“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
— Matthew 7:7
Prayer is an essential work of the Christian life. The prayers of believers have shaped history. They’ve sparked revivals, righted injustice, shifted nations, stopped wars, abated storms, redeemed lives and pushed back darkness. Prayer heals bodies, restores marriages, fulfills destinies and births children.
When we look at the life of Jesus, we find Him constantly stealing away to be with His Father, spending time in prayer. His prayer life was the secret to everything He did. This was so obvious to those who spent their lives with Him that instead of asking Him to teach them to preach, heal the sick or cast out demons—they asked Him how to pray (Luke 11:1).
God has chosen to co-labor with mankind to bring His Kingdom to bear on the earth. The original mandate given to Adam was restored in Christ Jesus. Adam had dominion over the earth, but Jesus told His disciples,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
— Matthew 28:18–20
Jesus has been given all authority, and He invites us into a relationship where we co-labor with Him through prayer to bring about Kingdom purposes. “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
How can we pray as Jesus prayed? This month and next we will look at a few ways we can make our prayers more effective.
1. Pray with faith.
In Matthew 21:22 Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Those four little words—if you have faith—are essential. Where does faith come from, and how do we get more of it?
Paul wrote that faith is a gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8). God is the One who gives faith, and real faith isn’t something we work up in our flesh. If we could “create” faith, we would be able to boast about it (Ephesians 2:9), but faith is a gift from God, not a result of our works.
One of the vehicles God uses to implant faith within us is His Word. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). If you want to grow in faith, ask God for it, trusting He will give it to you, and listen to His Word. Meditate on Scripture. Remind yourself of what Christ did through His life, death, resurrection and ascension. Memorize promises like the one that starts this letter—if you ask for something, it will be given to you. If you seek, you will find.
This area of faith can be a touchy subject because of the abuse some of us have endured through bad teachings. Unfortunately, statements like “Your family member wouldn’t have died if you had faith” or “You would be healed if you had faith” can be heard in certain circles, but bad teaching is never a reason to ignore something God says. Instead, it should be impetus to pursue the truth.
2. Pray in Jesus’ name.
“In that day you will ask nothing of Me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
— John 16:23–24
Praying in Jesus’ name is not a formula, nor does it mean ending every prayer with the words “in Jesus’ name.” When Jesus taught us to pray in His name, He meant something profound.
In the Hebrew culture, someone’s name represented their authority. A person sent in the name of the king, for instance, could accomplish all the king had sent them to do as if the king were doing it. Doing something “in someone’s name” means you’re representing them, using their authority to accomplish what they would accomplish if they were there in person.
Praying in Jesus’ name is an issue of authority as well as identity and character. If someone sent by the king tried to do something that violated the king’s will, the king would not back them up. If the king discovered his representative was using his authority to take advantage of others, that person would lose their authority. Praying in the name of Jesus means you bear His character (Galatians 5:22–23) and are accomplishing His will.
While there is obvious power in speaking the name of Jesus aloud, we should never think of it as a formula. The sons of Sceva learned this lesson quickly when they tried to use Jesus’ name without relationship with Him; they did not possess His character and He hadn’t sent them. “The evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” (See Acts 19:13–16.)
3. Pray from a place of abiding in Him.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
— John 15:7
Prayer is an extension of relationship. It is a conversation between friends. When we are living in intimacy with God, we will see more of our prayers answered. That is just the way of it.
Jesus emphasized that His words need to abide in us. Again, part of developing intimacy with God is meditating on His Word. Reading, studying and meditating on Scripture is a sure way to abide in Him. If you’re interested, you can read more about this topic in my book The Art of Praying the Scriptures: A Fresh Look at Lectio Divina.
Talking about prayer is a passion of my heart. That’s all I have room for in this post, but I’ll continue these points in this blog next month.
John E. Thomas