One of my passions is prayer and helping others grow in prayer. I want to share two keys to effective prayer.
There are many resources such as prayer journals to help us pray more. But with these resources in hand, how do we pray effectively? How do we engage in prayer that is also enjoyable? After all, a simple “save Richard” or “help Susie not to doubt” gets repetitive and even boring after awhile. We want to pray specifically and with our hearts all in.
Beyond any other tool, our greatest resources for prayer are God’s Spirit and God’s Word.
We must pray in agreement with God. We want to avoid praying our own opinions, agendas or ideas. Instead, we must follow the leadership of God’s Spirit and seek His Word.
It says in 1 John 5:14-15 that we have confidence in God if we ask according to His will. We can actually know that He hears our prayers and that He will answer them. So how can we learn to pray His will?
Praying as God Leads
First, we want to pray as God leads. Before assuming we know how to best to pray for a person or situation, we want to know what Jesus is praying for them. He makes intercession for us in Heaven even now (Hebrews 7:25).
How do we do find out what Christ is praying? Ask. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind what is on God’s heart for them. He may bring an impression to your heart or bring a Scripture verse to mind.
We don’t want to jump into prayer without God, praying our own ideas or agendas.
If we’ve got a friend going through a trial, we often start praying for their deliverance from that trial. But what if God is allowing the trial to work greater endurance or patience in them? He may instead be praying as He did for Peter that their faith would not fail.
When God seems silent on what to pray, pray as Jesus taught the disciples, “Your will be done, Your Kingdom come.” Before suffering on the Cross Jesus prayed to the Father, “not My will, but Yours be done.”
To grow in prayer, we must cultivate our relationship with God. I also recommend using concordances and commentaries when studying the Bible. You will grow in knowing the mind and heart of God. Meanwhile, His Spirit transforms your mind in the Word. Soon you will find yourself surrendering your prayers to His will even more.
Praying from God’s Word
Praying God’s Word is crucial to effective prayer. God’s words are life-giving truth and never return to Him without accomplishing what He desires (John 6:63; Isaiah 55:11).
As we pray the Bible, our confidence in prayer will grow. We will also have a lot more language for our prayers from God’s inspired words.
The Bible contains much wealth for our prayer life. In the New Testament, we find prayers from Jesus and the apostles. In the Old Testament, we find psalms and prophetic promises to the people of God.
New Testament Example: Ephesians 3:14-19.
Paul prays for God to give strength to the believers’ souls through the dunamis power of the Holy Spirit so that—by faith—Christ would become a permanent influence over their hearts. He prays for them to be rooted in God’s unconditional love. He asks that they come to know the depths of Christ’s love and be filled with His presence to the fullest measure.
Hint: Use a concordance to build your understanding of the prayers in the Bible.
You could pray these verses for yourself and fellow believers, especially those doubting God’s love.
Ideas from the Old Testament
The Old Testament gives examples of God’s redemption and faithfulness. Furthermore, we see the expressions of the psalmists and can pray along with their recorded prayers.
You could pray Psalm 42:1 to express longing for God or pray He will increase hunger for Him in your family members.
We also see the rich history of God showing Himself faithful to Israel. We can pray for loved ones to experience God’s faithfulness as it was made known in the history of the Old Testament. Example: Pray for a friend to be encouraged that God can relieve her from her burdens as He did for the Israelites in Egypt (Exodus 6:6-7).
The Bible also shows us stories of what not to do. Think of the Israelites’ grumbling in the wilderness after being rescued from slavery. We can repent for our own grumbling in our troubles. We can ask God to strengthen our hearts in gratitude and trust. We can also pray this for others facing similar situations.
A side note: I recommend “pray-reading” the Word as you study the Bible. Whether in the Old or New Testament, you’ll find ample inspiration for prayer in God’s Word.
More Resources on Prayer