Beginning Practical Prayer

Let’s take a practical look at prayer. I admit I don’t understand how prayer works or why God would even want or need us to pray. I do know that the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, suggests, encourages, and commands God’s people to pray. With that as our bottom line, how can we put prayer into practice and see it make an effective impact on life.

In a quote I’ve come to enjoy, Dr. Ralph Martin has said, “Prayer is, at root, simply paying attention to God.” As nice as that sounds, it is more the outcome than the action of prayer. More basically, prayer is conversing with God. It includes talking to God and hearing/perceiving his return conversation. The conversing from our side includes such shades as praising, asking, even complaining. The return conversation can come in such forms as direct audible response, scripture, or circumstance. Don’t take this as a comprehensive definition, but it sets the tone for prayer.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God offers the freedom of prayer primarily to those who give him their allegiance. For example, 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a covenant promise by God to the nation of Israel, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” There is the promise to God’s people that he will hear them in repentant prayer. This offer is based on a relationship. Such promises were not made to other nations, then or now.

Jesus gave a similar promise to his disciples in John 15:7-8, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Going through other biblical teachings, we see the same principle. While God sometimes responds to the prayers of specific people outside his own, he is not bound by covenant or promise to do so.

From that, I conclude that prayer and effectiveness in prayer is tied to our relationship to God the Father through Jesus Christ.

Can you see how the totality of prayer, whether adoration, petition, or thanksgiving, comes back to our relationship with God? More specifically, prayer molds us to be effective disciples of Christ and bear fruit. 

I don’t have any tattoos. If I did get one, it would be the Greek word Onesimus, printed on my right hand. The New Testament book of Philemon refers to a servant with that name. It comes out that his name means “useful.” My imagined tattoo would always remind me to be both useable and useful to God.

With that somewhat weird thought as a base, prayer is not given to make us rich or comfortable, but to make us useful.  Our prayers will be effective so long as we are willing to be useful to God.

Effective Prayer Begins and Continues

with a

Personal Relationship with God,

which can only come through

Jesus Christ.