A Formula for Prayer

I’ve been in church all my life. I’ve spent countless hours with Christian brothers and sisters both within the context of church gatherings, small groups, and in one on one relationships. But honestly, I can recount only a handful of times when the prayers of the saints impacted me in such a way as to be burned into my long term memory as to what was said, how the room felt, and how the Spirit moved. 

If prayer is such a central part of our Christian walk, why do our prayers not always produce powerful results? Have you ever been with a saint whose prayers were always powerful? It seemed that when they started praying you were immediately aware of the presence of the Lord and were moved in your Spirit. After you pray with people like that, you leave thinking, “Man, I wish I could pray like that. I wish my prayers held that kind of power.” Well, the truth is your prayers hold just as much potential for power as theirs. 

 I believe there’s a simple formula for a powerful prayer life. 

Humility + Faith + Intimacy with the Father = Powerful Prayers. 

When you pray with these giants of the faith, do you notice how honest they are with God? Do you notice how humble they are? Do you notice how they speak to God like they know him like they know a friend?

If we want to pray with faith that moves mountains, we need to understand what prayer is. Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore some truths about the nature of prayer and dig deeper into some of the prayers we find in the Bible. 

In Matthew 6:5-8, Jesus says, “Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him.”

Let’s look at our prayer formula a little closer. 

  1. Humility

When we come to God in prayer, we are addressing the Creator of the Universe, the One who is before all things, the One who holds the whole world in the palm of His hands. How can we who are but dust come to him in any other way but in humility. We are nothing. Our concerns are trivial compared to the concerns of sustaining the universe. And Yet, the Scriptures indicate that he is mindful of us (Psalm 8). He does care for us. He does look after our concerns.

Jesus warns his listeners to be careful not to be like the hypocrites. They like the sound of their own voices. They talk in order to be heard by others. Their prayers are all about them, meaning they want to be seen by others. They want to be known as the praying people. True humble prayer warriors are not concerned about what others think of them. They don’t pray so that others will think, wow what a prayer warrior, they must be so holy. They think very little of themselves actually. 

Saints who pray in humility are focused on the Lord, not themselves. Their prayers are centered on acknowledging who it is they are speaking with. Their words are full of praise and adoration. Their prayers are full of worship. Their prayers are full of declarations about who God is and what He does. 

  1. Faith

Jesus tells his followers to “pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

When you pray, you believe and trust the Lord that He will reward you. We must not doubt God’s ability to move in our lives. We know he is a miracle worker, we know that he is a healer, we know that he can change lives and alter the course of history. Why should we doubt that he can do the same in our lives?

We pray for healing and are surprised when God heals. We pray for restoration in relationships and are surprised when forgiveness is extended and received after years of bitterness and silence. We pray for God to make a way out of hard circumstances and are surprised when he does so. 

If God says he is an ever present help in times of trouble, why are we shocked when he reveals his presence? He’s been there all along. Moving and working in our midst. 

3. Intimacy with the Father

Think of how often Jesus would retreat to a quiet place to pray with the Father. Think of how close Jesus and the Father already were. They were one – Jesus knew the Father’s heart like no one else. Yet he would still make time to get away for that all important relationship. Because Jesus knew the heart of the Father, he could do the Father’s will. He could speak on behalf of the Father. He could carry out the Father’s mission for his earthly life with determination and precision. 

If we want heavenly power in our lives, we must look to heaven regularly for that power. We must go to the Father regularly, not simply when we have a perceived need. We must pursue a relationship with Him.

Do you remember being a teenager and getting on the phone in the afternoon and occupying the houseline with your teenage girlfriend or boyfriend? I’m old enough to remember doing that. You’d sit there with that kitchen phone line strung throughout the house trailing behind you wherever you roamed. That cord had to be 150 ft long. And you talk to them about the day, what happened at school, who said what and when, and all the interesting and non-interesting anecdotes from the day. But mostly, you’d just sit there and listen to each other breathe. Neither one of you would say anything, but that’s okay because you were “in love.” You wanted to keep that line of communication open because this was your most significant relationship at the moment. 

Nowadays kids just text each other on their cell phones and send undecipherable emojis to one another – you know, modern day hieroglyphics. It’s not nearly as intimate. But the thought remains the same. The people who are significant to you require your time and your attention. Intimacy with our heavenly Father is no different. 

We want the Lord to move in our lives. But how often do we ask how the Lord wants to move? What is his desire and his will for our lives? The closer we are to the Father, the better we can answer those questions. And when we know the will of the Father, our prayers change. When we desire what the Lord desires, what we ask of him changes. 

We can all speak prayers that move mountains. The question is: Do we have the faith that that mountain will really move? Are we humble enough to say that it is not by our strength and the power of our own words that the mountain is moved? Do we know the heart of the Father well enough to say whether he wants that mountain moved at all?

When we pray with humility, when we pray in faith, when we pray knowing the heart of the Father, mountains will move. Our prayers will be answered. 

Take some time to refocus your prayers this week. Are they self seeking? Or do they seek the will of the Father? We’ll spend some time over the next few weeks unpacking some of the prayers found in Scripture, like the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6. 

It is my hope that we become believers that pray powerful prayers. That our sanctuaries are filled with the heartfelt prayers of the saints as well as our own private prayer closets. We are all testimonies of answered prayers in some way. May God hear his people this week. May we call on him in humility and in great faith, knowing that He will hear and He will answer.

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