I am excited to begin a new Bible study today in the essentials of effective prayer. This class is for my preschool teachers who work for Kids’ Express, our weekly preK school that serves our church and our community.
This is our first lesson and we are going to lay the foundation for effective prayer. Have you ever met someone who prayed powerful prayers that moved God to answer time and time again? Are you one of those people? Would you like to become one of those people? This 6 week study will help with this.
I. Elijah’s effective prayer
James, the half brother of Jesus, writes about prayer. He writes of the idea of prayer being effective. There are many people in the world who “pray” but there are few who are actually effective in their prayers. How can we pray effective prayers?
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. (James 5:16b-18)
The example used by James is the prophet Elijah. This man was an ordinary person like all of us are. He prayed an effective prayer. Elijah was confident in what he prayed for, that God would answer. What gave Elijah the confidence that he had to pray such a powerful prayer? Let’s take a look at his story in I Kings 17:1-3. Elijah stood before the king and had the nerve to tell the king that he was going to pray and it would not rain. Elijah was confident because he knew God’s promises from Deuteronomy 11:13-17. God had already promised to send rain and crops at the right time if the Israelites were to listen obediently to the Word of God. On the other hand, if they were to disobey God and chase after idols, then God would no longer send rain and the crops would not grow. I Kings 16:30-31 tells us that Ahab did evil in the sight of the Lord and went after idols, specifically Baal. Elijah was simply praying God’s Word and trusting in the promises of God, the promises that he knew from the Word of God. This is the secret to Elijah’s success. This is how he was able to pray effectively. Elijah had faith in the Word of God, in the character of God. Let’s take a look at some other effective prayers in the Bible.
II. Solomon’s effective prayer
We find Solomon’s effective prayer in I Kings 8:27-30, 38-39. The Temple had just been built and was being dedicated. Solomon’s prayer begins with Solomon acknowledging who God is based on His character and ways. Solomon submits to God’s leadership. He sees himself as God’s servant. His prayer comes out of this attitude of submission. Solomon does not just pray for himself, he prays for his nation. He intercedes on their behalf. Solomon acknowledges his sin and the sin of his people and he asks for forgiveness. In his prayer, Solomon asks God to search his heart and the heart of his people. Do your prayers sound anything like this? Do you acknowledge God’s character and ways in your prayers? Do you pray to God with the attitude of a servant? Do you intercede on behalf of others? Do you acknowledge your sin and ask God for forgiveness? Do you ask God to search your heart when you pray and listen to His response? This is what King Solomon did and you can too.
III. David’s effective prayer
We see some of the most beautiful prayers in the Bible in the book of Psalms, many of which were written by King David. He wrote some of them while he was king and he wrote some of them when he was a nobody. Let’s take a look at some of his prayers. The first prayer that I would like to consider is found in Psalm 3:1-5. In verses 1-2, we see that David is in distress. He is surrounded by his enemies and he is afraid for his life. David immediately turns to God for help. His enemies had multiplied and they were mocking him, telling him that God would not help him. In verse 3, there is a contrast. David cries out to God in the midst of his distress and the key to this entire passage, God answers David. The response that David has is amazing. David’s circumstance does not change. David’s prayer does not change God. David is changed by God’s answer. In verse 5, David lies down and rests because he knows that God is his shield and is the One who sustains him at all times. What do you do during difficult times? Do you run to the Lord and cry out to Him, or, do you claim to give it to God and yet continue to worry?
IV. Practical advice for effective prayer
As we have seen, prayer is not a magical spell that forces God to act. Prayer is done as we draw near to God, prayer flows out of our relationship with God. I would like to take a look at some practical things that we can do (or not do) to pray effective prayers. Our first passage under consideration is Isaiah 29:13-14. This is an example of what not to do when you pray. The Israelites were coming before the Lord praying these elegant prayers trying to impress God with their words yet, at the same time, their hearts were far from the Lord and both parties knew it. God was not impressed with their elegant prayers. In fact, the prayers were not the outflow of a personal relationship with God. They were part of the traditions that they had learned and were trying to keep to impress God (and the people around them). God is not impressed with our traditions and elegance. If prayer is just a tradition for you, God is not impressed. These types of prayers will not be effective. Our next passage to consider is Hebrews 4:14-16. We have the privilege of praying to the Lord and it is possible because of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Great, High Priest. If we have confessed Him as our Lord, then we have every right to approach the throne of God in prayer. He hears our prayers and sympathizes with us because He has experienced what we experience. He has walked in our shoes so He can help us in our times of need. Effective prayer is drawing near to God and asking for His mercy and grace. We ask God not to give us what we deserve and we ask God to give us what we do not deserve.
What about you my dear friend, are you praying effective prayers? Are you a righteous person? Do you pray fervent prayers? Do your prayers “accomplish much”? Do you pray in all circumstances? Do you pray to change God or do you pray to draw near to God so that He can change you? Is prayer just a simple tradition that you have learned? Are you praying to God and still living as you please, thinking that you can fool God? Do you run to Jesus in the midst of every circumstance, knowing that He can sympathize with you? May the Lord help us learn to pray effective prayers!