The scope of prayer is hidden to millions. Yet, by ripping off the mystical covering in which prayer has been wrapped in centuries, we can discover its secrets. For instance, the mighty agency of prayer can span the globe.
You can approach the Father’s throne. You can participate in life-changing acts of mercy and healing. You can change your own life with prayer. You can influence your family and associates by praying. You can participate in the healing of your land by consistent, persistent praying.
“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 will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).
In the last chapter, we looked at some important basic attitudes toward prayer that are keys to seeing your prayers answered. Now we want to consider some of the crucial specific elements, or dimensions, of prayer.
The First Dimension Is Confession
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). “Confess your trespasses to one another” (James 5:16), wrote James, the earthly brother of our Lord. There is power in confession. Confession initiates a relationship with our Lord. Continual confession leads to growing intimacy with the Most High God. It is through confession that we cleanse our temples, our beings, our minds, our souls, and our spirits of sin and uncleanness.
In one of his timeless appeals to his heavenly Father, David cried out, “Have mercy upon me, O God, / According to Your loving kindness; / According unto the multitude of Your tender mercies, / Blot out my transgressions” (Ps. 51:1).
The power of this first dimension of prayer is the honest speaking out to God in the first person—the admitting to God of who you are, the admission of your personal need for Him,your need of His love, your need of His cleansing and forgiveness. It’s important to be open and transparent with God, to hold nothing back from Him, to be totally sincere.
The Second Dimension Is Thanksgiving
In today’s America, most people live better than kings lived two thousand years ago. Even kings did not have at their disposal the food selections we have available in almost any supermarket of the land. They owned no refrigerators. Ice had to be rushed from the distant mountains by a slave, often at the cost of his life. Even homes of Americans who are not wealthy can boast of effective heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. And the majority of Americans drive a car of some kind. None of these advantages was available to even the richest of men during Jesus’ day.
Yet many Americans are afflicted with the sin of ingratitude. Today’s people often have more and appreciate it less than any other generation in the history of mankind. As a general rule they are a thankless, grumbling lot.
Children don’t thank their parents for their tender, loving care. In today’s world by the time a child is grown, through college, married, and with a home, he may have cost his parents close to a million dollars. That includes hospital costs, doctor and dental care, clothes, education, transportation, music lessons, summer camps, vacations, and more.
How wonderful it would be if children would say to their parents each day, “Thank you, Father. Thank you, Mother. Thank you for all you have done for me”; then go out into the community to thank the grocer, the banker, the police officers, the pastor, and all who have had a hand in their care and welfare; then, above all, thank God for His love and care.
David said, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! / For His mercy endures forever” (Ps. 107:1). It’s true; His mercy does endure forever.
Smith Wigglesworth, a friend of mine, told me of an incident that occurred while he was in Sydney, Australia. One Sunday afternoon as he was eating dinner by himself in a very large restaurant, he noticed that nobody was praying over his food. So when Mr. Wigglesworth’s food was delivered, he tapped his knife on his glass. When he got the people’s attention and every-body stopped eating, he stood up and spoke.
“Pardon me, ladies and gentlemen,” he began, “but I noticed that none of you, as far as I could see, have prayed and thanked God for your food. So, if you don’t mind, please bow your heads, and I will pray over our food for all of us.” Then he prayed.
When he finished and sat down, the restaurant patrons gave him a resounding hand of applause. In addition to being thankful for their food that day, a number of people remained behind to pray and find Jesus as their Savior—all because one man was thankful for God’s work in his own life.
Be thankful to God, my friends, be thankful. Whether at home or in a public place, don’t begin your meal without pausing to thank God. And while you’re at it, don’t just thank God for the food, thank Him also for the clothing and shelter He provides. Thank Him for your life, for the air you breathe, for health and strength. Thank Him for every good and perfect gift He provides.
Thank Him also for vast possibilities of a life lived in the Spirit, for a life of prayer.
The Third Dimension Is Worship
In the common vernacular, worship could be considered “courtship” with God—courting His presence, courting His love. It’s a terrible blight upon the world when so many people use God’s name in vain. Even many Christians blatantly preface many sentences with “God” and “My God.” Others frankly curse life, situations, and even their fellow men by damning them in the name of God.
Many others seldom think or speak of God (or to God) unless they are in trouble. Then they beg, “O God, I need You to help me. I need something.” It’s as though they consider God to be an eternal Santa Claus.
God cannot be approached casually. He is the Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth. He must be approached with deep respect, with reverence, adoration, praise, and with worship.
Read the Old Testament example of approaching God in this manner. “Indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying: ‘For He is good, / For His mercy endures forever’” (2 Chron. 5:13).
It is good to tell God He is good.
“The house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God” (2 Chron. 5:13-14).
What a sight that must have been! The house “was filled with a cloud.” The glory, the brilliance and majesty, the shekinah, the very presence of the Almighty responded to the praise of God’s thankful people. God responded to His people’s praise in those days. God responds to praise today.
When a person loves God he will praise Him.
Praise is the prayer of thanksgiving, the instrument that will court and nurture an ongoing growth and deep relationship with the Father. Praise is not optional. It is mandatory if one is to maintain a loving, courting dialogue with God.
The Fourth Dimension Is Meditation
What, exactly, is meditation? Webster terms meditation as “deep continued thought, deep reflection on sacred matters.” In simple terms, meditation in its best sense is the contemplation of God. It is thinking about God, about His Word, about the depth and extent of His goodness. It is waiting upon God.
The psalmist sang, “My soul, wait silently for God alone, / For my expectation is from Him” (Ps. 62:5). Wait—for God.
A waitress in a restaurant “waits” upon customers by attending to their needs. We wait upon God by attending to His needs. What needs, you might ask, does God have? He needs us to think about Him, to glory in His presence, to bask in His Word, to talk to Him, to be with Him for such extended times that we begin to think like Him, and even to reflect the image of His son, Jesus. What a glorious thought!
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).
The “Alpine glow” helped me to understand the miracle of this Scripture. The first time I saw the late afternoon sun strike the Alps, transforming them from shimmering white to effulgent gold, I could hardly contain myself. I had never seen such a majestic sight. My thoughts turned to the even greater majesty of my heavenly Father and my Lord Jesus Christ, and I was lifted into the very throne room of the Most High through meditational praise.
The Fifth Dimension Is Petition
Jesus told us, “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matt. 7:7). We receive from God because we make our needs known to Him. We have been talking about the dimensions of prayer, which include the ways and means of praying. God is looking to us right now, eagerly awaiting the calls, the petitions, and the prayers of His children. When those petitions come to Him according to the formula laid down in God’s Word, then He answers them and supplies our need from the bounty of His storehouse.
If you are a clean vessel, a committed child of God, living and growing in His Word and will, and if the need is great enough, and you petition God with unyielding faith, you can expect God to answer your prayers as He did those of Elijah.
Just don’t give up. Never give up.
When you pray with the understanding that prayer is the crying out to God with your entire being, that it is the supplication of your innermost person, and that these strong, sincere cryings and petitions are offered to the One to whom your life is totally given, then the Master of the universe will respond and answer your cry.
Even our Lord Jesus understood and prayed according to this principle. “Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard” (Heb. 5:7).
We must be specific when we pray to our Father. Come to Him boldly (see Heb. 4:16), unashamedly. Tell Him what you need. Talk to Him about those needs. Be consistent in your praying. Write those needs down and present them to Him the next day, and the next, and the next, if necessary.
God loves and responds to persistence and consistency. If you are really sincere with God and go after what you need in the proper manner, I can assure you that you will receive it.
The Sixth Dimension Is Intercession
Children understand the art of intercession. They know how to hold on until they receive what they want from their parents, whether it’s a new bicycle, a new dress, or an ice cream cone. They persist in their intercession with their earthly parents until their requests bear fruit.
Jesus admonished His disciples to bear fruit (see John 15:1-8)—not just a little fruit, but much fruit. And if the vines (Jesus’ disciples) don’t bear fruit, He promises to prune them until they do (see v.2).
The fruit that Jesus expects can come only by abiding in Him. Without Him we can do nothing of value in the Kingdom. As I minister in many places in the world, I often come across frustrated, unhappy Christians. They find themselves in a mode of defeat for one basic reason— because they are unfruitful.
Fruit-bearing comes by intercession. Intercession opens the door of God’s abundant storehouse. Intercessory prayer is the praying that won’t give up. When there’s a need in your life, in your own family, in your church, or in your community, you bear fruit—meet or supply the need in any or all of those areas—by interceding with the Father.
The prayer of intercession is one of the greatest needs of the church today. The prayer of intercession will move mountains. It can change families, communities, and governments.
There are glorious bonuses for prayer-intercessors. As you experience the unleashing of God’s unlimited power through intercession, you will also experience His unspeakable joy. Because you will have learned how to literally open heaven’s doors, you will see your own needs met. You will also see the needs of those around you met as you intercede for them.
Jesus did not command His disciples to bear fruit and leave them hanging, wondering how to go about it. He told them, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). During the same discourse, Jesus told them, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (John 15:16).
Intercession is beseeching God on behalf of others. Intercession is bearing the fruit.
Abiding in Jesus empowers one to intercede in such a way as to bear the fruit.
The Seventh Dimension of Prayer Is Travail
Travailing is like prevailing. Travail, according to Webster, is “very hard work; toil; labor pains; pains of childbirth; intense pain; agony.” Travailing is giving birth. A mother travails in labor and brings forth a new child into the world.
The pain experienced by a woman in labor is unlike any other pain known to mankind and is only dulled by the strongest anesthetic. But the joy of creation, of bringing forth this child into the world, actually transcends her pain.
For the Christian, travailing is wrestling with God for victory. It is believing in something with such passion that no exertion, however difficult or painful, is too great to bring the vision, the goal, the dream, into fruition, or to see bondage removed or a burden lifted.
Travail may result in weeping before the Lord. It may result in the compassionate agonizing for the release and birthing of souls into the Kingdom.
A mother in childbirth may often feel she is on the brink of death before she delivers. To travail is to be willing to die for a cause. The exertion could be so intense that one may truly be convinced one is dying before the answer comes forth. Jesus prevailed in prayer until the sweat drops that fell from His body became great drops of blood. That, my brother, is travailing.
Travail in Prayer Brings Divine Energy
When one travails in prayer to the point of reaching his own outer limits of strength, one experiences a sort of divine energy that enables him to hold on. Spurgeon said, “God does not hear us because of the length of our prayer, but because of the sincerity of it. Prayer is not to be measured by the yard, nor weighed by the pound. It is the might and force of it—the truth and reality of it—the energy and the intensity of it.”
Travail Is the Depth of Desire in Prayer
Our Lord Jesus, the Master of all prayer, said, “Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24). The word desire can be relative. I may desire to see my family saved and do nothing about it. On the other hand, I may so deeply desire to see my family saved that I will travail for hours and days in prayer for them. Jesus was speaking of the travailing kind of desire as being the depth of desire that brings results in prayer.
One can be assured, on the foundation of God’s Word, that those prayers that are meant with one’s whole heart and soul, and are prayed with believing intensity, will be heard and answered. It is such prayers that will change the world.