As I woke up this morning, I heard the question in my mind, “Is prayer heard?”
So, is it? Is every time you pray, actually a prayer that God hears?
We have a place to pray. But when you get on your knees, does God always hear you? In this Christian life, prayer and reading God’s Word changes things.
It changes my attitude.
It changes my heart.
Things start to happen.
Things that can’t be explained.
More than Disney
People say Disney is a “magical” place. They cry when the princesses bustle into the room or when Winnie the Pooh holds their child’s hand. The look my child’s eye as he gazed at Piglet – it was as if that pink fuzzy animal was an angel.
And yet, we can join the greatest One who ever lived. Any time. Any place. No appointment needed for Him to whisk in the room.
So, I ask, according to the Bible, “Is prayer always heard”
Well, we know that Jesus said (Luke 18:10-14)
10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer:‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income. ’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner. ’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted
(Luke 18:10-14 NLTse)
So, which prayer was really a prayer?
Jesus said that the humble man, the one who couldn’t even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed, the sorrowful man who begged God’s forgiveness. That was the one who was justified before God. Jesus should know, he hears millions of prayers a day, I would suspect.
So, humble prayers are the kind of prayers that are heard.
The definition of prayer according to the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary is
“dialog between God and people, especially His covenant partners.”
And I’m curious if you’re praying, but God isn’t listening, is it really just talking to yourself?
5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
(Matthew 6:5 ESV)
When Time Spent in Prayer Isn’t Really Prayer
Have you ever prayed and realized you were just thinking about what you want to say next? Or thought to yourself – “wow, that sounded good.”
If you are every praying and care how your prayer “sounds”, then You have the wrong audience.
Ron Dunn in his book, “Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something” says,
“There was a recognizable rhythm to the life of Jesus: He would withdraw to meditate, then go out to minister. Again and again this patter repeated itself. The public life of Jesus was supported by His private Life with His Father.”
What is the Rhythm of Your Prayer Life?
Think of it. You have a rhythm for how you treat your car. You have to. You gas it up every so often. You wash the window shield. You change the oil at certain times. How could our minds be any different? How could we expect to be kind and forgive our enemies and love people who are nasty to us sometimes without connecting with God? How can we be willing to fit with His will without asking for His help and knowing His will?
If our drummer got up one Sunday, sat down at the drums, and hit the drum one time. Then, he got up and left and came back the next Sunday and hit one drum one time – that is not a rhythm. It is too far apart. And guess what, he’d be replaced as a drummer. He wouldn’t be drumming, he’d be hitting the drum one time.
Matthew 7:7 in HSCB is translated
Pray in secret. Keep asking
And even if you do create a prayer wall or a prayer journal with all of the verses that you write down. Be careful even about that.
7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words
(Matthew 6:7 ESV)
We can’t have vain repetitions “as the heathen do”. There are times when I’m reading the verses I’ve written to pray, when I feel my mind zoning out. That is when I stop and take a knee break and just talk to God.
Does God give us wisdom?
He promises in James 1 that He’ll give us wisdom if we ask.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double- minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8 ESV)
I love the words used in verse 6 “wave of the sea” – it is actually a word for sea foam. If you ask and don’t believe, you’re like the flotsam and jetsam on the sea. If you watch sea foam, it is there for one moment and not there for another.
Is everything worth praying over?
Well, I’d like to say yes. We pray at all times.
18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication
(Ephesians 6:18 ESV)
But, honestly, if the most heartfelt prayers you pray all year long are for your team to make the field goal in the last second of the game – I don’t think God likes that one bit. If we care more about a touch down than someone having their heart touched by the Sunday morning message, then, football has become our idol. We care more about our team than Jesus, in that case. And I admit, I’ve found myself doing it. I know what I’m talking about here!
Many sinners become saints when they have a long putt to make. Billy Graham said,
“The only prayers of mine that weren’t answered were on the golf course.”
If I do pray at the football or rugby field (what Mom with a boy out there doesn’t) — I mix in prayers for my friends who do not know Christ. We Christians call those who do not know Him, “the lost” because
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(John 14:6-7 ESV)
But when Jesus says we do not have because we do not ask, I take him seriously. So, I ask. Always. I just look at my heart to notice the intensity with which I ask to see if it measures up with priorities that are aligned with what Jesus wants me to have as my priorities.
He hears us in our anguish
But the words above from John 14 bring agony to my soul when I think of others. Does it to you? Complete agony.
There are times, when prayer is more than prayer. When it is the anguish of your soul. Mark 14:32-42 where Jesus cried out,
“Abba, Father, Everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Mark 14:36)
The darkest nights of soul are when we beg God for what we want but ultimately know that it should be in accordance with His will.
14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to His will he hears us
(1 John 5:14 ESV).
Billy Graham said,
“The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘Help me.’”
As I have my own private place of prayer that I will not share and brag upon, for the Bible is clear,
6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you
(Matthew 6:6 ESV)
I read about an interview that done with Billy Graham as the interviewer was writing Billy’s memoirs and they talked about prayer and how often he prayed. As they talked Billy Graham said something like,
“even now, I’m praying right now that I’ll answer you well.”
That is a life of prayer. Where we just pray all the time.
Why We Pray
Dear friends, don’t think I’m holy or perfect because I pray. I pray because I’m not. I pray because I struggle. I pray because I have a dark night of the soul several times a week. As the Mom of three children, I’m often in anguish. We bear children, we don’t have them. We live their burdens. We feel their pain.
I look forward to the phone calls where my children tell me about what is happening. How they are faring. The things they are praying for and need. I’m here wanting to help them and meet their needs.
How much more so does our Father look to us, his children.
Are you His child so He will hear your prayers?
First of all, ask yourself – am I His child?
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved
(Acts 2:21 ESV)
Second of all, if you are, consider the time spent reading your Bible and praying.
Ron Dunn says something in His book that has ripped my heart in two,
“There are things that God chooses to do because we pray, that He does not do because we do not.”
Certainly, it says in the Bible,
You do not have, because you do not ask. (James 4:2 ESV)
Ron Dunn also says,
“The book of Acts is filled with prayer meetings; ever forward thrust of the first church made was immersed in prayer…They prayed ten days and preached three minutes and three thousand people were saved. Today we pray ten minutes and preach ten days and are ecstatic if anyone is saved.”
Christians are to be different. Not because of our hate. But because of our love. We are to pray for our enemies. As we pray, we have to forgive that jerk who was ugly to us as we drove to church.
Forgive. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25 ESV)
Be constant. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12-13 ESV)
Humbly pray. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double- minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you (James 4:8-10 ESV)
Prayer is foolish to our dear friends and family who don’t know Christ.
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:25 ESV)
Prayer is not something that we can explain but it is something people can see in our lives when we live a life of prayer.
And it is all about honoring God and Jesus Christ His Son. For when it ever becomes about us, that is when we lose sight of our purpose for praying.