Prayer and the Difference it Makes

Today I’m sharing from Focus on the Family.

Prayer
and the Difference it Makes

By Robert Velarde

“Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help.” –Psalm 39:12 (NIV)[i]

“Lord, teach us to pray.” –Luke 11:1

“After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed.” –John 17:1

“They all joined together constantly in prayer.” –Acts 1:14

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” –Ephesians 6:18

“Pray continually.” -1 Thessalonians 5:17

Throughout the Bible, believers are called to pray. But what is prayer? What does it mean to “pray without ceasing?” And does prayer really make a difference? Before delving too deeply into the topic of prayer, it will be beneficial to first define the term, as well as the focus of our prayers—God.

Prayer and God’s Nature

Let’s start with the second part. In order to develop a clear idea of prayer, we must first have a clear idea of God. Biblically speaking, God is a personal being. This is critical to prayer because it means that God is a person we can interact with, that He has a will and that we are able to relate to Him on a meaningful level. If He were impersonal, then prayer would not be meaningful. If He were personal, but uncaring and distant, prayer wouldn’t serve a purpose.

Not only is God personal, He is also loving (1 John 4:8, 16; John 3:16). This is also important in relation to prayer. If God were personal, but uncaring or unkind, then prayer might do us more harm than good! But God is not only loving, He is all loving (omnibenevolent). In relation to prayer, this means that God always desires the best for us because He loves us.

God is also all powerful (omnipotent), meaning that no prayer is beyond His ability to answer, “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). If God were less than all powerful, then we would have no assurance that He could answer or even hear our prayers.

The fact that God is all-knowing (omniscient) is also significant to the concept of prayer. If God were limited, then He would not know all that is happening in His creation. If this were the case, He might overlook our prayers because they might be beyond His knowledge. Fortunately, the Bible is clear that God knows everything (see, for instance, Psalm 139:2-4; 147: 4-5; Isaiah 46:10). In relation to God’s omniscience, Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8).

God is also wise and holy. He knows what is best for us, as well as what will lead us to holiness rather than sin. He is also immanent, meaning that God is active in His creation in a personal way, not only directing greater matters of history, but also involved in the life of everyone. This means that no prayer is too great for Him, but also that no prayer is too small for Him.

While we cannot explore all of God’s attributes here, one final one to note, of utmost importance to prayer is God’s sovereignty. God is supremely in charge of everything that happens in His universe. Nothing takes Him by surprise and nothing happens in our lives without the knowledge of God, even though we may not always understand His actions: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

In hearing and responding to our prayers, then, we are assured that God will do so on the basis of His many attributes. His personal nature, love, power, knowledge, wisdom, holiness, immanence and sovereignty all play a role in how we relate to God in prayer and how He relates to us.

Read the rest here.

Please and Thank You Prayers

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.
—Philippians 1:4

Beloved, do you have a difficult time praying? Do you struggle with how to pray or what to say to God?

Personally, I do not want to keep repeating certain prayers in light of what God teaches us in Matthew 6:7: “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” But the older I get, the more I find that my mind seeks the comfort of some kinds of prayers because I can easily remember them.

For example, before my feet hit the floor each day I pray something like this: Heavenly Father, thank You for a great night’s sleep and this new day. Please order the steps of my day so that in everything I say and do I glorify Your name and make You smile. On nights when I have been unable to sleep well, I start this prayer with thank You for getting me through the night. I have been praying in the morning like this for years after reading Psalm 37. I was reading the NKJV Bible at that time and verse 23 says: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” I call such prayers my “thank you prayers.”

Now, having said that, my prayer life has been majorly transformed over the last few years.

When I pray what I call “please prayers,” I am asking God to be with me or someone who is going through something particularly tough. In this case, my prayer is that God will make His presence strongly felt as He is surrounding the person with His arms of comfort and teaching them what He wants them to learn through the situation. And depending on the person and situation, I often ask Him to grant the person perfect peace as described in Isaiah 26:3, usually praying that verse with the person’s name: “You will keep _________ in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he/she trusts in You.” Sometimes I will share this personalized prayer with the person for whom I’ve been praying. This passage in Isaiah never fails to comfort me and I pray that it will comfort others too.

I have also started thanking God ahead of time while I am still praying for something, in anticipation of whatever He has planned in accordance with His will. I believe God honors this kind of prayer because although I am typically praying for something specific, I end my prayer by thanking God for however He has already planned to settle the situation.

One thing God has taught me over the years is that praying is the best way to bring us as close to Him as is possible here on earth. The other thing is that although God already knows the outcome of a situation, He still wants us to intercede in prayer, gladly approaching Him with our concerns and hurts. He longs for us to come to Him as our Abba Father, to figuratively sit on His lap and share our hearts with Him—all our concerns, yes, but more importantly our love, praise and thankfulness for who He is and for what He has done and is doing as the Creator of all things. And since He is all of that and much more, we can experience contentment in His presence, no matter what the outcome of a situation, because we can rest in the knowledge that He always knows what is best for us.

In essence, although we know and trust that God has already worked out the details, He still wants to hear from us and loves it when we praise Him and His Holy Name.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM;”
and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel,
‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
—Exodus 3:14

Our holy God, YHWH (I AM): the meaning is powerful, even when translated into English. To say “I am” means “I exist.” But as a name, it also suggests timelessness, self-sufficiency, changelessness.¹

Our God is indeed awesome, holy, and unchanging. But He also loves to hear us talk to Him in prayer and He hears us when we pray. He tells us this in Jeremiah 29:11-13:

11For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
12
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.
13
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Many people consider verse 11 on its own, but we need to use it in the context of God’s true meaning, which is not complete without also taking into account verses 12 and 13. God begins this passage with the word “for” and completes it with what follows the word “then” in verse 12.

Beloved, we are told to “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion” (Ephesians 6:18a). Praying should be like breathing is to us. We can’t live without being able to breathe, and we can’t stay as close to God as we should without talking to Him in prayer throughout our day.

Prayer: Abba Father, we are so thankful that we can come to You in prayer at any time of the day or night. You love us so much and are interested in every aspect of our day. Thank You for the blessing of being able to depend on You to see us through each and every day. 


¹ 100 Names of God Daily Devotional. Copyright © 2015 by Christopher D. Hudson. Published by Rose Publishing, Inc., Carson, California.

Mighty Prayer

Today I’m sharing from Love Worth Finding.

One of the greatest invitations to prayer ever given to anyone was when Jeremiah was in prison for preaching the truth. God reached into his prison cell with both a command and an invitation.

Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. (Jeremiah 33:3)

Prayer Is a Command

God takes the initiative: “Call unto Me.” Jesus said, “Men ought always to pray.” Paul said, “Pray without ceasing.” God says to Jeremiah, “Call Me!”

Have you ever had an important person give you their unlisted number and say, “Call me”? That’s a great privilege. God did just that with Jeremiah. And in this verse He offers us His private number saying, “Call Me.”

There’s not one of us who cannot contact heaven. Never say in a situation, “There’s nothing I can do.” You can pray. It’s our greatest source of untapped power!

Read the rest here.

Pray While Waiting

Several months ago I shared the post below with the great news of how these precious twins were adopted by my son Alan and his wife Denise after a long wait. Many family and friends thankfully joined us in praying for adoption day to finally arrive. And since God never wastes anything, He used those prayers to teach all of us more about Him in the seemingly interminable waiting time.

My own prayer life was completely transformed in the process. One night while I was praying for this whole thing, I suddenly and inexplicably began to smile as I realized that God was filling me with the peaceful assurance that everything would work out just as He had already planned. As I prayed night after night about this—often in tears after a legal setback—those tears would turn into another smile as God continued to fill me with peace, faith, and trust in Him and His plan. And I couldn’t stop praising Him through this process.

This, then, is the account of how God uses waiting prayer to mold us into the kind of children He wants us to be: always trusting in Him, ever faithful to Him, and continuously living with His peace “which surpasses all understanding, [and] will guard [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength;
they will mount up with wings like eagles,
they will run and not get tired,
they will walk and not become weary.

─Isaiah 40:31

Waiting in Faith,
Trust and Hope

You may have noticed that I did not publish any blog posts last week. That’s because of some wonderful news I get to share with you today. Rick and I were in Phoenix because our family has officially increased by two precious babies.

Our journey with twins Austin and Alex began in June 2016 when they were just four months old. They were brought to Alan and Denise (my son and daughter-in-love) through the foster care system. Unsurprisingly we all immediately fell in love with them and have spent the last 33 months hoping, praying and waiting for everything to work out so that Alan and Denise could adopt these sweet little ones. Last week that long-awaited event happened and Rick and I were there at the adoption hearing, along with many family and friends.

I often write about faith, trust and hope. Over the past three years, all of us have been praying and praising God with faith, trust and hope during the waiting. Admittedly there were times when we all wondered if the adoption would ever happen. We repeatedly found ourselves high on the mountains of good news, only to be thrust down into valleys when those hopes were dashed. Still, we continued to rely on God for his comfort and peace while we waited.

Years ago, a fellow writer shared this gem with me about waiting. I have shared his wise words before and they never get old. It definitely applies to our situation:

Even though it was very hard at times to keep on trusting and believing that God was working out the details for the good of all of us, including the babies, we never gave up hope that adoption day would finally happen. The most important thing we learned from everything we went through is that God already had a plan in place, and last week we witnessed the fruition of that plan.

So here we are, almost three years later. Because of the anonymity and protection required for children in the foster care system, we haven’t been able to speak publicly about this … until now.

Oh, dear Lord, this Meemaw is utterly thankful to be able to finally tell how You walked with us through all that waiting. To You—our awesome and everlasting God—be the glory for allowing us to be part of such an amazing journey with these two precious children.

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, 
the only God,
be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
─1 Timothy 1:17

As I was writing this post, the song To God Be the Glory kept running through my head, so here is a video of Nicole C. Mullen singing My Tribute (To God be the Glory)/My Redeemer Lives:

Devote Yourselves to Prayer

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
—Colossians 4:2, NLT

Devote yourselves to prayer – This does not mean that all you do is pray all day long, but it does mean that one’s devotion to prayer affects everything in one’s life. Think of a husband devoted to his wife or vice versa. The idea is that one dedicates himself or herself to the other. Devotion implies a strong attachment, allegiance, ardour or affection for some one or some thing, in this case prayer and the act of praying. To devote one’s self involves allocation of ones’ time and resources. There is a giving of one’s self. One who is devoted is ardent, caring, committed, concerned, constant, dedicated, loyal, staunch, steadfast and true. One who is devoted is not disloyal, inconstant, indifferent or uncommitted. These are some of the ideas involved in the picture of one who is devoted to prayer.¹


¹ https://www.preceptaustin.org/colossians_chap_4_word_study

Praying Palms Down

Ps4-1-HandsOpen-40--AMP

Answer me when I call to you,
my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
—Psalm 4:1

Today I’d like to talk about prayer—specific prayer, that is. The kind of prayer about painful or stressful situations that brings us to our knees. We pray and we pray, and then we pray even more … waiting for an answer from God.

As we pray, we often lift up our hands up in a symbolic gesture as we give our problem to the Lord. I know what I’m talking about because I used to do this very thing.

One day, however, I had a realization that has completely changed my prayer life. It occurred to me that when I pray with my palms facing up—toward the ceiling (or sky)—I can quickly and easily close my fingers into a fist and mentally and emotionally take back that situation or trouble.

I have a tendency to do that, you know. I take back something I’ve been praying about and have supposedly handed over to the Lord, just because I might be able to somehow take care of it myself.

Does this sound anything like you?

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.  —Psalm 17:6

Ps17-6-PalmsDown-50--AMP

Since I am a very visual person, I thought about praying for specific things palms down, with hands facing the floor so that I could mentally drop my prayer request at Jesus’ feet. To me, giving up that situation palms down tells me that once I’ve let go of it that way, it’s gone. There’s no chance for me to pull it back.

I’m not saying that everything I pray for in this way gets answered exactly as I would like, but what it does is enable me to allow God to do His work—not only in the particular situation for which I prayed but also on and through me. Sometimes I get in God’s way too much and don’t give Him enough room.

When I pray in this manner, I feel a real peace come over me. The kind of peace that lets me know that I don’t have to worry about the problem, because:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?
—Luke 12:25

and

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
—Philippians 4:6

Beloved, this is my prayer for all of us: that we will always remember to pray palms down.

[Emphasis mine]

Why Should We Pray?

Why Should We Pray?

by Joni Eareckson Tada

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them
that they should always pray and not give up.
─Luke 18:1

You’re walking with a friend, who suddenly turns to you and says, “I don’t get it. If things will be as they are going to be anyway, why should I pray?” We’ve all wrestled with such questions. Do my little prayers have anything to do with shaping God’s will? If He’s the driver of everything, does that mean I’m just along for the ride?

The fact is, we pray because God Himself commands us to pray. God’s Word gives prayer a priority and urgency we simply can’t ignore. When He was among us, Jesus prayed. It was the heartbeat of His life. Whether or not we understand how prayer fits into God’s grand scheme of time and world events isn’t the point. If the One who is all-wise strongly calls us to seek Him in prayer, we can be sure it’s terribly important—for Him and for us.

Lord, sometimes I pray when worries and concerns weigh so heavy on my heart, and I try my best to leave those things at Your throne. But today I pray just because I love You and want to be close to You. You fill a place in the very center of my life that nothing or no one else can ever fill.


Taken from A Spectacle of Glory by Joni Eareckson Tada. Copyright © 2016.
Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.