regular bible study, consistent giving, and loving fellowship with other believers, regular prayer is a discipline. It can be accomplished, but not without hard work, determination, and self-control.
Perhaps some readers are ready to stop reading now – afraid that my counsel has strayed away from the doctrine of salvation by grace. Let me assure you that I have not done so. Every spiritual and physical blessing we ever receive from the LORD is through grace — bought by the blood of Christ and not our own works.
But the champions of salvation by grace were also the champions of regular disciplined prayer. They taught that once crossing the threshold of deliverance we would be faced with a wilderness that we would need to be guided through. That guidance comes through the Holy Spirit, and we keep in contact with him through prayer. They knew from the writings of Moses that it is possible to be rescued by grace and still die in the wilderness. For that reason they commanded prayer.
To put it another way, our call into the church by grace is a call to be the church – which requires doing battle in the spirit realm. God has taken up his battle armour for us. “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.” That does not mean that we are bystanders in the spiritual war. No, by faith in God’s grace we must:
· Trust in his truth (fasten on the belt),
· Trust in his righteousness (put on the breastplate),
· Trust in his gospel of peace (put on the shoes),
· Trust in his protection (take up the shield of faith),
· Trust in his salvation (take the helmet),
· Trust in his word (take the sword of the Spirit)
But that trust is demonstrated by “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints”. The kingdom of God is at war with the kingdom of darkness. We demonstrate which side we are on –our citizenship in the kingdom –by doing warfare – on our knees.
Some practical Suggestions
Pray-ers block is not something that can be overcome by putting into practice a few simple steps to success. However, like writers block, it can be overcome if the sufferer really wants to, and is willing to change her behaviour to make it happen. To that end, here are a few suggestions of the kind of changes that have helped others pray more consistently.
1. Pray out loud. For many, attempts to pray silently are defeated by minds that get distracted too easily. Some have found that praying out loud helps them to concentrate, and keeps their minds from wandering off.
2. Write your prayers. Writing out one’s thoughts to the LORD often helps to keep those prayers on target. Writing is also understood as being more substantial than merely speaking, which can help the pray-er to realize the significance of what he is doing. The Bible contains many examples of prayers offered to God which have been written for our benefit.
3. Read and/or listen to other people’s prayers. Those prayers written in the bible are of benefit to us today. Also other prayers by great saints of the past, and the things they have written about prayer can serve to guide us in expressing our devotion to the LORD, in seeking his will, and in praying for others. They cannot replace our prayers to God, but can serve as examples for us to follow.
4. Make lists. Some of the great warriors of prayer that I have known brought lists with them to prayer meetings. The lists helped them to focus on particular people and specific needs. The lists were also evidence that they took prayer seriously. This suggestion is particularly helpful if one is task-oriented. Be creative! Sources of these lists can include:
a. church bulletins and directories,
b. social networks,
d. prayer calendars,
g. school yearbooks,
h. club membership lists.
5. Illustrate. Use pictures to help focus your prayers. One of my lists is my friends on Facebook. Having profile pictures associated with each name helps me to stay focused on them and their needs as I pray. When we were foreign missionaries, my family benefited greatly from an army of pray-ers who kept our prayer card in their Bibles, or on their refrigerators. Regularly seeing our picture reminded them to keep praying for us.
6. Covenant. Make agreements with yourself and the LORD to pray for specific things at specific times. Examples of such covenants include:
a. praying for a congregation every time you pass the building where they worship,
b. praying for everyone you know on their birthdays,
c. praying for political leaders every time you see the national flag,
d. praying for the sick and injured that you know every time you see a hospital sign or see or hear an ambulance,
e. praying for people with a certain first name every time you see that name in writing, or hear it spoken.
f. dividing all your lists into seven categories, then assigning a day of the week to each category.
7. Record. When you pray for specific things, keep records of the requests so that you can see how God is answering your prayers. We often miss the joy of discovering how much God is listening because we fail to check back on the status of prayers previously prayed.
There are victories to be won, and obstacles to be overcome which will only happen when God’s people appeal to him to intervene. God is looking for a people who are willing to persevere through the times when prayer seems dry and distant. He is looking for people who see every challenge they face as an opportunity to pray until he does something about it. He is looking for a people who are not satisfied with a “normal” prayer life. We can be a people like that if we only learn to persevere in prayer.
 Genesis 20:17.
 Genesis 25:21.
 Numbers 11:2.
 1 Samuel 1:20.
 2 Kings 6:17-18.
 2 Chronicles 32:20 -21.
 Ezra 10:1 .
 Daniel 6:10.
 Jonah 2:1, 10.
 Luke 11:1; Matthew 6:9.
 Acts 1:24; 4:31; James 5:13-16.
 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
 Isaiah 59:17.
 Ephesians 6:13-17.
 Ephesians 6:18.