"Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1).
Compiled from the writings of David Berg
To cry to the Lord in prayer is something that should come naturally to every truly born-again child of God. God expects each of His children, those who really know Him, to touch Him personally and make direct contact with Him, not just through somebody else's prayers or faith. Therefore each of us must learn to individually make personal, intimate contact with the Lord through prayer, the heavenly link, the divine telephone between us and heaven.
Even though our "heavenly Father knoweth what things we have need of before we ask Him" (Matthew 6:8), He likes us to confess that we alone can't solve all of our problems and that we need His help. He likes us to be humble and willing to pray, to acknowledge His power and show our faith in Him by asking Him for help. Then, of course, He likes to answer, not only to remind us that we need Him, but also because He likes us to appreciate His help and to love Him for it--like a father.
That's the way we parents often feel with our own small children--we like to answer their questions and solve their problems and give them answers--if they'll ask. But a lot of times they just try to struggle through on their own. I've often told one of my frustrated young children, "Why didn't you ask me to help you?" And it's the same sort of situation with us and the Lord: He likes for us to ask Him for His help, as this is what shows our faith in Him and His Word, divine guidance, and parental love.
The Lord loves to give us the answers to our problems and questions and troubles. He knows exactly what to do and how to do it, and wants us to ask Him for His guidance. He says, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8).
He even goes on to say, "For what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?" (Matthew 7:9-11).
All we have to do is ask and He promised we'd receive. If we really seek the answer, we will find it! So don't ever think you have to try to figure out all your problems and decisions yourself. Get down in prayer and get God's answers. He says, "Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not" (Jeremiah 33:3).
"Without Him you can do nothing" (John 15:5), but with Him, you can "do all things through Christ which strengtheneth you" (Philippians 4:13). So when you really need help, tell it to Jesus. "Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee. Cast all your cares upon Him, for He careth for you" (Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7). Jesus said, "My yoke is easy and My burden is light." But there's one condition to it--"come unto Me" (Matthew 11:28-30). When you come to the Lord in prayer and faith, and ask Him for the answers, you'll get them.
This is what prayer is all about. It is not merely some kind of religious ritual, but a living relationship. As that dear hymn says:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear.
What a privilege to carry,
Everything to God in prayer.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit.
Oh, what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry,
Everything to God in prayer."--Joseph M. Scriven (1820-1886).
The Lord's shoulders are broad enough to carry any load--all the burdens put together, including His own. So it's really important to learn to pray and commit our burdens, trials, and needs to Him.
Hearing from heaven
With many people, prayer is a one-way conversation, and they do all the talking. They pray, "Hear, Lord, Thy servant speaketh," instead of like dear Samuel, the child prophet, who at five years of age said, "Speak, Lord, Thy servant heareth" (1 Samuel 3:10). You'll get a lot further that way, listening to the Lord instead of talking so much that you don't even have a chance to hear what He has to say.
Prayer is not just getting down on your knees and speaking your piece, but letting God speak His, too. This is why each of us is supposed to know the Lord personally and be filled with the Holy Spirit and therefore be led by the Spirit individually, so that we can personally seek the Lord and find the answers for ourselves that we need for our own individual cases.
This is actually the greatest thing that each of us needs to learn--to follow God and to hear from Him fresh every day. You can't just get inspired once and let that do for the rest of your life. It's like eating: One meal doesn't last you even one full day, and it certainly doesn't last you for weeks and months. And just as you've got to eat every day, you've also got to get inspired every day. You need fresh food of the Spirit, fresh power of the Spirit, milk of the Word, fire from on high to inspire you day after day.
We all need to hear from God. It doesn't have to be out loud; it doesn't have to be with an audible voice. It can just be in that "still small voice" (1 Kings 19:12) that you feel inside of you, sometimes not even words, just an impression that you have. God doesn't have to communicate in words; He can just give you a feeling or a picture or an idea.
His Spirit is like a broadcasting station, broadcasting all the time; you just have to learn how to tune in. If you've got an open channel and tune in, the Lord will fill you--your mind, your heart, your ears, your eyes. You just have to have faith. Jesus can speak anytime, anywhere, if you believe. So when you ask the Lord for an answer, expect an answer.
If you really believe and ask the Lord, and you want to hear or see, you won't be disappointed. And that thing you see or hear with the eyes or ears of your spirit will come from the Lord--and it will be such a comfort to you. Expect God to answer. Just open up your heart and let the sunshine in. If you're really desperate and crying with your whole heart and are asking Him, He'll answer.
If you're always hurrying and rushing around, fretting and impatient, you'll never be able to focus your full attention--your eyes, your ears, your mind, your heart--on the Lord for the solutions to the problems, the answers to the questions, the best decisions for the situations.
Unless you get quiet and try to seek the Lord, how are you ever going to get anything from the Lord? He says, "Be still, and know that I am God. In quietness and confidence shall your strength be" (Psalm 46:10; Isaiah 30:15). You're going to have to get quiet by yourself--somewhere, somehow, sometime--if you're going to hear from the Lord.
Every great man of God, from Moses to Jesus, had to retreat alone to his mountain for a while in order to have time to meditate, pray, and commune with God. My Lord, if Jesus Himself had to do it, how much more we need to do it! Jesus had to get up at the break of day before His disciples got up and walk out across the hills or up in the mountain to get alone with God and get His orders for the day from His Father (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12).
So start the day off right: hear from the Lord. You need it, or things just won't go as they should. If you neglect your fellowship with the King of kings because you're so busy with the affairs of the kingdom, it can be disastrous to your spiritual life and communion with the Lord. You cannot do the Master's work without the Master's power and guidance. And to get it, you must spend time with the Master.
So try a little prayer time early in the morning before your day's work. Asking the Lord for the solutions to problems is the easiest way in the world to get them. If you'd spend a little more time praying, you'd probably spend a lot less time working and trying to get things done.
He'll solve a lot of your problems before the day even starts if you listen to what He has to say. But if you go plunging into all your troubles and your work without stopping to talk to the Lord and get directions from your Commander in Chief, then you're going to be like a soldier who's trying to fight the war all on his own without listening to headquarters, with no guidance from the top.
We all need more quiet time with the Lord in rest and refilling, drinking of the living water of His Word and fellowshipping with Him in the communion of prayer and the sweet lovemaking of the Spirit. It just totally renews you and completely refreshes you and gives you new vision and fresh inspiration, new strength, rest and peace and joy. For "they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).
"In all thy ways acknowledge Him" (Proverbs 3:6).
Although we should spend some quiet time with the Lord every day--time in prayer and reading His Word--Jesus also told us that we should always pray, that we should continually pray all the time, all day long, that in everything we do we ought to be "looking unto Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2).
"Men ought always to pray and not to faint" (Luke 18:1). He also says, "Watch and pray" (Matthew 26:41), and Paul says "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). He knows that we need to, and it's one way the Lord has of keeping us close to Him and in His presence continually, constantly dependent upon Him and His protection.
Prayer is something you should be doing all the time, no matter what else you're doing. You can't wait until you're through doing this or that, and then pray. It's like thinking on your feet. Or like breathing--just breathing the Holy Spirit all the time, being in constant communication with the Lord.
He says, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6). This is one of the most wonderful verses in the Bible to hang on to, especially when making decisions. We don't have to know all the answers, we don't have to lean on our own ideas or wisdom; we just have to lean on the Lord and His leadings.
The Lord can save you a lot of work, a lot of trouble, and a lot of time if you'll just remember to pray before you start a job. Whatever you have to do, pray about it. The Lord is always right there with you. He says, "I'll never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5). He's always there. So it's never God who's not there; it's us who are sometimes not always there, when we run off someplace else and leave Him behind when we forget to pray.
When we don't pray for His help, it's usually either because we just plain forget--and it's very negligent to forget to pray--or we're not willing to admit that we don't know the answer and that we have to ask Him for it. Either way, it's a mistake. When you don't pray and get in tune and ask the Lord to lead you and help you to do the right things, you can sure make mistakes and blow-its and really make a mess of things and can sure get off the track.
Some of the biggest mistakes that Christians ever make are through following their natural reasoning and common sense, when the Lord had something entirely different in mind, contrary to natural expectation, which could only be revealed by His Spirit. Many is the time in the Bible when men made decisions on their own by their own natural reasoning, and it turned out to be exactly the wrong decision because they hadn't sought the Lord or been led of the Spirit.
It's important to remember that you cannot possibly solve the multitude of problems that you will encounter in your own wisdom, your own strength, your own mind, your own understanding, your own trying to put two and two together. Jesus said, "Without Me, ye can do nothing" (John 15:5).
The most important thing in our lives is Jesus and to stay close to Him, to let Him lead and guide us. He's the one who has got to lead us because only He can! Without Him, we don't know where we are going or how to get there. But He knows exactly where and how, and all we have to do is just sit in the back seat and let Him drive. He knows where to go and the best way to get there.
He's promised that if you acknowledge Him, He will direct your paths. He says, "You shall hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it" (Isaiah 30:21). So ask the Lord about everything before you do it. Make sure it's what He wants you to do. Seek Him about everything--every problem, every decision--and He will never fail you or let you down!
Desperate prayer power
The Lord wants us to be happy, and thanks to Him, we usually are. But there should be times when you really seek the Lord for a needed change and pray desperately, pouring out your heart to the Lord. He says, "Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13). All our little prayers are sincere and we mean them, but we also need to get desperate in prayer about any serious situations that arise. There are times when we really need to get down to business with the Lord about problems.
A lot of people have sort of a lazy attitude and seem to think that the Lord will just do it all no matter what. But the truth of the matter is that a lot depends on us. Many times what God does depends on your will and your actions and what you want and how you pray. You're not supposed to just stand there and let God and the Devil fight it out!
Although God can do anything, He has committed Himself to work through you, and your prayers can do mighty things. Of course God's overall plan has never changed, His overall will has never changed, but in certain details you can bring about change through prayer. Otherwise, if prayer can't change anything, you might as well forget it! If you're in His Spirit, in His will, desiring only those things which glorify Him, delighting your heart only in Him, you can ask Him for the desires of your heart, because all you want is what He wants and what is for His glory.
I've never really put myself out on a limb and asked God to do a certain thing, but that He did something. It wasn't always the thing that I was asking for--usually it was--but He did something. He showed me the answer or answered somehow. When you cry unto Him with a whole heart, He promises, "I will answer thee" (Jeremiah 29:13, 33:3).
So next time you really need His help and are on the spot, call on the Lord and His power. Jesus never fails! He always answers when we stir ourselves to call upon Him with a whole heart.
More prayer principles
For a good prayer life, one of the main things you need to know is God's Word. Faith grows by faithful study of His Word. "Faith cometh by hearing the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). Even though God can answer anyway, if you're going to have real desperate prayer, you'll find that if you have a devotional, inspirational reading of the Word first, it will inspire you and give you more faith for your prayers.
God has made promises in His Word, and when you pray, you should bring those promises with you to remind Him. When you remind God of His Word, it shows you have faith in it. And it's a positive declaration of your faith and your knowledge of the Word which pleases Him. For "without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these (His promises) ye might be partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). You have to quote the terms of the Contract (the Bible) to the Contract Maker (God), and hold Him to it. He is bound by His Word. So remind Him of it, cling to His promises, memorize and quote them, and never doubt for a moment that God is going to answer--and He will!
But always remember His conditions, His terms of the contract: faith and obedience! Faith and obedience come first, then God answers prayer. If we are obeying the Lord and are faithful and trusting and believing, then God's got to bless and answer. Of course, sometimes God likes to test our faith. He likes to see how much we really believe, and often He will not give us answers until we obey what He's already told us or shown us.
It's helpful to remember that God's delays are not necessarily denials, and that sometimes we just have to have faith and wait for Him to answer, which usually results in "the trying of our faith, which worketh patience" (James 1:3). Learning patience seems to be one of God's most frequent lessons, yet one of our own rarest virtues, as it really tests our faith and drives us to the Lord and His Word.
Another important prayer principle is to be specific with the Lord. We need to ask for and expect specific answers when we pray. Being specific is a sign of your faith. A lot of times people pray generally because they don't expect to be answered anyhow. Whereas if you are specific when you pray, you're showing your faith that you expect to get that specific answer. And you don't expect to be disappointed. You really expect it or you wouldn't be so specific.
Remember, God takes you exactly at your word! I remember a preacher I knew once who said, "Lord, give me a car. I need a car. I'm desperate for a car, Lord--any old car!" And that's exactly what he got, a real junker! He said, "Next time I prayed specifically for a good car and got it." So be careful what you ask the Lord to do, because He'll take you literally. He'll give you what you ask for, and certainly what you have the faith for.
Watch out about some of the things that you insist on the Lord giving you: He sometimes even lets people have things that aren't good for them to teach them a lesson. He said of the children of Israel that "He gave them their request, but sent leanness to their souls" (Psalm 106:15). Watch out that what you're seeking is for His glory and within His will.
If you've read our lesson on God's precious Holy Spirit, "The Spirit of Love," then you know what a powerful effect the Holy Spirit can have on your prayer life, as once you are filled with the Spirit, you can pray in the Spirit and your prayers have more effect because you're praying by the Spirit. "Likewise the Spirit helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26). You can speak in tongues, letting the Spirit pray through you.
Once you've prayed about something and have committed it to the Lord, you just need to have faith. "Whatsoever things ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them" (Mark 11:24). Faith is not surprised at the answer to prayer; faith believes it. But the word "believe" as it's used today is hardly strong enough. Faith expects it to happen. So once you've prayed about something and committed it to the Lord, from then on it's God's problem. You don't need to worry about it. Just trust the Lord and praise Him and thank Him for hearing and answering your prayer--even if you don't see the answer right away.
In fact, you should not only end your prayers with praise and thanksgiving, but you should also begin your requests that way. His Word says that "in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God" (Philippians 4:6). King David said that we should "enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise" (Psalm 100:4). It's like coming before the King and salaaming, giving Him due reverence and honor.
Even if you're tired or discouraged or don't feel like praising Him, you should go ahead and praise Him anyway, simply because He said to and you know that it pleases Him. It's a little bit like priming an old pump: you pour a little in, but you get a lot out. When you go ahead by faith, praising the Lord, priming the pump and getting started, pretty soon you'll feel happy in the Lord and really glad you praised Him, because He'll pour out His Spirit on you and He'll bless you for it.
Even when you feel a little down in the dumps or discouraged, look up and count your blessings. Thank God for all your blessings and get your eyes on the Lord and on the good things. (See Philippians 4:8.) Praise the Lord! Start your prayers by lifting your heart unto Him in praise! "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name" (Hebrews 13:15).
Also remember: "One can chase a thousand, and two can put ten thousand to flight" (Deuteronomy 32:30). It helps greatly to have someone else pray with you sometimes, especially during times of trial. "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). And, "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 18:19).
There is great power in united prayer together! So never be ashamed to ask for help or prayer from someone else when you need it. "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed" (James 5:16).
One last, but certainly not least, final reminder is about praying in the name of Jesus: All through the New Testament the Lord tells us how important it is to pray in the name of Jesus, to ask things in the name of Jesus, to use the name of Jesus and its power in prayer. Jesus is the one we have to approach God through. "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). People need to realize the power of the name of Jesus! For without that name, there is no power. Jesus said, "If ye shall ask any thing in My name, I will do it" (John 14:14).
Do you know Jesus? If not, ask Him into your heart right now--and Jesus will come in. Then you can learn to really know Him personally, intimately, as you learn to fellowship and communicate with Him through prayer.