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 (Living Waters 1981 Volume 1)
The Effective Prayer
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The Effective Prayer

F.S. Lin

Prayer itself is a Christian blessing.  The true and living God answers our prayers.  His power rules over all and dominates the lot of every man (I Thess. 1:9; Jer. 32:17, 27; 1 Sam. 2:1-10).

The Lord Jesus says that whatever we ask in His name, He will do it for us and that, if we go and bear fruit, He will answer requests (Jn. 14:13-14).  The joy in the Lord's response to our prayer will be great.

'Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name.  Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name.; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (Jn. 16:23-24).  This indeed is the promise and blessing of the Lord Jesus.  To consummate our Spiritual joy, we must pray in His name and experience the privilege of His gracious response.

The Apostle Paul's heartwarming remarks: "Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6).  How wonderful His grace is!  The Bible says that "we have a great high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses and will grant mercy, grace and help to us in time of need" (Heb. 4:14-16).  The reason is straightforward.  The Word became flesh and came into the world.  He knows our weaknesses in flesh and is able to sympathize with us.

There is a constant need for every Christian to be engaged in prayers.  One of these is the pangs of life.  But the Bible tells us, "Is anyone among you suffering?  Let him pray.  Is any cheerful?  Let him sing praise.  Is any among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed" (James 5:13-18).  The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.  Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.  Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit.

Prayer is not confined to certain limited forms.  We are told by the Scriptures to "Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication" (Eph. 6:18).  As for the modes of prayer, it can be silent prayer (I Sam. 1: 13); prayer with the spirit, and prayer with the mind (I Cor. 14:14-15).  To pray with the spirit means that the Holy Spirit prays for us (Rom. 8:26-27).

The following suggests some basic requirements for effective prayer:

1. Prayer with importunity

The Lord says, "Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you- For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him" (Mt. 7:7-11).  Ask, seek and knock all mean to pray.  Seek and knock is a simile to the urgent mood and action.  The Lord teaches us to pray with importunity (Lk. 11:5-13).  He himself prayed earnestly in the Garden of Gethsemane (Lk. 22:44; Heb. 5:7).

II. Prayer in faith

The Bible says: In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he was hungry.  And seeing a fig tree by the wayside he went to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only.  And he said to it, "May no fruit ever come from you again!" And the fig tree withered at once.

When the disciples saw it they marveled, saying, "How did the fig tree wither at once?" And Jesus answered the, "Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and never doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea, it will be done.  And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith’ (Mt. 21:18-22).  The mountain mentioned in the verse could mean a real mountain, but could also be compared with a great difficulty.  The Bible says: Then he said to me, "This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.  What are you, O great mountain?  Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of 'Grace, grace to it!'"(Zech.4:6-7)At that time, Zerubbabel, the leader in the rebuilding of the temple, was facing a great difficulty.  However, God said to him that even a great mountain shall become a plain, which means even a difficulty as great as a mountain will disappear.

The Bible says, '-The apostles said to the Lord, Increase our faith.  And. the Lord said, If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea, and it would obey you." (Lk. 17:5-6).  The mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds (Mt. 13:31-32); which indicates that with a little bit of faith we can perform a great task.

The Bible says, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose he will receive anything from the Lord" (Jas. 1:5-7).  "Lacks wisdom," mentioned here, especially refers to a situation of being stupefied and not knowing what to do in adversity.  We should pray for wisdom as well as for deliverance in adversity.

III. Be persistent

The Bible says: And Jesus told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.  He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'vindicate me against my adversary. For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming."' And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge says.  And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night?  Will he delay long over them?  I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily.  Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Lk. 18:1-8) Therefore, pray as this widow did.  Do not lose heart or stop until you get what you ask for.

IV. Prayer according to the will of God

The Bible says, "And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him" (I Jn. 5:14-15).  While the Lord was praying at Gethsemane, he said, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt-" And the second time, he said, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done." And the third time he said the same words (Mt. 26:39,42,44).  This is our model.  There is a verse in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Mt. 6: 10).  It means in heaven all the angels obey the order of God so that God's will could be done smoothly; on earth people should keep God's commandments as well.  Paul did everything according to the will of God (Rom. 1:10).

The Bible says, "You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it one your Passions." Therefore, we should not ask wrongly.

V. Observing God's commandments

The Bible says, "Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.  And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us" (I Jn. 3:21-23).  God hears the- prayer of the righteous.

The Bible says, "For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.  But the face of the Lord is against those that do evil" (I Pet. 3:12).

Why did God not hear the people of Israel when the whole kingdom fasted and prayed?  Because they had sins.

The Bible says, "Why have we fasted, and thou sees it not?  Why have we humbled ourselves, and thou takes no knowledge of it?  Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.  Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with wicked fist.  Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high" (Is. 58:3-4).

The Bible says, "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you so that he does not hear' (Is.59:l2).

The Bible says, "Thus says the Lord concerning this people: They have loved to wander thus, they have not restrained their feet, therefore the Lord does not accept them, now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.  The Lord said to me: Do not pray for the welfare of this people.  Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and cereal offering I will not accept them; but I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence" (Jer. 14:10-12).

Elijah prayed for rain and was heard by God, because it was the will of God (I Kings 18:1).  Secondly, he had solved the problem of sin beforehand so that the people had turned their hearts to God (I Kings 18:16-40).  Moreover, it was a prayer of faith (I Kings 18:41-46).

VI. Pour out your heart

The prayer of Hannah was pouring out her soul before God (I Sam. 1: 12-20), To pour out one's soul means to pour one's heart out, that is, to speak out one's trouble before God, and ask for God's help.

The Bible says, "Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him;  God is a  refuge for us" (Ps. 62:8).   The Bible says, "Cry aloud to the Lord! O daughter of Zion! Let tears stream down your eyes like a torrent day and night!  Give yourself no rest, your eyes no respite!  Arise cry out in the night, at the beginning of watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hand to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street" (Lam 2:18-19).

The Bible says, "Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!  Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven" (Lam. 3:40-41).  To 'lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven" means to pray with our hearts.

VII. Prayer with one accord

            The Lord says, 'Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven" (Mt. 18:19).

Daniel asked his three companions to pray with him, and their prayer was answered by God at once (Dan. 2:17-19).

There were many cases of praying with one accord during the apostolic period which could be our example (Acts 1:14; 4:24; 12:5).

VIII. Prayer with fasting             

The Lord Jesus had been fasting for forty days and forty nights (Mt. 4:2).  He also taught the disciples that, in order to cast out demons, they needed to fast and pray (Mt 17:21). In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers who, while they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, were instructed by the Holy Spirit to send Barnabas and Saul for the work of preaching.  After fasting and praying, they laid their hands on them and sent them off (Acts 13:1-3).  When Barnabas and Saul appointed elders for the believers in every church, they committed them to the Lord with prayer and fasting (Acts 14:23).  Esther asked all the Jews in Susa to hold a fast with her for three days and three nights, before she went to see the King despite the uncertainty of her own safety (Esther 4:16).  Ezra, while taking a group of people back from Babylon, proclaimed a fast for their safety on their way home (Ezra 8:21-23, 31).  In Babylon, Nehemiah, hearing about the calamity of his people in Jerusalem, kept fasting and praying for them (Neh. 1:4).  Later he went back to Jerusalem and with the Israelites assembled for fasting and confessing their sins (Neb.9:1-2).  Therefore, while facing a great trouble, we should fast and pray.

However, the prayer acceptable in the sight of God is to deliver those who are in great distress and to perform good deeds extensively.  The Bible says, "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?  Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.  Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am" (Is. 58:6-9).

IX. Prayer of Intercession

Paul said to Timothy, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.  This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior' (I Tim. 2:1-3).  The Lord prayed for Peter (Lk. 22:32).  He also prayed for the twelve disciples and the churches in the future (Jn 17:9, 20).  Paul prayed for the believers and asked the believers to pray for him as well (Rom. 15:30-33; Eph. 3:1, 14-19; 6:18-20; Colo. 1:3; 4:2-4).  Moses prayed for the people (Ex. 17:8-13; 32:7-14; Num. 14:1120).  So did Samuel (I Sam. 7:5-11, 23).

Therefore, pray for others or pray for one another.  This is acceptable in the sight of God.

X. Praise and thanksgiving to God all the time

The Bible says, "Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father" (Eph. 5:19-20).  The Bible says, "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col. 3:16-17).

The Bible says, "Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is,  the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name' (Heb. 13:15).

The old servant of Abraham prayed all the way when he went to find a wife for Isaac.  First he asked God for an arrangement (Gen. 24:12-14), and as soon as his prayer was granted, he prayed and gave thanks to God immediately (Gen. 24:26-27,52).  Daniel also prayed and gave thanks to God at once while his prayer was answered by God (Dan. 2:19-23).  Thus prayers are not only for supplications, but also for thanksgiving and praise.  Furthermore, we should pray any time, anywhere.

The Bible says, "But I call upon God; and the Lord will save me.  Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan and he will hear my voice" (Ps. 55:16-17).

The Bible says, 'Seven times a day I praise thee for thy righteous ordinances' (Ps. 119:164).  Daniel prayed three times a day (Dan. 6:10).  The Jews, during the apostolic time, also prayed three times a day.  They prayed at the third hour of the day (nine in the morning), the ninth hour of the day (twelve at noon), the sixth hour (three in the afternoon), and they kept the time of prayers (Acts 2:15; 10:3, 9, 30).  Therefore, we should pray often.