Imagine having a special phone that gave you access to call the CEO of Amazon to ask for anything from the website, for free. Or imagine you're a soldier in war, and given a special radio that connects you to the general himself, to ask for intelligence or air support. Finally, imagine your significant other is on speed-dial, ready to pick up and listen when you're lonely, sad, or need encouragement.
Prayer is our gift from God, His invitation to talk with him and ask him for help. That's all prayer is: talking with God. But it's different than talking to yourself, talking to a friend, or talking to a robot. God has character and resources far better than anyone else. He is richer than Amazon, more powerful than a General, and more comforting than your greatest relationship. You get a direct line to ask for His help. What a privilege!
We have examples throughout Scripture of godly people praying: Moses in the wilderness, Hannah in 1 Samuel, David in the Psalms, the early church in Acts 1:14, Paul & Silas in prison in Acts 16:25. We see in Revelation 5:8 that God keeps our prayers before Him as incense in bowls. And perhaps most importantly, we see Jesus praying often (Mark 1:35, Luke 9:18, John 17, Matthew 26:36), and teaching His disciples to pray (Luke 11:1). Prayer is important!
God not only invites us to talk with him as often as we'd like, He actually commands us to engage in relentless prayer! Let's take a look at a few Scriptures:
- Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints
- 1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray without ceasing
- Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
- Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
- Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
So when should we pray? All the time. Consider each of these specific situations:
- When tempted, pray: When you are facing temptation, and vulnerable to giving in, call out for God's help! This is what Jesus commands us in Matthew 26:41, "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." John Owen wrote a whole book on this one verse, called Of Temptation, found in this 3-part volume. Jesus further instructs us to pray even BEFORE we face temptation, in Matthew 6:13, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
- When victorious, pray: Did you make it through the temptation? Did you succeed? You must realize that you did not succeed on your own strength, that victory is from the Lord. Proverbs 21:31 says, "The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord." All victory is because of God's grace and provision. Therefore praise God, give thanks to Him. He gets the glory for victory.
- When in trouble, pray: Psalm 50:15, "call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me." Are you in trouble? Do you have difficulty? Are you facing obstacles or challenges? Call upon the Lord! Ask Him. Speak with Him. He will deliver you for His glory and your rescue.
- When you are glad, pray: Pray with praise! Give thanks to God! That is the proper overflow of our joy and gladness. Consider these COMMANDS to praise God: Psalm 95:1, "Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!" and Psalm 100:1-2, "Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!" and James 5:13b, "Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise."
- When in need, pray: Jesus offers to provide us with whatever we need. John 14:14, "If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it." and John writes in 1 John 5:14, "And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us." and Paul writes in Philippians 4:19, "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." How can God do this? Because in Him are limitless riches, and He owns "the cattle on a thousand hills" (Psalm 50:10). No need is too great for our great God who has no needs. Wow.
- When you've failed, pray: You've sinned. Should you run away from God? No, no! Come to Him. Jesus is the friend of sinners. Draw near to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). Pray to confess your sins. Pray to ask for God's forgiveness. Pray to ask for help in fighting. For more on this, check out Right After the Failure.
- When you're opening up the Bible, pray: If God's Spirit does not assist us in our Bible reading, the Living Word will remain merely black ink on a white page. We desperately need His help. Our hearts need to be inclined to the Lord (Psalm 119:36), our eyes need to be opened to see spiritual truth (Psalm 119:18). John Piper has an amazing prayer acronym called IOUS, and you can learn about it on this Ask Pastor John podcast episode titled: I'm Bored with the Bible.
- When suffering, pray: James 5:13a is crystal clear, "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray." And we have this encouraging promise from Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." God has already drawn near! Pour out your heart to Him like water (Lamentations 2:19). The Psalms are filled with songs of lament, crying out to God in suffering. God cares. God knows. Speak to Him in your pain.
- When you need to grow, pray: We've already talked here on The Relentless Fight about how we should Pray for Discipline. Ask God to grow you! Ask Him to train you. Ask for the conviction of the Holy Spirit about specific sins in your life. Ask for His help.
- When the harvest is plentiful, pray: Jesus knows that there are not enough workers in the mission of disciple-making, the need is greater than the supply. He calls us to ASK the Lord of the Harvest for more workers, "therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." (Matthew 9:38). Pray for God to raise up more disciple-makers! Pray for reinforcements!
- When anxious, pray: Anxiety is like a warning light on the dashboard of your heart. How should you respond? You should pray. Anxiety can therefore be a REMINDER to pray, woah! Philippians 4:6, "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." and 1 Peter 5:7, "casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." Don't worry, God cares for you.
- When others need help, pray: Don't just pray for yourself, pray for others! Are they suffering, tempted, victorious, glad, or anxious? Pray for them too! James 5:16 says, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." All throughout Paul's letters we see him praying for his churches. We see in Luke 22:32 Jesus prays that Peter's faith would not fail when he is sifted like wheat by Satan.
- When your prayers aren't answered, pray: Sometimes we pray and pray, and we don't get the answer we want, or we seemingly get no answer. Paul had this experience in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, he asked the Lord three times to remove his thorn in the flesh, but God answered no. We see the Psalmists crying out, "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?" (Psalm 13:1). This is certainly painful. But our response to this pain should ironically be... to pray. For more thoughts on this, check out this blog post.
- When __________, pray: We've only scratched the surface of the situations where we are called to pray. No matter what you're experiencing, prayer is ALWAYS a good response. It's probably the wisest and best thing you can do. Pray. "God can do more in five seconds than we can do in five hours or months or years. This is one reason the habit of prayer is wise. Sometimes we do not get the five-second breakthrough because we do not ask." (John Piper article)
Pray!! All the time, pray. In every situation, pray. Finally, a few more resources on prayer:
- Four Motivations to Pray (Ask Pastor John Piper, sermon clip)
- A Call to Prayer (very small book by JC Ryle)
- Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (longer book by Timothy Keller)
- Or rather, don't read about prayer, just do it. Just pray. Pray. Pray right now.
Pray. Remember the Gospel. Pray. Keep Fighting. Pray. Prayer should soak all we think, say, and do. Why would we not?
The Relentless Fight