The Power of Prayer

Prayer is a vital aspect of the Christian life and one of the highest privileges of God’s children. But it can be difficult! How then, are we to pray? And how can we persevere in prayer? By remembering the power of prayer. This power is found in the One to whom we pray. It resides the throne room of heaven, where God our Father sits eager to hear and answer the prayers of His people.


This evening we will be continuing our series Mere Evangelism.[1] For the last few weeks we have been talking about the practice of evangelism: how to communicate the gospel, use imagery, handle objections, and expect opposition. Tonight we are going to discuss one of the vital organs to this body of evangelistic living: prayer.

Without prayer, our evangelism will be plagued by self-dependence, a deadly disease which weakens and kills any effort to serve God. Yet it is not only necessary for evangelism, but for all of Christian living. Someone once asked Charles Spurgeon which was more important, Bible-reading or prayer, to which he responded, “which is more important, breathing out or breathing in?” Prayer is an essential component to any life of faith, any relationship with God, and subsequently, any attempt to do something for God. We must pray.

But prayer is very difficult. Though it should be natural to us to speak to our heavenly Father, we all struggle with when, how, how often, or how long to pray. We need constant encouragement to remain faithful in this spiritual discipline, and we are given such encouragement in the Scriptures! I want to consider several of those tonight with you and look at prayer from a birds eye view and then take a specific look at how it applies to evangelism.  We will look at four aspects of prayer: The privilege of prayer, the pain of prayer, the power of prayer, and the practice of prayer.

First, let’s consider the privilege of prayer. In Matthew 6:5-15, Jesus teaches his disciples how to communicate with God. He tells them to pray to their Father in secret who rewards them (6:6), to avoid thinking that more words equal more of God’s attention (6:7), and to trust that the Father knows what they need before they ask him (6:8). The emphasis is on their relationship to the Father, which is why Jesus begins the Lord’s prayer, “Our Father” (6:9).

This is the first privilege of prayer: intimacy with God. In prayer, we speak with our heavenly Father. His heart, his attention, and his ear are toward us. He knows us, loves us, and listens to us. What a thought! The God that spoke the universe into existence and upholds it even now desires to converse with us. He desires to spend time with us as a Father does his child. We invest and grow in our relationship with him every time we pray.

The second privilege of prayer is partnering with God. After addressing God as our Father, Jesus teaches us to pray, “Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (6:10). Through prayer, we get to partner with God in glorifying his name, seeing that his will is done on earth, and bringing about his kingdom. Of course, God doesn’t need us to do this. He invites us as his sons and daughters and as co-heirs with Christ to partner with him in the work of God-glorifying kingdom building. We get to be a part of all of this through prayer.

The third privilege of prayer is dependence upon God. Jesus continues in Matthew 6:11, “Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Because of prayer, we don’t have to shoulder our inadequacies, our failures, our inabilities, and our anxieties alone. We don’t have to depend on ourselves or others- both of whom will always fail us. Through prayer, we get to depend on God by casting all of our anxieties, needs, and requests on him, trusting that he will meet all of our needs. Consider Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to “cast your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” It is a privilege to depend fully and completely upon God.

Here’s my question for you. How is your prayer life? Does it align with these privileges? Do you enjoy intimacy with God? Do you pray for his kingdom to come? Do you pray for his name to be glorified? Do you pray for your needs? Do you cast your anxieties on him?

With regards to evangelism, do you pray for people to come to know Christ? Who have you prayed for this week, this month, this year? Do you pray for opportunities? Do you pray for boldness? Brothers and sisters, it is not only a privilege to have intimacy with God in prayer and to have our needs met, but it is a privilege to be apart of building his kingdom by praying for people to be saved! Who can you begin praying for right now? How could you pray for them regularly?

Now let’s talk about the pain of prayer. By pain I mean that prayer is difficult. C.S. Lewis referred to it as an “irksome” discipline in which no distraction is unwelcome. I appreciate Lewis’ candid honesty. It is difficult to get motivated to pray. It is difficult to start praying. It is difficult to maintain prayer. It is difficult to be consistent in prayer. It is difficult to persevere in prayer. I’ve certainly felt this, and I am sure you have to.

But there’s hope for us. Jesus knew we would struggle to pray. In fact, Luke prefaces one of Jesus’ parables about praying by saying, “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not become discouraged” (Luke 18:1). Jesus knew that we would struggle to persevere in prayer. He was right; when he told his own disciples to pray in the garden of Gethsemane, they slept.

Prayer is hard. We are weak, finite, fallen creatures who struggle to grasp the incredible privileges that have been given to us in prayer. We get distracted. We get sleepy. We struggle with priorities. But God shows us grace to us by hearing the prayers that we do pray, however small, however weak, and incrementally nudging and growing us deeper in prayer by the power of his Spirit. In one book I read, the author encouraged his readers to “pray until you pray.” Often the most difficult thing is to start. So start praying, and keep praying until you’re praying from the heart. This may take time and practice. That’s ok. Press on! Pray until you pray.

Another aspect that makes prayer difficult is seemingly unanswered prayers. Though we may feel like sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers, that is not the case. The way he answers is certainly complex, but he never avoids answering altogether. It is not as if some of our prayers come before him and he simply discards them. He may answer with a no, a not yet, or a not yet, but these are still answers. When Jesus prays for the cup to pass from him in the garden of Gethsemane, there is no answer. But that non-answer is an answer. Do you see what I mean? By not letting the cup pass, the Father was answering the Son, “only you can drink this cup. It cannot pass from you.”

Perhaps a more difficult aspect of prayer is when God clearly answers, but not in a way we want. We pray for a job, but we don’t get it. We pray for a good test result, but it comes back negative. We pray for favor in a conversation, but it goes poorly. The apostle Paul experienced this when he asked three times for a certain “thorn” in his flesh to be removed. “Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor 12: 8-9).

So, what can we do when we experience pain in prayer? What should we do when we become discouraged? We must continually remind ourselves of the trustworthiness of the One to whom we are praying. We must trust his Word that tells us that he desires for us to cast our anxieties on him and let our requests be made known to him (1 Pet 5:7; Phil. 4:6). We must believe the words of Jesus and act on them, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him” (Matt. 7:11). We must take God at his word and persevere in prayer, trusting that he will answer, and that when he does, his answer is good and perfect.

With regards to evangelism: We must persevere in prayer in this area. We cannot expect quick fruit and easy answers. The famous missionary Adoniram Judson labored for six years before he saw a single profession of faith among the people in Burma. For others, it may be sooner. For some, we may die without seeing our prayer answered, especially if it is for our children or grandchildren. But I want to encourage you- press on. Do not lose heart. Ask, seek, knock. Persevere.

Next, let’s consider the power of Prayer. First, I want to remind you of why we can pray. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Therefore let’s approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need.” The power of prayer is found in this verse: that you and I have the privilege of going boldly before the throne of grace. We have an audience in heaven, at the very throne room of God. We bring our needs, our anxieties, our requests to the One who has all power, dominion, and authority. The power of prayer is found in the One whom prayer connects us to: the divine Lord of all creation.

But why can we go before his throne? Even more, why can we go with confidence? Or, as some translations say, boldly? Let’s back up and read the verses before, beginning in verse 13, “and there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must answer. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let’s hold firmly to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin” Hebrews 4:13-15). Then we get to our verse, “therefore let’s approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need.”

Why can we go to the throne of grace, i.e. into the throne room of heaven via prayer, with confidence? Because a high priest stands there on our behalf. We have all sinned against God, and as v. 13 says, no creature is hidden from God’s sight. We would all stand condemned if we were judged according to our deeds. But God demonstrated his love for us by sending His Son to us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who lived a perfect life that fulfilled the law and  bore the judgment of God against our sin on the cross. He was raised on the third day, and now sits in the heavens on the throne as our high priest. Whoever repents and believes in him is forgiven of their sins, given his righteousness, and restored in their relationship to God.

This is why we can go boldly to the throne of God: because Jesus stands as our high priest, constantly interceding for us. He has reconciled us to God the Father, mending our broken relationship with Him. He has given us direct access to the Lord of creation. That is why there is power in our prayer, because we are now sons and daughters of God, asking our Father- the ruler of the universe- to act on our behalf.

Because of this power in prayer, we see multiple examples in Scripture of prayer bringing things about. For example, consider James 5:16-17, “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. A prayer of a righteous person, when it is brought about, can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” We are called to pray for one another, considering the example of Elijah, because our prayers can actually affect things!

The apostle Paul exemplifies belief in the power of prayer. He asks the recipients of his letters to pray for him on numerous occasions. And he expects their prayers to be answered! When he is imprisoned, he asks for prayer in Philippians 1 and says, “for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:19). In the book of Philemon, even though Paul is in prison, he encourages Philemon to go ahead and prepare a guest room for him. Why? Because, he says, “for I hope that through your prayers I will be given to you(Philemon 1:22).  Paul expected God to answer Philemon’s prayers!

There are numerous examples of the power of prayer throughout church history. Perhaps one of my favorite is one of George Mueller’s examples. George Mueller was a 19th century evangelist who founded and directed the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England. He cared for over 10,000 orphans in his lifetime. In his journals, Mueller kept many examples of answered prayer. On one occasion, the orphanage was out of money and out of food. One housemother came to George and informed him of the situation. George asked her to take the 300 children into the dining room and have them sit at the tables. He prayed, thanking God for the food, and waited.

George believed that God would provide food for the children as he always did. Within minutes, a baker knocked on the door. “Mr. Mueller,” he said, “last night I could not sleep. Somehow I knew that you would need bread this morning. I got up and baked three batches for you. I will bring it in.”  Soon, there was another knock at the door. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. The milk would spoil by the time the wheel was fixed. He asked George if he could use some free milk. George smiled as the milkman brought in ten large cans of milk. It was just enough for the 300 thirsty children. Beloved, there is power in prayer!

Let me give a caveat here. We should not expect God to answer all our prayers in exactly the way we want. In a sense, this is self-evident. Children sometimes ask for things that would be harmful for them or to others, do they not? But for other requests, those that seem good to us, we must simply trust the goodness and sovereignty of God.

We can trust that our Father will give us what we need (Philippians 4:19). We can trust that he will answer our requests that are according to his will (1 John 5:14). He tells us to ask, believing that he will grant it, if it is in accordance with his good and sovereign purpose. That is why we trust God himself, not our prayers. Our prayers are just the words we use to access and commune with him!

Do you believe in the power of prayer? Do you believe that you can actually affect things in the course of this life simply by praying? God invites each of us to partner with him in bringing  about his kingdom, his glory, and his will on earth- through prayer. He would not have told us to pray if it did not accomplish anything! Does your life reflect this belief in the power of prayer? I fear that mine often does not. And I often wonder if when I get to heaven and see all that my prayers did accomplish, I will be overwhelmed by what they could have accomplished, if I had only prayed more. I don’t believe there will be any opportunity for sorrow or regret in heaven, but the thought still remains, and I hope it pushes me to greater faithfulness and perseverance in prayer.

With regards to evangelism:Do you believe that you can play a vital role in someone coming to faith in Christ through your prayers? Do you believe that you can see someone be transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light in part, because of your prayers? Do you believe that you can be given words to say, specific things to do, or be led to certain people, all by prayer? You should! Beloved, if we are going to evangelize, we must begin, sustain, and end with prayer.

Finally, let’s consider the practice of prayer. How do we pray? One of the things that we are incorporating into our discipleship curriculum this year is a lesson on prayer. In it, we will have a very simple acronym that many people have used to help them structure their prayers: ACTS.

A: Our prayer times can begin with A for adoration. This helps focus our attention on the God to whom we are praying. It also helps us praise him for who he is before we begin making our requests to him. Consider different attributes of God and praise him for them. We can say things like, “God, I praise you that you know all things,” or “God, you are holy, righteous, self-sufficient, and never changing.” You can focus on just one attribute or many. The point is to begin by acknowledging God and praising Him for who he is.

C: Next, we move to confession. Ask God to reveal to you anything you have thought, seen, heard, said, or did that was displeasing to him. Confess whatever sins come to your mind and try to do the work of discerning the heart behind the sin. For example, don’t just confess that you’ve been complaining too much at work. Maybe its pride drawing leading you to this sin, and your complaining is just how you’re handling your frustration that no one recognizes how great you are.

T: After adoration and confession, we move to thanksgiving. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Thank God for specific things in your life in the spheres of salvation, family, church, work, etc. Where can you see his blessings in your life? Spend time thanking him in prayer for them!

S: Finally we come supplication. Too often we begin here and start here. Too often we only ask for things rather than praising God, confessing our sin, and thanking him. We must not demean supplication, however. It is an integral part of prayer! Supplication is where we ask God for things in our lives or in the lives of others. We can and should pray about anything and everything.

With regards to evangelism, this is where we should pray for others who do not know Jesus. We can pray for individuals, groups, even countries! I have found it to be really helpful to have a system here. I have used note cards, prayer calendars, apps, reminders, and more. I never really stick to one thing in particular, but I have noticed a trend: when I do have a system in place, I am far more consistent in prayer.

ACTS is a very simple tool to use to guide your prayers. You don’t have to pray through each section every time that you pray, nor do you have to give equal time to each section. It is just a guide to help you give structure to your prayers. Prayer is the most difficult for me when I do not implement any plan or structure to it.

So that’s how we can pray. Another aspect of practicing prayer I would encourage you to consider is scheduling your prayer time. Even if it is short, schedule a 5-10 minute window you can pray every day at that time. For me, that’s the first thing I do when I wake up. Then I read my Bible, then pray again, and then try to pray throughout the day as things arise and things come up. But I fear that if we never schedule prayer, often by quoting the verse, “pray at all times” or “pray without ceasing,” we may end up never praying.

I want to close by asking you this: what is your takeaway from tonight? What have you learned about prayer, and how will you apply it? More specifically, I want you to think of one to two people who do not know Jesus, and I want you to make a plan to pray for them this week. Maybe set a reminder on your phone to pray for them every other day at 8am. Schedule a calendar event on Monday to pray for the lost in your family, Tuesday for the lost in your workplace, Wednesday for the lost in your neighborhood, etc. You get the point!

I’m going to give you few minutes to think on that and make a plan, then I will close in prayer. May God take all that we have studied about prayer and help us, by the power of the Spirit, to pray according to His will, for his glory and our good. Amen!

[1] This series has been based on Randy Newman’s Mere Evangelism (The Good Book Company, England: 2021).

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