I wish to bring you some relief by sharing that no one is born with the natural ability to pray well. Join the ranks because there are many that feel their prayer life needs an AED, and others may feel their prayers are nominally effective. But then there are those who have had incredible results of their prayers being answered. The disciples had asked, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). They had prayed all their life and yet something about the quality and quantity of Jesus’ praying caused them to see how little they knew about prayer.
As I am reading scripture, the most astonishing characteristic of Jesus’ prayers is that when He prayed for others, He never concluded by saying “If it be your will.” This was the same for apostles or prophets. They didn’t doubt whether what they were asking for was correct or not. They were so immersed in the Spirit that they knew what should be done.
The first step in learning how to pray is that prayer is an exercise in listening. When we are interceding for others in prayer, we’re asking God intervene in a person’s life. But how? So, we must ask God what His will is.“What would please You?” “What would advance Your kingdom?” You’ll soon see that your goals begin to align with God’s. However, there comes a time when your goals come in conflict with the will and way of God. Then you must let go of your will and follow the Master who in the garden prayed, “Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” Luke (22:42).
This is called listening for guidance. Without proper listening, the prayers are less likely to be answered because what you’re asking does not align with the direction of God’s will. When we tune into God’s plan and purpose, God affirms our partnership in fulfilling His purpose in and through our prayer.
Now don’t fall into discouragement thinking that since everything in the universe is already set, things cannot be changed. If things cannot be changed, why pray? The Bible teaches that we are co-laborers with God, and that we are working with God to determine the outcome of events (1 Cor. 3:9). When Moses prayed, he asked bold things because he knew his prayer could change things, even God’s mind (Ex. 32:14). That’s a genuine liberation for many of us, but it also sets a tremendous responsibility before us. We are working with God to determine the future! Certain things will happen in history if we pray. We are to change the world by prayer.
What more motivation do we need to learn this powerful human exercise?
Listening to God is an important first step because it sets the stage for the second step – the prayer of intercession. After we have listened to God, and know what we need to pray for, we can pray for people and circumstances. It’s a natural tendency to start praying for the most urgent and desperate situations (often difficult prayers), such as stroke or cirrhosis. However, as we listen, we will learn to begin with smaller things like colds or earaches. Success in the small prayers gives us power in the larger matters. Not only will we learn who God is, but how His power operates.
As we realize the power and the significance of prayer, sometimes we find ourselves afraid that we don’t have enough faith to pray for a person or a circumstance. Our fears should be put at ease because the Bible tells us that great miracles are possible through faith the size of a tiny mustard seed. So don’t feel belittled by the situation, but listen more for God’s will and compassion, and when there is enough courage to go and pray for that person, that’s a sign of sufficient faith.
Sometimes we can’t find the desire to pray. Usually our lack of desire to pray is not because there is no faith but rather, there is no compassion. It seems that genuine compassion appears between the person who is interceding and the person who is being prayed for. The Bible tells numerous times that Jesus was “moved with compassion” (Matt. 14:14). Compassion was the element featured in every healing in the New Testament. Knowing what love is in cooperation with understanding how prayer operates, we will not pray for people as things (or objects), but as people whom we love (Mark 12:31). If we have God-given compassion and concern for others, our faith will grow, and it will strengthen our ability to pray effectively. Ponder this…if we genuinely love people, we desire the best for them more than what we can ever do for them, and that will cause us to pray.
Intercessory prayer is not forced, manipulated, or prescribed. True prayer flows naturally as our humanity sees the dire need of the Savior’s touch.
The inner sense of compassion identifies the need for intervention; it is a clear identifying mark that God is calling you to intercede with divine authority. God is amply ready to answer our prayers.
Have you ever noticed that children ask for lunch in utter confidence? They know that dad will give them food. Not only that, they are convinced that there is an endless supply of sandwiches! Neither should we hesitate to bring our prayers to the Father in heaven for we are confident that He will always provide to those for whom we intercede.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”