During the first couple of years I walked with the Lord, my prayers went something like this:
- “God, help me get that job.”
- “Jesus, please heal my throat.”
- “Lord, send enough money to pay these bills.”
- “Father, take away my fear.”
It took me a while to realize that those spur-of-the-moment prayers were not accomplishing much. I thought I should do the best I could on my own, and then if I needed a lifeline from God, I could grab for it. The only problem was, I needed a lifeline every other minute.
I loved the Scripture that says,
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. — Matthew 7:7
I took God at His word and was asking, seeking, and knocking on a pray-as-you-go basis. I also took to heart the Scripture that says,
You do not have because you do not ask. — James 4:2
Great! I can easily remedy that, I thought, and I proceeded to ask for everything. But I was still not happy, and I didn’t see the kind of answered prayer I desired.
One day as I was again reading that same verse, my eyes were opened to the next verse:
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. — James 4:3
Could it be that the “God-give-me-this, do-that, wave-Your-magic-wand-here, get-me-out-of-this-mess” kind of praying was not what God desired for my prayer life? In utter frustration I said, “Lord, teach me how I’m supposed to pray.”
He did exactly that!
I came to understand that prayer is not just asking for things — although that certainly is part of it. Far more important, prayer is talking with God. It’s getting close to and spending time with the One you love. It’s seeking Him first, touching Him, getting to know Him better, being with Him, and waiting in His presence. It’s acknowledging Him as the source of power upon whom you depend. It’s taking the time to say, Speak to my heart, Lord, and tell me what I need to hear.
Still later I came across the Scripture that says,
For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. — Matthew 6:8
This puzzled me, so I questioned Pastor Jack: “If God already knows what I need, why do I even need to ask for anything?”
In his usual clear manner, he explained, “Because God has given us a free will. He has set it up so that we always have a choice about everything we do, including whether or not we choose to communicate with Him. He will never intervene where man does not want Him.”
Of course! I thought. God wants us to desire to be with Him. There is no love relationship if one person has to dictate how the other must think, feel, and act.
“God knows our thoughts,” Pastor Jack continued, “but He responds to our prayers. We have to come to a place of realizing that prayer is a privilege that is always ours, but the power in prayer is always His. Without God, we can’t do it. Without us, God won’t do it.”
That put a whole new perspective on the subject. Things wouldn’t happen in my life unless I prayed. And I was no longer just asking for things; I was partnering with God. I was aligning my spirit with His, and together we would see that His perfect will would be done.
One significant example of this was my prayer for a husband. I had been married before I became a believer, but after the failure of that marriage, I seriously doubted I could ever be happily married. It was what I wanted most, but it wasn’t until I started praying about it that I began to have hope. Lord, is there someone with whom I can share my life? I prayed, Someone I can love without being rejected? Someone who loves You and me and will be faithful to both of us?
I had only been praying that prayer a short time when I started dating Michael Omartian, and I was desperately afraid of making another mistake. But God had taught me how to pray about such matters, so that’s what I did.
“Lord, I thank You for Michael,” I prayed every day, “but if he is not the husband You have for me, take him out of my life. Close the door on our relationship. I don’t want to live my way anymore. I want Your will to be done in my life. I seek You first, knowing You will provide all that I need.”
The more I prayed that prayer, the closer Michael and I became until finally we were both certain we were to be together. In the twenty-eight years we’ve been married, neither of us has wondered if we married the wrong person, even during the toughest times. That’s because our relationship was covered and committed to God in prayer from the beginning. And we know that prayer has held us together. Being able to come into God’s presence with our hearts open to being changed kept us growing together instead of falling apart. As I said in my book The Power of a Praying Wife, prayer and our commitment to doing things God’s way have kept us out of divorce court when our flesh might have welcomed it in weak moments.
From an issue as major as marrying the right person to something as minor as preparing a meal for dinner guests, everything I did was covered in prayer. Little by little the fabric of my life began to change, and wholeness crept into it the way damaged cells repair themselves in response to a healing ointment.
How to Pray Effectively
We all know that when friends don’t see each other and communicate frequently, they can become emotionally separated. Well, it’s the same with you and God. If you don’t keep in touch with Him, you begin to feel distant from Him even when you’re not. This is why you must pray daily. Also, when you spend time with someone you respect, the character of that person rubs off on you. When you are in the presence of God, His character is formed in you.
Many of us are especially vulnerable to the enemy’s attack on our self-worth. It doesn’t take much to discourage us, and feeling distant from God will do it. That’s why it’s important to start the day with some kind of prayer. We have to establish ourselves and our lives as being connected to Him.
We can’t receive God’s best for our lives, and we can’t push back the things that were never God’s will for us, except through prayer. We have to learn that we can’t leave our lives to chance. We have to pray over anything that concerns us, no matter how big —
With God nothing will be impossible. — Luke 1:37
— or how small —
The very hairs of your head are all numbered. — Matthew 10:30
If you have any doubt about the importance of prayer or if you are still praying on an on-again/off-again basis, go through the fifteen reasons to pray below. I find that reading the Scripture passages that support them is very motivational too.
Fifteen Reasons to Pray
- To seek the face of the Lord and know Him better (Psalm 27:8)
- To get your eyes off your problems and onto the Lord (Psalm 121:1)
- To speak to God (1 Peter 3:12)
- To unburden your heart (Psalm 142:1-2)
- To make your requests known to God (Matthew 21:22)
- To hear God (Proverbs 8:34)
- To be free of suffering (James 5:13)
- To resist temptation (Matthew 26:41)
- To be rescued from distress (Psalm 107:19)
- To receive God’s reward (Matthew 6:6)
- To withstand evil (Ephesians 6:13)
- To have joy (John 16:24)
- To get close to God (Isaiah 64:7)
- To be healed emotionally (James 5:13)
- To have peace (Philippians 4:6-7)
Once you pray about something, put it in God’s hands. That doesn’t mean you don’t pray about it again; it just means that you have laid that burden at the Lord’s feet. The answer will always come, although it might not be in the way you expect or according to your timing. Most important, you have spent time in the Lord’s presence, where you can hear God speak to you about His will for your life.
Lord, I have a deep desire to draw close to You in prayer. Help me rise above the distractions and busyness that rob me of those times with You. Help me make prayer a priority so that I can learn what Your will is for my life.
Excerpted with permission from Praying God’s Will for Your Life by Stormie Omartian, copyright Stormie Omartian.
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There are so many reasons to pray. Even more than the list of 15 above! What is your reason to pray today? Come share your thoughts on our blog!