Focus on the Family

Developing a Life of Prayer

by Dean Ridings

Taking God at His word transformed the life and ministry of a young man named Dawson Trotman. Dawson was deep into Scripture memorization. One verse that captured his attention was Jeremiah 33:3 – "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not" (KJV).

Again and again he reviewed and meditated upon this verse. Did God really mean it – call upon Me; I will answer you; I will show you great and mighty things? Pondering this led to a 42-day "prayer meeting," in which Trotman and a few others with him got serious about praying for local youth and cities, and then expanded out to other cities in their state, other states in their nation, and finally the world.

The small band of brothers prayed for two hours every morning – three on Sundays! In six weeks' time, they had spent more than 100 hours in prayer, asking God to use them to win and train individuals for His glory around the world. They didn't know how, but they claimed Jeremiah 33:3 and trusted God to fill in the details.

"We didn't even know what we were praying," Trotman said. "I didn't realize that within four years, men from every state of the nation would walk into our front room and find the Savior. God answered our prayers abundantly, and there was the beginning of our work called today by the name, Navigators."

Growing in Intimacy With God

This series of articles is designed to help you conduct an extended "prayer meeting" of your own, learning to connect with God more deeply.

You will grow in intimacy with God as you take the time to talk with Him each day. You will learn to become more intentional as you approach the most important conversation of the day – with the Creator of the universe who is there, cares, and listens with an ear to respond, both for His glory and for your good.

You will grow in intimacy with God as you give prayerful consideration to daily Bible readings, as you reflect upon what you have read and how the Lord has led.

Through the years, I have grown in my passion for Christ through prayer, and my prayer is that this will also be your experience as you allow the Holy Spirit to guide you.

How to Pray Every Day

Here's a creative, helpful way to have a place for each prayer request so you can be sure to pray every day.

by Dean Ridings

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. . . .
— Ephesians 6:18-19

We love people. We want God's best for them. We so quickly say, "I'll pray for you" to those going through tough times — a family member, neighbor, grocery store clerk, pastor or friend from church. But do we?

Here's a creative, helpful way to have a "place" for every prayer request so you can be sure to pray. Think of it as a way to pray every day.

Monday: Pray for Your Family

Take time to pray for each member of your family. Include extended family members. Entrust each one to the Lord. Wherever they are in their relationship with God, pray that He draws them "ever one step closer." Be as specific as you can as you pray that He will meet them at their point of need.

Tuesday: Pray for God's Family

Pray for the church, starting with your local church. Pray for your pastor(s), ministry leaders (e.g., elders, deacons, missionaries, teachers, nursery workers) and their families. Who else in the church needs prayer? Now think of the church around the world. Pray that the Gospel would be preached "as of first importance" (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).

Wednesday: Pray for Your Community

Think about the groups where you are an "insider" and pray for the people you see regularly — those you live near, work with, bump into at school or the store, and so forth. How have they asked you to pray for them? Pray that the Lord will meet each one at his or her point of need, both physically and spiritually, according to His will.

Thursday: Pray for the Nation

Pray for the revival of God's people, and that we'll be "Jesus in jeans" as we truly love and serve those around us. Pray for those in authority. Ask God to bring to mind local and national spiritual and political leaders, and pray for each. Pray about national issues and challenges, such as the economy and its impact on everyday families.

Friday: Pray for the World

Pray that God will use His people to help others "to know Christ and to make Him known." Pray that revived Christ followers would respond with Jesus' love, grace, compassion and wisdom to social struggles — add to your prayer list specific needs you are aware of. Pray for the persecuted church. Finally, pray for the advance of the Gospel everywhere, toward Matthew 24:14.

Saturday: Pray for the Helpless, Hopeless, Hurting and Lost

As part of a regular Pray Every Day strategy, on Saturdays take time to pray for the down-and-out. Start with the world, draw closer to your nation, closer to your state, and closer still to your own community. List the names of and pray for the physically and spiritually afflicted. Pray specifically for ministries that are reaching out to the helpless, hopeless, hurting and lost.

Sunday: Pray for Personal Guidance

Finally, take time to pray for your own personal needs. Sometimes we pray for everything and everyone else but forget to pray for ourselves. On Sundays, pull away and pray for yourself. Walk with God through every aspect of your life — your personal, family, work, community, and church aspects of your life. Say, "Speak whatever to me, Lord, I'm listening!"

See how this can help you become more intentional in your prayer life? Indeed, prayer is the most important conversation of the day — with the Creator of the universe who is there, who cares, and who listens with an ear to respond both for His glory and for the good of people!

Making Time to Pray

Prayer honors God, builds your faith and helps you see things from the Lord's perspective. Will you take the time to pray?

by Dean Ridings

With so many competing time demands, why should we pause to seek the Lord in prayer? Among the many reasons, here are three essential ones to make time to pray:

Prayer Honors God

It's said that you can tell the popularity of the church by the number who show up on Sunday morning; you can tell the popularity of the church's pastor by the number who show up on Sunday night; and you can tell the popularity of Jesus by the number who show up to the prayer meeting.

What has happened to our churches? You call a prayer meeting today and very few people show up. I know of a church of 5,000 in Denver that called a prayer meeting and only five people came.

That's a far cry from the day a century earlier when the entire city of Denver paused for prayer — "even at the high tide of business." The Jan. 20, 1905, Denver Post reported: "Seldom has such a remarkable sight been witnessed — an entire great city, in the middle of a busy weekday, bowing before the throne of heaven and asking and receiving the blessing of the King of the Universe."

Oh, that believers would honor God in prayer and seek the Lord similarly today!

Prayer Teaches Us

We may earnestly desire God's glory. We may pour our lives into serving others for His sake. Still, we have to admit that, try as we might to avoid doing so, our own agendas taint our prayers. What can we do about these mixed motives?

Let God search you. When we pray for God to cleanse our hearts and our motives as David did in Psalm 139:23-24, it is important to yield the search-and-destroy mission to Him. He will bring wrong motives to our attention and lead us into repentance.

Confess mixed motives. Ignoring them won't make them go away. While they may always lurk, Jesus invites us to confess them and receive forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9).

Ask God to teach you. As we surrender to His refining hand, we can ask Him to redirect our hearts and and cause pure motives to rise to the surface (as the psalmist did in Psalm 119:36).

Grow in thanksgiving. When we thank Him, we're not looking for anything from Him. We're focusing on Him and thanking Him out of a heart that's full from what He's given.

Prayer Changes Things

It's said that Habakkuk means "wrestler," and the prophet sure did grapple with God. He saw fellow Hebrews worshiping idols and sacrificing their children to foreign gods, and he cried out for justice. But it seemed his prayers weren't getting through.

The short book of Habakkuk records the "wrestling match," even when the Lord did answer and it wasn't what the prophet had prayed for. But by the third chapter, observe and be encouraged in your own prayer life by the prophet's new view and renewed trust.

Habakkuk stopped looking around and started seeing things from God's perspective. He resolved to live by faith in light of who God is, what He has done and is doing, and what he has promised to do — not only in the world, but also in his own life.

Are you grappling with God? Let Jesus' prayer be yours: "not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42). And let Him know you agree that the Father knows best.

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Seeking God in Prayer

Not sure exactly what to pray? How and where to pray? We've got some helpful strategies.

by Dean Ridings

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). How shall we respond to this invitation? Here are some strategies designed to help you seek the Lord in prayer.

Come and P.R.A.Y.

Here's an acronym that will help guide you in prayer: P.R.A.Y. The letters stand for Praise, Repent, Access and Yield, which captures the essence of prayer — to seek an audience with the King of the universe, the Holy One, who in the mystery of His character loves us and responds to our prayers.

Praise: We're to enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise (see Psalm 100:4). Sit quietly and thank God for who He is and what He has done.

Repent: A sober reminder comes from Psalm 66:18: If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." A spiritual cleansing is needed in order to come nearer to the throne of God.

Access: We're not telling God anything new — "All my longings lie open before you, O Lord: my sighing is not hidden from you" (Psalm 38:9). Even so, He gives us access to talk to Him about our needs and frustrations.

Yield: The fact that we have brought our prayer list before God indicates our trust that He will, in His time and in His way, show us the way we should go (see Psalm 143:8).

Helpful Prayer Postures

Did you know that your body can seek God along with your spirit and voice? God gave you your body, and He loves it when you use it to communicate with Him! You can use many different positions, or "postures," when you pray. Each one is a way of showing God what is in your heart and asking Him to meet you there.

Kneeling shows God that you are entering into His presence or asking Him for something.

Standing shows God that you are ready for "marching orders."

Walking shows God that you are "on the move" for Him, ready for His battle plans.

Bowing shows God that you honor Him and feel humble because of who He is.

Prostrate, lying flat on your face or back, shows God that you are in awe of Him and are desperate and hungry for Him to come and be with you.

Uplifted hands show God that you are reaching toward Him — in praise or asking for something with arms open to receive it. .

A Quiet Place to Pray

Have you ever heard about finding a "prayer closet" — a quiet place to get away to pray? The thought of climbing into a closet among shoes and winter coats can seem, well, ridiculous. But constant references by people of prayer to their "closets" can lead us to wonder if we might be missing something.

There may be an actual closet that you can make your own, a space that's now packed with boxes of old photos, blankets and craft supplies. Soon all the boxes and cartons will find new homes. Before long you will begin to feel God's pleasure at having made Him a sole priority in this area of my home.

Of course, you can pray anywhere. But you'll find that a special intimacy with God can occur when you come aside with Him to your quiet place.

Maintaining a Well-Balanced Prayer Life

Want a simple illustration for a life of daily prayer? Just look at your hand.

by The Navigators

The Navigators — a Colorado Springs-based ministry that began in 1933 and today is found on college campuses, military bases and in communities — has always been known as a ministry of prayer. The Navigators emphasize the fact that Jesus' followers live in desperate dependence upon the Lord.

Followers of Christ must remember just how vital our relationship with Him is. "I am the vine; you are the branches," Jesus said. "If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

"The Hand" Illustration

The Navigators' traditional illustration of a hand will help you get a better grasp of prayer in your day-to-day walk with God:

• Pinky — Confession (1 John 1:9): Agreeing with God about my sin

• Ring — Petition (1 Samuel 1:27; Samuel asked of God): Asking God for my needs

• Middle — Intercession (Ephesians 6:18-19): Praying for others

• Index — Thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:20): Thanking God for what He has done for me

• Thumb — Praise (Psalm 146:1-2): Voicing my wonder about who God is

Remember, prayer is not only an action (work), but an attitude (1 Samuel 12:23). In addition, as the thumb touches all four fingers, so praise should permeate my whole prayer life.

Prayer and the Spiritual Battle

Some might scoff at the mention of a spiritual battle, but the Bible makes it clear that Christians have a very real enemy.

by Dean Ridings

Anyone who seeks to have a vital relationship with God through prayer — ever growing toward greater intimacy with the Father through the finished work of the Son, Jesus — is a prime target for satanic salvos.

The Bible says that there is an enemy who is bent on destruction and will do whatever it takes to leave us discouraged, doubting and defeated Christians. In our "scientific" society where nothing you can't see, feel, touch, taste or smell seems real, some scoff at the mention of a spiritual battle. The Bible, however, makes it clear: We have an "enemy the devil [who] prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

But Jesus promises that His followers can both survive and thrive through the battle: "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).

Satan Has a Terrible Plan

To get an idea of the activities of the Devil and his fallen-angel followers, just look at the names for them throughout Scripture. Among many descriptive titles, the Devil is called the wicked one, adversary, father of lies. Fallen angels are called evil spirits, demons, unclean spirits. Together, their expressed activities include:

• Tempting (Matthew 4:1)
• Lying (John 8:44)
• Accusing (Zechariah 3:1)
• Corrupting (2 Peter 2:10-12)
• Deceiving (1 Timothy 4:1)

We must realize, however, that God limits the activities of Satan and his demons. Jesus' death on the cross sealed the judgment of demonic forces: "When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him" (Colossians 2:15; also see John 16:11;19:30; Hebrews 2:14).

Because of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection, someone has said that Satan is like a bee without a stinger. Jesus took hold of the bee and was "stung." Now the bee does a lot of buzzing and annoying, but he has no stinger (see Romans 6:23).

It's been said that the Devil and his demons are like collared dogs, with leashes that extend only as far as God determines (see Job 1:9-12; Luke 22:31). In His perfect wisdom, God allows their activities, but He's always working above and beyond them (see Genesis 50:20-21; Romans 8:28-29; Jesus' crucifixion — and its results — is the ultimate example).

Yet the Enemy and his followers are in denial, for they still think victory is within their grasps. They continue to do whatever they can to affect people — made in the image of God and with the potential of glorifying and being glorified by Him.

Though the ultimate war has been won, we are engaged in a daily battle against the prince of this world. We are clearly warned in God's Word of the damage that can be inflicted by the kingdom of darkness. The Enemy schemes against us, throws flaming missiles at us, seeks to devour us, and wages direct warfare upon us (2 Corinthians 2:10-11; Ephesians 6:11-12,16; 1 Peter 5:8) As a result, we are to arm ourselves, stand against, refute, resist and overcome (Ephesians 6:12-18; Isaiah 54:7; James 4:7; Revelation 12:11). Everything we need to successfully do battle was appropriated on the Cross. We simply need to appropriate it.

Next Steps / Related Information

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