Jesus “spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
In this Scripture Jesus exhorted the people to pray, no matter what the need, the problem, or the sorrow. He advised them to persevere until the answer came. Jesus Himself advocated prayer, but what did He mean? When all is said and done, what is prayer? What does the word mean? If we are to understand the secrets of prayer, we must first understand what prayer is.
Prayer Is the Turning of the Human Soul to God
In this chapter on defining prayer, despite all the other definitions I will use, the basic definition, the bottom line, always remains the same: Prayer is the turning of the human soul to the living God. Think about that for a moment.
David declared, “To You, O Lord, / I lift up my soul” (Ps. 25:1). In its initial aspects, prayer is the turning of the human personality, the human mind, upward toward God.
There might be times of prayer when the lips do not utter words—prayer can be an inward thought. Depending on circumstances, this reaching out to God might amount to a painful wrenching of the heart, an inarticulate moan or groan. God will accept any or all of these as prayer.
When one truly prays he doesn’t lift up his heart to saints, to denominations, or to people, but to God. Prayer is the turning of the immortal spirit of man toward the Mighty Creator of the universe. Prayer, then, is communion with God.
Prayer Is Communion with God
“O You who hear prayer, / To You all flesh will come” (Ps. 65:2). Prayer is a communing between your spirit and the Great Spirit of the Universe, which is the Living God.
Adam communed with God “in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8), in the Garden of Eden. The two of them communicated with each other. Fellowship is another word for communing or communication. When you are in fellowship with another person, you are keeping the lines of communication open.
So prayer is relating to and communing with God. When you are in a position to commune with God, you do not fear Him. You don’t approach Him to accuse Him, but to love Him through fellowship with Him. This communion, this communication, this fellowship with God, is prayer.
Prayer Is a Heart Study
Prayer is a heart study because, in prayer, your heart is revealed to you as God sees it. Prayer is a school in which we learn truth that’s not available anywhere else. When I don’t have the answer to a problem or issue which arises, instead of wasting a lot of time worrying, I pray. As I pray, God reveals to me the decision or the answer to the situation that I need.
Often God reveals myself to me as I pray. A case in point is when I have said something to my wife about a matter. I might think that what I have said is all right, but as I pray, the Lord might say to me, “You spoke too harshly. Your voice carried an edge to it. You were too upset inside and it showed. You should ask forgiveness.”
If God does not reveal the incident to me, I might not do anything about it. But when God shows me my heart, my attitude, I can go immediately and ask my wife’s forgiveness.
Prayer Is Intensive Desire
Prayer is an intensive desire to see something happen or come to pass; it may be a desire that God has placed within you. That’s what the Word of God tells us: “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26).
Isn’t that beautiful? The Spirit, God’s own Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is interceding for us—for me, for you. If you are looking for the will of God, you can find it in prayer, even when you may not be able to find it in thought. But by the intensive desire of the spirit within you, reaching up to the mighty Spirit of God, His will can be made plain to you.
Prayer Is a Spiritual Compass
All ships and airplanes carry compasses, which are vital pieces of navigational equipment. Among their several functions, compasses enable pilots and navigators to know their direction of travel and to pinpoint their exact position at any time. In one of my flights in a small airplane, the pilot pointed to a small town below us and said, “I think that’s our destination.” But when he consulted his compass, he realized we were about fifteen miles off our course. It was not the town we were seeking.
Prayer is to the Christian what a compass is to a navigator. Prayer will pinpoint our spiritual integrity and show us our weaknesses. Prayer will clarify our positional relationship with God. Even as a compass points the navigator to the North Pole, prayer always points us to our heavenly Father.
Prayer is the most powerful force in the universe. And when a Christian begins to realize the importance, the wonder, the excitement, and the effectiveness of prayer, he will no more divest himself of his regular daily prayer than a navigator would set out on a flight or trip without his compass.
Prayer Is Working with God
Through the divine medium of prayer we can reach right out of our human element to God Himself. This truth is implicit in the prophet Isaiah’s words: “He saw that there was no man, / And wondered that there was no intercessor; / Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; / And His own righteousness, it sustained Him” (Isa. 59:16).
God was seeking an intercessor to pray. God is still seeking intercessors, men and women (as well as youth) who will commit themselves to intercessory prayer. That means that you and I are prospects for this critically important work of God’s—the work of interceding for His people.
It’s exciting to realize that you and I can actually share in the work God is doing in our world.
If you are elderly and can’t get out much, you can still be an integral part of God’s kingdom. By accepting this opportunity you can proudly say, “I am God’s personal assistant. I assist God through prayer.”
The prophet spoke of God’s cry: “I looked, but there was no one to help; / And I wondered
- That there was no one to uphold; / Therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me; / And My own fury, it sustained Me” (Isa. 63:5). God sought men to “uphold,” to stand for Him, to stand with Him, to be intercessors; but “there was no one to uphold.”
Not only do you and I need prayer in our own behalf, but we have an obligation to pray for God’s work in the world; that is, to pray in His behalf. You and I are God’s hands. We are His voice. We are His witnesses. We are His intercessors. So when we pray, we are working with God.
“So I sought for a man among them,” God said, speaking through the prophet Ezekiel, “who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one” (Ezek. 22:30).
Here again, God needed someone to stand in the gap, someone to pray. But apparently He sought in vain—there was no one to labor with Him. I know something of how He felt. There have been times in my life when I was faced with a gigantic task to perform, something that was greater than I could handle. I looked around for someone to stand with me, beside me, but there seemed to be nobody—nobody at all. At such times I felt like I was standing alone against a whole battalion of enemy soldiers.
Such a position should never come to a Christian. God tells us to pray for one another. When we help a brother in prayer, we help God’s cause, because we are standing with God against the enemy of our souls.
Join with me in telling God, “Lord, You won’t ever have to stand alone again. I will stand in the gap with You!”
Prayer Is Divine Reverence
If we are to be effective in our prayer, we must come before our Father in divine reverence. In today’s world, it seems that irreverence is the order of the day. Around us we see irreverence for our country, for our flag, for our leaders, even for God Himself. If we are to become mighty in prayer, we cannot allow a spirit of irreverence to overtake us.
Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23). In order to pray effectively, one must “worship the Father in spirit and truth.” One must have the right spirit when he prays, and that right spirit must be one of respect and honor and deep reverence.
All of the great men and women of prayer I have ever known or read about have been those for whom prayer was serious business. There was no frivolity, no lightness, no joking about this matter of approaching the King of the universe.
If you desire to learn the secrets of prayer and become a man or woman of prayer, you must learn to reverence the One to whom you direct your petitions.
Prayer Is Divine Obedience
Before you read the rest of this chapter, pause and ask yourself, “Do I harbor a spirit of disobedience within me?”
Are you in a spirit of rebellion against your parents?
Are you in a spirit of disobedience toward God?
Are you in rebellion against the laws of our land?
You must ask yourself these questions, because if you are in a state of rebellion, you cannot receive from God what you desire. The opposite is also true. “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:21-22).
In other words, obedience is related to success in prayer. If we cannot come before God in humble obedience to His divine Will, which is expressed in His Word, we cannot expect to receive His miracles. “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (1 John 3:23).
If you are to see the manifestations of His power in your circumstances, you must obey Him. You must come to the place where you will speak to Him and say something like this: “Lord, I am being obedient to You in everything I know to do, and I want You to know that I’ll do anything You want me to do.”
By making such a commitment, you will find yourself well on the way to getting your prayers answered.
Prayer Is the Power That Unlocks God’s Treasures
Prayer is the key, the force, the energy, the power that unlocks heaven’s treasures and makes them available on the earth.
Some people need healing, but don’t pray for it. “Why should I pray? God knows I need to be healed.” It’s true; God does know you need to be healed. But He has given you the key that will unlock heaven’s healing power for you. That power is prayer. Jesus told us, “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matt. 7:7). Ask. Pray.
Need doesn’t unlock God’s treasures. Prayer does; faith does; intercession does. If you will come to God with the right spirit, using the right keys, you will see God move on your behalf as you have never seen Him move before.
Prayer Is the First Step in Knowing the Lord Jesus
“For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13). The first step in knowing the Lord Jesus is meeting Him in prayer, saying to Him, “Lord Jesus, come into my heart. I am sorry for my sins. Cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Make me a child of God.”
Through that beginning you get to know Jesus. You get to know God. You open and begin to receive the treasures of heaven. The whole transaction begins—and continues—through prayer.
Prayer is very simple, yet, at the same time, very complex. I have outlined and described a few definitions of prayer. Read them until you understand them. Then begin to pray according to God’s Word and He will give you the victory you seek.