As I taught the 4-week introduction to prayer this past August at Thompson Station Church, I had the privilege of entertaining some really great questions on prayer.
Is every conversation with the Lord considered a prayer? Or only when you say, "in Jesus' Name I pray?"
Every conversation with the Lord is considered a prayer! Prayer is communication with God. When you say, "in Jesus' Name I pray" those are merely words unless you understand their meaning. Some people use "in Jesus' Name I pray" as a sort of spiritual postage stamp to get their prayer to heaven. But in reality, to pray in the Name of Jesus is more about surrender than it is about sending.
When we pray in Jesus' Name we acknowledge that He is reason we get to enter the presence of God and make our request; and that we want to yield our petition to His wisdom and knowledge and power. God answers our prayers when we align them with His purposes and desires. Those simple words, "in Jesus' Name I pray" align us with Him.
Be careful to understand that God's purpose is always best even when you don't understand how.
But, any conversation you have with God is prayer, any petition you make is delivered when it aligns with the heart and mind of Christ. So the more you are "one" with Him, the more answered prayers you're going to experience.
Why do I find it "hard" to pray?
I have 3 reasons:
1. You don't know how to pray because we're not doing a great job of teaching you! Note that I have a great course online that will help you with this, Prayer that Makes a Difference is a FREE 21-day course on prayer. You can participate in it right here on this website! Prayer that Makes a Difference
2. You aren't convinced that prayer works. As long as it seems like a useless endeavor you've really got no interest in it.
3. You have an adversary (the devil) who is intent on keeping you prayerless.
Romans 15:30-31, Paul says, "I beseech you to strive together with me in prayer" Both the words beseech and strive leave me thinking that prayer itself (even for Paul) required effort.
Prayer is hard work! But keep this in mind when you strive and wrestle to have an effective prayer life, Andrew Murray said, "The power of prayer rests in the faith that God hears it!"
God hears you when you pray. Regardless of what the adversary might be telling you, prayer works because God hears and answers you when you pray!
What do you and what should we picture or visualize when we pray?
Picturing is so powerful, especially for those with vivid imaginations. I like to picture the throne room of heaven. If you read Revelation 4 you can gain the beginnings of a visual of this place.
Hebrews 10:9-22 also encourage us to imagine ourselves entering this throne room boldly with the humble understanding that we are welcome there because of the blood Jesus poured out for us.
It is also a powerful thing to visualize the answer to your prayer, borrow the feeling of what the answer will bring and go ahead and thank God for proving Himself faithful to hear and answer you when you pray.
This will encourage your faith and empower your prayer. God has answered your prayer already--He is working the all things together right now.
Why do I feel I am neglecting family, friends, etc if I "forget" to mention them in prayer?
Because the devil is an accuser and he wants to heap guilt on you to distract you from the great praying you are doing. If you'd like a systematic approach to praying for family and friends, consider putting together a notebook with tabs on it where you indicate the people you care about for whom you'd like to pray over consistently. Then, each time you sit still to pray, take a minute to jot a prayer for them in the book.
This is a great way to track God's answers to your prayers! (In our class we made these notebooks)
Can you pray incorrectly?
Yes! There are 6 common mistakes people make when they pray. We spent an entire class on these mistakes. You can read these in this blog post: 6 Reasons Your Prayers Aren't Working
Now I know without a shadow of a doubt that God is...who He says He is. My mind 100% realizes and knows to yield to Him. Why can't I "make" my heart yield to Him? I feel like I'm not "in" I'm not 100% yielding and I want to and know I need to!
What a beautiful and honest question. Me too!! When you feel this way, pray like this, "Lord, I want to want what You want me to want...please change my 'want to.'"
When we pray...we have to anticipate God's answer to us. The anticipation paralyzes me...why?
This can happen so easily! We want the answer to our prayer so desperately that we can't see straight! At times like these, yield your longing to Him, talk with Him about how hard it is to wait for His answer to unfold, and find peace in understanding that He knows better than you do how and when to deliver your answer. I have several great blog posts that might help you with this, here is one, Why Does God Make Us Wait?
I know He is directing my path? Does he prepare us for a coming battle or storm?
Yes! He does! But don't create anxiety for yourself by fixing your eyes on the horizon and dreading the battle or storm. Just know that battles and storms are inevitable and that God will be with you in them, just as He is with you in preparation for them, and in the healing and restoration that follows them.
The "withness" of God is your strength! That's in the Bible somewhere--just not exactly like I worded it. :)
Do we really change God's mind when we pray?
No, we release what God has in mind when we pray.
James 4:2 says that we have not because we ask not.
Jeremiah 18:7-8 expresses God's genuine desire to "change his mind" --to relent and to withdraw judgement when His people pray. "If they repent I will not destroy..."
Ezekiel 22:30--31 tells us that when we don't pray, God's judgement continues forward, "I looked and found no one so I will pour out fury..."
Our prayers matter! This reminds me of a hymn we sang in the church where I grew up,
Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh what needless pain we bear...all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
I have heard that you should pray once for something where I pray for it all the time. Which should I be doing?
According to Matthew 7, pray and keep on praying! We spent an entire lesson on praying through to a breakthrough. Here is a great blog post that captures the punch in that lesson, How to Argue with God and Win, Step by Step
Is a wife's prayer hindered because of her husband's sins? Not sure where I heard or saw this verse.
Nope. It's the other way around. A husband's prayer will be hindered by the way he treats his wife!
I Peter 3:7 says, "Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you[a] of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered." ESV
Can the enemy read my thoughts? Does he eavesdrop on my prayers?
No, Satan cannot read your thoughts. But he doesn't have to. He can, most of the time, know what you're thinking by listening to what you say and observing how you behave.
Yes, Satan absolutely eavesdrops on your prayers. He can learn how to attack you with doubt and chip away at your faith when he can hear your heart. HOWEVER, you can banish him from your prayer closet by lacing your prayers with praise. The enemy flees when we praise God, proclaim His greatness and acknowledge Him in all His glory.
What happens to the soul of one who does not forgive and has no faith and passes on?
When someone dies without forgiving they miss the opportunity to experience freedom that comes with forgiveness. But for the one who is living, even if the person they need to forgive has died, they can still experience freedom by releasing that person through forgiveness. Forgiveness has more to do with your relationship with God than it does with your relationship with others.
Jesus told us that if we refuse to forgive, we hinder our prayers from being heard and answered. God's very nature is to recognize our offense, and yet forgive us. In order to embrace the heart and mind of Christ we must clothe ourselves with His forgiving nature.
If "one has no faith and passes on" they missed their opportunity to choose to believe in Jesus as the only way of salvation. However, which one of us can truly know the heart of another? Only God knows, and therefore, only God can be the judge of another.
If someone gave their life to Christ and got caught in the devil's trap of offense they still go to heaven when they die; they just robbed themselves of experiencing all of what they could have experienced while they were living.
How do you know when God is saying wait instead of no?
As you pray, you will want to grow in your relationship with God. You want to understand Him, understand what He considers good. You want to yield your understanding to His. You want to grow to trust Him. All along the way, you will strive to hear His voice and know His ways.
As you walk through your waiting time, God will let you know what He's up to. He will perhaps convince you to change your prayer; adjust your prayer; maybe even mature your prayer. Before you receive your answer you might be praying something completely different.
When you pray be careful to pray with open hands, trusting the God who loves you to respond to you. If He chooses to deny your request, press in to Him and do like Jacob. Refust to let go until He blesses you.