I’ll never forget one of the first lessons I learned about prayer. I was a child, and I was at a Christian children’s camp. A leader taught a group of us guys about prayer. He offered a simple definition — “Prayer is talking to God.” He then had a boy join him on stage. They engaged in mock dialogue, illustrating the way one could talk to the Lord. Just as a child might talk to a friend, he could engage in simple conversation with God. Since learning this lesson, I have learned much more about prayer. Let me share three keys to effective praying.
In some ways, the explanation I was given as a youth might have been a bit oversimplified. But I believe the lesson still holds valuable truth. We need not make prayer overly complicated. We can go to the Lord as we would a close counterpart. Jesus alluded to this truth when He told us to approach God by saying, “Our Father in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9). Our Lord’s words give us a title by which we can address God. The second word in the title (“Heaven”) points to His sovereign, all-powerful, and eternal nature. The first word (“Father”) emphasizes His desire to relate to us. Contrary to the opinions of some, the Lord is not a far-off, grandiosely transcendent being who is put-off by the requests and pleadings of mere earthlings. He is magnificent, holy and otherworldly, but He wants to know us, and to be known by us.
Scheduled times of prayer are certainly merit-worthy. Jesus had such a practice (see Mark 1:35), and He encouraged something similar from His followers (see Matthew 6:6). However, prayer can’t be left to the prayer closet alone. To experience the rich and robust blessings of intercession, we must learn the secret of instantaneous appeals. Nehemiah is one who understood this concept. He had been burdened about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. One day, King Artaxerxes noticed the man’s profound sadness and depression. He asked Him, “Why are you sad, when you aren’t sick…What is your request?” (Nehemiah 2:2 and 4). Nehemiah knew that an appeal to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem might be deemed treasonous. So, he silently, instantaneously prayed in the moment (see Nehemiah 2:4-10). You can do something similar. Whether you are sad, glad, burdened, or blessed, you can quickly and privately pray to the Lord instantaneously. You don’t always need to escape to a secret place.
Make it Enduring.
Many never experience the life-changing power of prayer, because they give up too easily. They approach supplication like a fad diet. They do it for a while, hoping for immediate results, but they give up before long. If we want to see abundant fruit from intercession, we must have abounding prayer. We can’t give up when the going gets tough. We have to press through and persevere. Jesus taught His disciples regarding this matter. He told a parable to demonstrate “the need for them to pray always and not become discouraged” (Luke 18:1). If you want to tap into the power of prayer, make a commitment to persevere. Don’t approach times with God like a New Year’s resolution. Make prayer a way of life. Keep on praying and don’t give up!
Dr. Patrick Latham