The word prayer can conjure up all kinds of fancy, ritualistic, legalistic, traditional pictures in people’s minds, but prayer doesn’t have to be fancy or done in a certain way or contain certain words to be heard by the LORD. Matthew 6:7 says “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.”
We’re told that the LORD hears the prayers of the righteous (see Prov. 15:29) and that the “earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results (James 5:16b). That’s when we tell ourselves “Well, what’s the point then? God won’t hear my prayers anyway!” But who is righteous since all of us sin and fall short?
Romans 3:24 tells us that “God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” So the righteous are those who believe in a resurrected Christ and have been washed by the blood of Jesus, having repented of their own sins and forgiven others of their sins, they live a life of faith, obedient to the LORD’s commands. Through His death on the cross, Jesus made it possible for us to enter into the presence of a holy God and speak with Him as we would a loving Father.
Yes, it is true that we can pray no matter what we’re doing – taking a shower, driving, vacuuming, or chopping wood – but it’s also good, and often necessary, to clear our mind of all distractions and just be still and quiet before the LORD so that we have an opportunity to hear Him. Psalms 37:7 (NLT) says “Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act” and Matt. 6:6 (NLT) says “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”
It is during the quiet times that we will be most likely to sense the leading of the LORD as He brings certain people to mind or puts burdens on our heart. But don’t worry, if we are sincerely wanting to pray for other people groups around the world but still don’t know what to pray, His Word assures us that “the Holy Spirit helps us when we are weak. We don’t know what we should pray for but the Spirit himself prays for us. He prays with groans too deep for words. God, who looks into our hearts, knows the mind of the Spirit. And the Spirit prays for God’s people just as God wants him to pray.” (Romans 8:26-27, NIRV). Isn’t that comforting?
If you’re one of those people who has a hard time clearing your mind of all the distractions in life or remaining quiet for any length of time, you may find it helps to write out your prayers. A prayer journal kept in this way means you can go back and log any answers you get to certain prayers.
It’s also good to remember that God is always at work, and although we may not recognize the ways He is working or even understand that whatever’s going on is actually part of the answer to a prayer, we should continue to pray in faith nevertheless. We don’t always see things the way God sees them, because His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (see Isaiah 55:8,9) so we must be open to answers that may not be what we were expecting or even wanting. Romans 11:33 tells us “Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!”
So, whether you see the visible changes you’re hoping for as a result of your prayers or not, continue to pray. “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Eph 6:18) Remember, those righteous prayer warriors who are persistent are rewarded (see Luke 11:5-10) for God is much more patient than we usually are and He doesn’t want anyone to perish!
Thank God that He doesn’t want anyone to perish because I still have family and friends who are blind to the saving truth of Jesus. I don’t want them to perish and I can be reassured He doesn’t want them to either, but I have to remember and rest in the fact that He’s the one who’s going to draw them to Him and they’re the ones who have to decide if they will or won’t choose Him. I just won’t give up hope and I won’t give up praying for their salvation.