[The following is a nice sample of a superb book about effective
prayer and prayer-partnering written by John C. Maxwell. There
is so much more vital information included in this book than I
have given you here. Consider this as just an appetizer. So be
sure to order "Partners in Prayer" online at: http://www.christianbooks.com.
You may also want to check out EQUIP'S site http://www.pastorsnet.org where
pastors and their families are linked with prayer partners and
caregivers. Applying the principles found in the complete book
will enliven and bring growth to your congregation spiritually,
which will then lead to numeric growth as well.]
By Max Lucado
Some months ago I enjoyed a four-week summer sabbatical. I
set three goals during the month. First, I wanted to plan an autumn
series of lessons on grace (which I did). Second, I aspired to
break ninety on the golf course (I did that too--once). And third,
I wanted to learn more about leadership skills. It was through
this third goal that I came to know John Maxwell.
A coworker recommended I seek his advice, so I gave him a call.
He invited me to come and speak to the Skyline congregation in
San Diego. I did. I gathered some ideas on leadership, but much
more, I gained a passion for Prayer Partners.
My Sunday at Skyline was bathed in prayer. The Prayer Partners
met me as I walked in the door and met me as I walked off the
platform. They were praying for me as I flew, as I spoke, even
as I rested. I was so convicted about the importance of Prayer
Partners that I asked God to grant me 120 members who would covenant
to pray for me daily and pray with me fervently.
Upon returning to the pulpit I announced my dream to the congregation.
Within a month exactly 120 people had volunteered to form the
team. We divided the volunteers into four groups and assigned
each group one Sunday per month on which they would arrive early
and pray for the congregation.
That was six months ago. Has God honored the prayers of his people?
Here is a sample of what God has done since we organized Prayer
We have broken our Sunday attendance record twice.
We finished the year with our highest ever average Sunday
We finished the year--hang on to your hat--over budget.
We added three new staff members and six new elders.
We witnessed several significant healings.
I completed a challenging book on grace.
Our entire staff attended a part of the inaugural Promise
Keepers Pastors Conference
Our church antagonism is down, and church unity is high.
And most significantly, we called the church to forty days
of prayer and fasting, inviting God to shine his face upon us.
God has honored the prayers of his people. More than ever I'm
convinced: When we work, we work; but when we pray, God works. (emphasis
Thank you, John Maxwell, for your example. Thank you for going
to the effort of putting into print what you have put into practice.
I speak for thousands who will benefit from this book when I say:
You're a friend to all who dream of a growing kingdom.
UNLEASHING THE POTENTIAL OF PRAYER
Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide
me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
I grew up in a Christian household where prayer was important.
And as a pastor, I spent time in prayer every day. But it wasn't
until God brought me a prayer partner that my life and ministry
exploded with power, and the results began to multiply in an incredible
It all started in 1981 when I became the senior pastor at Skyline
Wesleyan Church in San Diego, California. My wife, Margaret, and
I moved to San Diego with our children, Elizabeth and Joel Porter,
after I spent two years as the executive director of evangelism
at Wesleyan World Headquarters in Indiana. Before that I spent
eleven years as the pastor to two churches in Indiana and Ohio.
I was excited about being a pastor again, and especially about
coming to Skyline. I was eager to get to know the staff, evaluate
the church's ministries, assess the leadership, and identify the
key leaders who were going to help me accomplish the church's
mission. I was trying to accomplish as much as I could as quickly
as I could, which was making me maintain a very heavy schedule.
On a Tuesday morning after I'd been at Skyline for about six weeks,
I was reviewing the day's schedule when I saw an appointment scheduled
for a person whose name I didn't recognize.
"Who's Bill Klassen?" I asked.
"He's your ten o'clock appointment," replied Barbara, my assistant.
"I see that, but who is he? Is he in leadership?" I asked. I had
spent the last few weeks focusing much of my attention on getting
to know the leaders in the congregation.
"No, he's not in leadership," said Barbara. "As a matter of fact,
he doesn't even go to church at Skyline."
Barbara could see that I wasn't happy. "He said he had to see
you. He was very persistent," she added emphatically.
"Well," I said, "give me about fifteen minutes with him, and if
we're not done, interrupt us." My plan was to figure out what
his agenda was, fix whatever problem he had, kindly but quickly,
and get on with the work I had to get done that day.
ONE LAYPERSON CALLED TO PRAY
Bill turned out to be a gentleman of about sixty with hair
white as snow. His face was gentle, almost radiant...He began
telling me about himself, how he had worked in construction in
Canada and sold sailboats in Washington and southern California,
and how he had worked for the Navigators ministry as a discipler.
"John," Bill said. "I believe God has called me--a layman--to
disciple, encourage, and pray for pastors. And the reason I came
here today was so that I could pray for you."
He wanted to pray for me? I thought. In all my years
as a pastor, I've never had a layman pray for me. My own agenda
began to melt away. I felt the spirit of God crushing me, saying, "John,
My agenda is more important than yours. Your life is not like
a one-way street where you just minister to other people. There
are people who want to minister to you. I am sending this layman
to pray for you."...
THE POWER OF PARTNERING IN PRAYER
Neither of our lives has ever been the same since that meeting.
Bill became my personal prayer and accountability partner after
that, and he went on to help me organize a prayer partner ministry
at Skyline, a group of people who prayed for me every day during
my fourteen years there and who met in small groups in a tiny
room at church every Sunday to cover the services with prayer.
It started with thirty-one laymen and eventually expanded to include
120. During those fourteen years, the congregation tripled in
size from a little over 1,000 to nearly 3,500. The church's annual
income jumped from $750,000 to more than $5,000,000. Ministry
at Skyline flourished, with lay involvement increasing from 112
to over 1,800.
But the really awesome power of those prayers has been in individual
lives: Thousands of people received Christ during those years.
My prayer partners grew in their walk with God and became active
participants in the miraculous power of prayer in their daily
lives. Bill and Marianne Klassen started their own ministry to
teach other churches how to start their own prayer partners. And
during those years, God led me down an incredible road. In addition
to all the wonderful things happening in the church, I began working
more and more with other pastors, teaching them leadership and
church growth. I formed INJOY, a nondenominational Christian organization
dedicated to helping leaders reach their potential, in the church,
business, and family. I've even had the privilege of speaking
at several Promise Keepers conferences around the country.
Without prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, I believe none
of these things would have happened. The glory and the honor belong
to God. But the credit for releasing that power and keeping me
protected day after day belongs to those prayer partners.
PRAYER PARTNERS IN HISTORY
Laypeople partnering in prayer with godly leaders is not a
new concept. It goes all the way back to the Old Testament in
the book of Exodus when Moses prayed on a hilltop for Joshua to
defeat the Amalekites...It continued in the New Testament, particularly
in the first days of the developing first-century church, as recounted
in the book of Acts. You probably remember how the 120 disciples
prayed during the days between Jesus' ascension and the day of
Pentecost (Acts 1:14). On the day when the Holy Spirit arrived,
a simple fisherman named Peter gave his testimony, and 3,000 were
Over the centuries, there have undoubtedly been innumerable instances
of people partnering in prayer with preachers. Though no records
exist outside of heaven for most of them, we do know the story
of fairly recent ones:
The Preacher: Charles Finney
The Year: 1830
The Place: Rochester, New York
The Results: In one year 1,000 of the city's 10,000 inhabitants
came to Christ.
The Partner: Finney's
"prayer partner" was Abel Clary. Finney wrote, "Mr. Clary continued
as long as I did and did not leave until after I had left. He
never appeared in public, but gave himself wholly to prayer. [Check
out the story of Finney's other prayer partner in pastor Cymbala's "Fresh
Wind, Fresh Fire"--a Daniel Nash. His prayer labors were as great
as Abel Clary's.]
The Preacher: D.L. Moody,
An Obscure YMCA Worker
The Year: 1872
The Place: London, England
The Results: In ten days 400 new converts came into the church
where he was preaching.
The Partner: In London, a bedridden girl, Marianne Adlord, had
read a clipping about Moody's ministry in Chicago and prayed that
God would send him to her church.
The Preacher: Canadian Missionary Jonathan Goforth
The Year: 1909
The Place: Manchuria, China
The Results: A great revival throughout Manchuria
The Partner: While in London later that year, Goforth was taken
to see an invalid lady. As they talked about the revival in Machuria,
she asked him to look at her notebook. She had recorded three
days when special power came upon her for his meetings in Manchuria.
A feeling of awe gripped Goforth as he realized those were the
very days he witnessed the greatest power in Manchuria.
The Preacher: Southern Revivalist
The Year: 1934
The Place: Charlotte, North Carolina
The Results: Many people in Charlotte were deeply moved, including
a farmer's son named Billy Graham who was converted.
The Partners: Several businessmen, along with Billy Graham's father,
had spent a day at the Graham farm praying that God would touch
their city, their state, and their world.
The Preacher: Billy Graham
The Year: 1949
The Place: Los Angeles, California
The Results: An extended campaign that resulted in a change of
approach in reaching people for Christ--leading to a new era of
The Partners: Graham had conducted many similar events with much
smaller results. He later realized that the only difference between
the L.A. crusade and all the others before it had been the amount
of prayer he and his people had given it.
These instances attest to the tremendous power of prayer partnerships.
It doesn't matter whether the leader is a pastor or layman, and
the person praying can be a man, woman, or child--when someone
behind the scenes partners in prayer with one of God's frontline
servants, awesome things happen.
PRAYER CHANGES THE WORLD
God's hand moves when people and pastors pray together. Through
prayer, God makes the impossible, possible.
Through prayer, God greatly multiplies our efforts. C.H. Spurgeon
said, "Whenever God determines to do a great work, He first sets
His people to pray." In a moment of revelation, Spurgeon had discovered
that neither his sermons nor his good works accounted for the
spiritual impact of his ministry. Instead, it was, as one writer
put it, "The prayers of an illiterate lay brother who sat on the
pulpit steps pleading for the success of the sermons." It was
his partnership with people of prayer that made him effective.
I can personally attest to the benefits that others' prayers have
given me. There have been times when I've gotten ready to do a
service or conference, and I've been physically exhausted. But
when my prayer partners lay hands on me, and I see them praying
over the auditorium, I receive a new strength--physically, mentally,
spiritually, and emotionally. I feel prepared to receive the power
of God. And that has allowed my ministry to have great impact
on people's lives.
My prayer partners have also told me, "Pastor, during the service
we are going to cover the people around us in prayer. When you
see us in the service, we'll give you a thumbs up. That way you'll
know we're praying for you, and we have our area covered."
When we've had a particularly good service, I know my prayer partners
and their prayers were the reason...
PRAYER CHANGES ME
Jesus told His disciples, "I tell you the truth, my Father
will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have
not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and
your joy will be complete" (John 16:23-24). If prayer did nothing
other than what Jesus promised, it would be one of the greatest
gifts God has given us. But prayer does even more. It changes
the ordinary man or woman and makes them extraordinary.
Prayer changes us by drawing us closer to God, changing and molding
us into His likeness in the process. David understood prayer's
power as a personal change agent. His prayer in Psalm 25:4-5 describes
the process that prayer takes a person through: "Show me your
ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your
truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is
in you all day long" (emphasis added).
This passage contains three key phrases: show me, teach me, and guide
me. When God shows us His standards and His will for
our lives, it isn't always easy on us. It almost always requires
us to grow and change. But once we accept what God would show
us, He is able to teach us. And when we're teachable and
growing, He is finally able to guide us, to lead us into
His plan and purpose. When God shows me, He has my heart. When
God teaches me, He has my mind. When God guides me, He has my
DON'T LIVE BENEATH YOUR POTENTIAL
Despite God's promise of the power to change us and our world,
many Christians never tap into it. They come to Christ, but then
they live beneath their privileges [much like D.L. Moody said--look
up the short article by D.L. Moody in the link/section on the
book of Ephesians. Mr. Moody explains this subject more thoroughly.]
It's as though God has prepared an incredible banquet for them,
and they're sitting in the corner with a bologna sandwich. The
problem is that they don't want to risk giving up the familiar
sandwich for the promise of the banquet. It's almost like they're
saying, "Okay, I'm saved and I'm going to heaven, but I'm going
to stay right where I am until then."
I must ask you: Are you one of those living beneath your privileges
and missing out on your potential by not praying? The table has
been laid. The sumptuous banquet has been set out. You have already
received your invitation. Now what are you going to do? Are you
going to bring along a few friends and come to the table? Or are
you going to eat your bologna sandwich alone in a corner? The
choice is yours. You can become a person of prayer who
receives and shares the blessings God has to give.
Most pastors and their churches across the country are currently
starving in the area of prayer. One evangelical pastor, speaking
about his own denomination, said, "In Acts chapter two, they prayed
for ten days. Peter preached for ten minutes and 3,000 were saved.
Today, churches pray for ten minutes, preach for ten days and
three get saved."
But it doesn't have to be that way. Every pastor at every church
in this country can tap into the awesome power and protection
that only prayer provides. I believe that you may be one of
the people in your church who can help make that happen.
You may be saying to yourself, "Me? I'm no prayer warrior. I could
never lead or organize others to pray. I'm not even comfortable
with the idea of praying for my pastor. I don't even know if I
can do it."
My answer is, "Yes you can!"
Anyone can become a strong man or woman of prayer. It doesn't
take a miracle, and you don't have to be a Holy Roller. You only
need to be a Christian. If you meet that qualification, you have
the potential to become a great pray-er. And that's the reason
you can pray for your church leaders. You are on the same level
as them in the eyes of God. A pastor is simply a brother in
Christ, not some spiritual giant. He struggles with the same problems
Get ready to go on an exciting journey, one that will help you,
your pastors, and your church reach their potential. We'll start
out slow, first talking about some fundamentals of prayer and
how you can improve your personal prayer life. Then we'll broaden
our focus to include how you can pray for others, including your
pastors (or elders and other leaders) and church, showing how
you can become a partner in prayer. And finally, we'll talk about
the hope that we all have for our churches and our country--revival.
GETTING TO KNOW YOUR FATHER
Come near to God and he will come near to you.
One night in 1968, the pilot of an airliner bound for New York
realized that the landing gear of his jet would not engage. Traveling
ever closer to his destination, he continued to work the controls,
trying to get the wheels to lock into place, but he had no success.
Circling over the airport, he asked the control tower for instructions.
The ground crew, responding to the impending crisis, sprayed the
runway with foam, and emergency vehicles moved into position.
The pilot was instructed to land the plane as best he could.
The passengers were asked to prepare themselves for the worst
and to put themselves into crash position. Moments before landing,
the pilot announced over the intercom: "We are beginning our final
descent. In accordance with International Aviation Codes established
at Geneva, it is my obligation to inform you that if you believe
in God, you should commence praying." The plane then performed
a belly landing, and miraculously, came to a stop with no injury
to the passengers.
If that pilot hadn't found himself in a crisis that day, his passengers
would never have known about the airline's hidden provision for
prayer. But isn't that the way it is for most people? As long
as everything's going smoothly, they rarely think about talking
to God. But as soon as a situation becomes life or death, they
turn to Him for help.
That kind of thinking is almost to be expected among nonbelievers.
Many of them have a "flat-tire mentality." As long as they're
cruising down the highway of life and the car is handling the
road well, then everything's great. But when there's a blowout,
they turn to God.
WHY BELIEVERS DON'T PRAY
The remarkable thing is that many Christians spend as little
time communicating with God as nonbelievers. Why is that? Have
many lost their belief in the power of prayer? William A. Ward
said, "God is never more than a prayer away from you...We address
and stamp a letter and send it on its way, confident that it will
reach its destination, but we doubtfully wonder if our prayer
will be heard by an ever-present God."
I think the main reason people don't spend much time praying is
that they have the wrong attitude toward prayer. Some people think
of prayer as something only their grandmother does. Or they think
of the simple prayers of their childhood: "God is great. God is
good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen," or "Now I lay me down
But even people who have a genuine desire to pray and have tried
to develop a prayer life sometimes have the wrong idea about it.
They think that in order to pray they have to go off by themselves,
get on their knees, close their eyes, fold their hands, etc. They
take with them a list of things to pray about, and then they go
through the list methodically. None of those things is bad or
wrong, but that kind of mechanical prayer life can become very
tedious. For most people, after about five minutes they run out
of things to say, become frustrated, and then feel guilty for
not having a better prayer life. No wonder so many Christians
are reluctant to pray. They've made prayer a formal, stiff, lifeless
thing that it was never meant to be. Any time the mechanics of
prayer get in the way of loving God, they're a hindrance, not
TALKING TO A FRIEND
Prayer should be the most natural thing in the world, like
speaking your mind with a friend you trust. C. Neil Strait said, "Prayer
is...talking with God and telling him you love Him...conversing
with God about all the things that are important in life, both
large and small, and being assured that He is listening."
First and foremost, prayer is talking to your Father in heaven
and getting to know Him. It's the process of developing a relationship.
How do you develop and grow in your relationship with God? The
same way you do with anyone else. You spend time together. Armand
Nicholi of Harvard University Medical School said, "Time is like
oxygen; there's the minimum amount that's necessary for survival.
And it takes quantity, as well as quality, to develop warm and
IT'S A LITTLE LIKE A MARRIAGE
Think of your relationship with God as being similar to a
marriage. The main difference is that God, unlike your spouse,
is perfect. He loves you unconditionally, is absolutely trustworthy,
and forgives you for anything and everything you do wrong--past,
present, and future--if only you ask. The good news is that God
has already done the hard work in the relationship. All we have
to do is be willing to communicate with Him, and we can learn
to do that.
Look at some of the married couples you know. You can see that
in a good marriage the partners talk about everything. Their
conversation is spontaneous, transparent, and open. They don't
hold anything back, and they don't try to manipulate each other. But
when communication becomes stiff, formal, or nonexistent, marriages
deteriorate. Studies indicate that half of all divorces result
from bad communication. [If you find yourself in this boat order
pastor David T. Moore's "Love For A Lifetime", available online
at: http://www.mooreonlife.com . It is $38.95,
an 8 cassette series on marriage. If applied soon enough, this
study can save your marriage.]
Marriage expert Gary Smalley has said that a healthy marriage
relationship requires one hour of communication a day. This ensures
the continual development and deepening of the relationship. And
I try to spend that amount of time with my wife, Margaret, every
day. How do you think she would feel if the only time I communicated
with her was in an emergency?
The same is true with God. A deep relationship with Him takes
time and effort. It cannot be formed in just a few fleeting mechanical
moments. And it can't be built on an emergency basis either. E.M.
Bounds once wrote,
"God's acquaintance is not made hurriedly. He does not bestow
His gifts on the casual or hasty comer and goer. To be much alone
with God is the secret of knowing Him and of influence with Him."
If we can change our attitudes toward prayer--thinking of it as
a process that builds our relationship with God--and cultivate
a daily prayer time, we can become strong people of prayer. And
the prayer life we develop has the potential to completely transform
Before we get into some of the specifics of how to pray, let me
give you five guidelines that will help you have the right attitude
1. Be Spontaneous
Try to put out of your mind once and for all that prayer has
to be tedious or repetitive. Instead it should be spontaneous
and exciting. That doesn't mean that prayer time will always be
happy and fun. There will be times when you hurt and cry to God
for consolation, other times when you shout at Him in anger. But
you will also laugh and have a good time. The main thing is for
you to be yourself.
What does it mean to maintain a spontaneous spirit? Let's say,
for example, that you pray in the morning when you get up. On
a particular morning as you look at your prayer list, you may
feel agitated and distracted. Rather than trying to fight with
that agitation and suppress it, talk to God about it first. And
if you can't figure out what's bothering you, ask God to reveal
it to you. Clearing the air as you begin to pray may be just what
you need to do in order to better communicate with God. Or it
may be something that God wants you to spend all your time praying
about on that particular day.
Willingness to share yourself with God is a matter of the heart
and the attitude. We can close ourselves off, refusing to grow
in our relationship, or we can be willing to tell God everything
on our minds and hearts. [And I might add here, that a spouse
that closes himself or herself off from their mate, refusing to
grow in the relationship, being unwilling to share everything
on their minds and hearts--it is these people that will eventually
starve and kill their marriages. I know from personally experiencing
this happening to me. It is the same with God. That is the vital
point pastor Maxwell is making here. If you can kill a marriage
relationship by doing this, you can also do it with your relationship
with God. That's scary.]
Francois Fenelon expressed this idea well with the following words:
Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one's heart,
its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles,
that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober
them; tell Him you longings, that He may purify them; tell Him
your dislikes, that He may help you to conquer them; talk to Him
of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him
the wounds of your heart that He may heal them...Tell Him how
self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to
be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and others.
In other words, tell God everything--both good and bad--with an
attitude of openness and spontaneity.
Spontaneity in prayer requires a willingness to abandon your own
agenda and adopt God's. It means being flexible, looking for good
opportunities no matter what comes your way. Some of the best
times I've ever experienced in and out of prayer have come when
I was willing to do something spontaneous in a situation that
might otherwise have been boring or negative...
Spontaneity and creativity in prayer go hand in hand. Sometimes
creativity helps in planning special prayer times, such as a day
alone with God where you travel to a favorite place, like the
outdoors or a hotel, to spend the day in prayer and praise. Other
times creativity can help you with your day-to-day prayer arrangements.
Fred Rowe is a prayer-partner and friend with a busy schedule.
He is a psychiatrist and has a family with three small boys. He
has used his creativity to make sure that he can have a prayer
time every morning. He generally gets up at 4:30 in the morning
and goes for a drive. His hour in the car is his quiet time. As
he drives, he praises and prays, allowing God to dictate the agenda.
I've experienced a lot of blessings from God because of a willingness
to be spontaneous. Probably the greatest have been my early morning
prayer times. Since 1972, rarely has a week gone by when I haven't
awakened at least once between two and three o'clock in the morning.
Each time, if I can't fall back to sleep within fifteen minutes,
I assume God wants to speak to me, and I get out of bed and go
to my office downstairs. I get out a pen, legal pad, Bible, and
I spend the remaining hours of the night with Him. Sometimes when
I sit and pray, I hear very little. Other times He speaks to me
so fast through ideas that I can hardly get them written down
Being awakened in the wee hours of the morning is not very convenient.
And the setting isn't always the greatest. But some of the best
things I've experienced in life and the greatest ideas I've ever
had come out of those spontaneous times alone with God in the
middle of the night.
The second attitude to adopt toward prayer is the desire to be
direct and specific with God. Jesus warns us in Matthew 6:7, "And
when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think
they will be heard because of their many words." It's not the
number of words you say or how eloquent you are that counts with
God. As we speak, it is the sincerity of our words that matters
with God. What is in our hearts gives our voices credibility...
The most effective forms of communication are brief and to the
point. For example, just look at some of the great works from
our history as a nation. The Gettysburg Address, for example,
is only 297 words long, and it's considered one of the greatest
speeches ever delivered in the English language. The Declaration
of Independence, the document the newly born United States used
to sever its ties with powerful Great Britain, is only 300 words.
Contrast this with one government order setting the price of cabbage,
which reportedly contained 26,911 words!
Besides being direct with God, we should also be as specific as
we can. How many times have you prayed something like, "God bless
America, bless our church, bless our missionaries..." or simply "God
be with us"?
Specific prayer has power. Remember, Jesus says that you will
be given whatever you ask Him for in His name (John 16:23-24).
So take a look at some examples of how you can pray more effectively:
Instead of praying... Pray this...
God, save this country. Save my neighbor, Bobby, by bringing him
to Christ. God, help me to do well in school. Help me study well
and make an A on this test. God, bless my pastor. Anoint my pastor
to preach salvation this Sunday. God, teach people to love each
other. Help me to love my wife and make her feel loved. God, be
with us. Teach me Your will in this area and help me obey You.
Being specific in prayer has another benefit. When God gives us
an answer, we know it. [And this helps build experiencing answers
to our prayers into our personal faith.] We can know it when our
neighbor gets saved. We can see people come to Christ during the
Sunday sermon. We can ask our spouses if our actions make them
feel loved. And not only that--when we ask God to be involved
in our lives in specific ways, it gives Him the chance to tell
us how we need to change ourselves. The more specific we are in
our requests, the more alert we will be to answers when they come--and
the more specific we can be with our thanks and praises to God
later on. [And this is so true!!!]
ASK the Right Way
Part of any good relationship is a sensitivity to the other person
and their needs. In our relationship with God, it's obvious that
He already knows our needs. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:8, "Your
Father knows what you need before you ask him." But how well do
we know what God wants for us? Ironically, we know ourselves less
well than God does. Ford Philpot said, "Too many of us want what
we don't need and need what we don't want."
We have to learn to put ourselves at the disposal of God's agenda.
Too often we plug away at ours, blind to what God has for us.
Many times God mercifully withholds His answers to our prayers
until we come to Him with the right request. Ruth Graham, wife
of evangelist Billy Graham, once said, "God has not always answered
my prayers. If He had, I would have married the wrong man--several
God has many incredible, wonderful things for us, if only we ask
for them. But if we don't ask for them, how can God give them
to us (James 4:2)? Someone once said, "Heaven is filled with a
room that will surprise all of us when we see it. It has within
it large boxes, neatly packed with lovely ribbons and our name
on top. They are things never delivered to earth because they
were never requested."
How do we learn to ask right questions? Jesus said, "Ask and it
will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door
will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who
seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened" (Matthew
I've found that the acronym "ASK" (ask, seek, and knock) helps
to remind me how to make requests of God in a way that pleases
Him. I believe it may help you too:
ASK: When we approach God and ask Him for something, it
implies that we have a need that we want met. So if we want to
ask Him the right questions, we should first examine our needs.
If they are genuine and in accordance with God's will, then we
can ask with pure motives, and that's crucial to having our prayers
answered (James 4:3).
As you prepare to approach God to ask Him for something, answer
the following questions. They will help you examine your needs
and better direct your requests:
Is my request fair and helpful to everyone concerned?
Is my request in harmony with the Word of God?
Will it blend with my gifts?
Will it draw me closer to God?
What is my part in answering this prayer?
If you are able to examine yourself and your requests honestly,
this frees God to work in you when your requests aren't pure and
to answer them when they are.
SEEK: When people seek, as Jesus directs us to do, they
are asking with effort. This implies that He expects us to do
our part, even as we ask Him to do His. So when Jesus teaches
us to pray, "Give us our daily bread," He doesn't mean that we
are to sit back and expect God to rain down manna from heaven
on us. After all, Scripture says that a person who will not work
shall not eat (2 Thess. 3:10). What Jesus means is, "Give us the
opportunity to earn our bread." God does not give added resources
to those who are lazy.
Prayer without action is presumption. When we pray, we are to
invest ourselves, just as Jesus taught us in the parable of the
talents. As a result, there is a return on our investment, and
God agrees to give us even more. As it says in Matthew 25:29, "Everyone
who has will be given more, and he will have abundance. Whoever
does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."
There is a saying that you've probably heard: "He who prays and
prays, but acts not on what he knows, is like the man who plans
and plans but never sows." I've found that to be true. God
will not do what only He can do, until we do all that we can do.
So when we pray, we need to be ready to do our part.
KNOCK: When Jesus directs us to knock, He's asking us to
be persistent. The Amplified version of the Matthew 7:7-8 passage
makes this very clear: "Keep on asking and it will be given you;
keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently]
and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on
asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him
who keeps on knocking, the door will be opened."
I was once visited by a lady in my congregation. She had been
asking God to bring her unsaved brother to Christ for a couple
of months, and she was getting impatient because he still hadn't
made a commitment to follow Jesus.
"Pastor," she asked, "how long must I keep on praying?" "Until
the answer comes," I answered.
That is what God wants from us. Whenever our prayers are
unanswered, God wants us to continue praying until the answer
comes or He changes our request. And that is what always
happens. An answer comes or God changes our heart and prayer.
For example, look at the case of Abraham and Sarah in the Old
Testament. They prayed for a child, and God answered it. And in
the case of Paul, do you remember how he prayed over and over
for God to remove his "thorn in the flesh?" After Paul prayed
the third time, God said,
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect
in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). It was then that Paul realized that
the thorn was there for a reason, and he changed his prayer. He
aligned his own will with that of God, and he learned to be content.
One of the most frustrating things for many people is having to
wait for an answer from God. I know that because I have a choleric
temperament. I evaluate situations very quickly and make decisions
even faster, so I especially dislike waiting. But God doesn't
ask us to be persistent to tease us or to withhold things from
us. He does it because He wants us to grow in our relationship
with Him. He wants us to be completely yielded to Him.
In the first few years I was a senior pastor at Skyline Wesleyan
Church in San Diego, California, the church began to grow substantially.
It quickly became obvious to me that it wouldn't be long before
we would need a larger facility. And since enlarging on the current
property wasn't an option, that meant we would need to relocate.
When I was a pastor in Indiana and we had a similar problem, I
got together with my board, developed a strategy, and we were
off. Within a couple of days we got someone to donate the land,
another person to contribute materials, and we were ready to build.
But it's a whole different ball game in southern California. Land
is very expensive, and it isn't easy to find. So I got together
with my board, we formed a relocation committee, and they began
searching for some land.
After many months of searching, they found a parcel of land that
looked perfect for us: thirty acres for $2 million--a pretty good
price for San Diego (we could have bought half the county back
in Indiana for that price). And we were happy with the location,
too. But before we were able to make a decision about it, I took
my prayer partners there on a Saturday to walk and pray over the
land. It didn't take long in prayer before we had a unanimous
sense that this was not the land God wanted for our church. So
we let the opportunity to purchase it go by, and we continued
to pray, knowing that there must be some reason why God said no.
A few months later, God opened the doors for another plot of land.
It was eighty acres right on the freeway near a new subdivision
with hundreds of young, unchurched families. We ended up purchasing
that land for $1.8 million--less than we would have paid for the
thirty-acre parcel. And on top of that, through a series of miracles,
Skyline ended up with 120 acres of land instead of eighty for
God honored our persistence and greatly blessed our obedience.
And He will do the same for you. When you pray, don't give up.
Maintain a positive attitude and continue to ask, seek, and knock.
Pray with All Your Heart
Have you ever tried to maintain a conversation with a toddler?
While you're in the middle of a sentence, they figure it's a good
time to play with one of their toys, chase after the dog, or look
for that piece of cheese they stuck between the cushions of the
sofa the night before. It's really hard to keep their attention
for more than a couple of minutes.
That's probably how God feels when He's trying to communicate
with us. Many people pray for a minute here or there during their
busy days, giving God their attention for only a moment. Praying
throughout the day is good, but we also need to give Him our full
attention. The problem is that even then we have a hard time focusing.
It's the war of wandering thoughts. As we pray, we think about
the grocery list; the dog or the kids distract us; or we realize
the bedroom needs cleaning. It turns out we're as bad as toddlers
when it comes to paying attention to God.
In all honesty, most people battle with this problem. Ours is
a world of distractions, many of which try to divide our attention.
But it's a battle we need to continue fighting. When we approach
God, we must strive to give Him of our heart, not just a part
of it. God doesn't answer the prayer of the double-minded person
Part of the solution is to come to prayer with the right attitude
with the desire to give Him all of our attention, just as Jesus
suggests in Matthew 6:6. But there are also tools and techniques
that can help us to keep focused:
PRAY ALOUD: Probably the simplest way to help you focus
is to pray aloud. It actually makes it difficult for your mind
to wander. Try it. You may at first feel a little self-conscious,
but you'll soon get used to it.
WRITE DOWN THE DISTRACTIONS: For some people, the biggest
distraction to prayer comes as they think about all the things
they need to do that day. To solve that problem, as you pray,
keep paper and a pen close by and write down each task as it comes
to you and then forget about it until later. And if you still
can't help thinking about it, then take it to God in prayer. Distractions
are things you need either to take out of God's way or need to
take directly to God.
KEEP A PRAYER JOURNAL: Journalizing is also a good tool
because it keeps the mind focused on the task at hand. There are
dozens of ways to use one to help you: You can write out prayers,
outline them, or jot down key thoughts or Scripture verses. Use
whatever works best for you.
The additional value of journaling is that it provides a record
of your growing relationship with God, gives insight into your
growth, clarifies your requests, provides a record of answered
prayers, and indicates recurring issues in your life. As Douglas
J. Rumford said in his recent book Soul Shaping, "As
we learn to trust our insights, a creative power builds momentum:
ideas begin to propel themselves into our consciousness. Frequently,
the seeds of sermons or particular actions are planted when we
break ground with a journal."
I once read a quote that describes well the condition of many
Christians' prayer lives. Francois Fenelon said in his book, Christian
Perfection, "Too many people pray like little boys who knock
at doors, then run away." Being unable to give your whole heart
to God is a serious obstacle to building a strong relationship
with Him. Just as the moon cannot be reflected by a restless sea,
God cannot be experienced by an unquiet mind. But having a regular
time where you give God your full attention in prayer grows your
relationship with Him in a powerful way. It's the difference between
running after knocking on the door, and going in and getting to
know God. The latter changes your life.
When you've begun learning to pray with all your heart, prayer
begins to overflow into more of your life. [This is so true!!!] In
1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul tells believers to "pray continually." And
by that he means that we should maintain an almost continuous
conversation with God throughout the day--like breathing, constant
and life giving. Once your relationship with God begins to deepen,
that becomes easier to do.
Growing up, I learned about praying continually (or as we called
it, praying without ceasing) from my father, who has always been
a great role model. For him, praying was as natural as breathing
or talking to my mom. He always seemed to be talking as he
walked through the house--but he wasn't talking to himself. Sometimes
when we were riding in the car, he'd just start a conversation
with God. Dad taught me to praise Him when something good happened;
ask Him questions when I was confused; cry to Him when I was hurt;
and thank Him when I was blessed. And any time we had to make
a decision, Dad's first words were always, "Let's just stop right
now and pray about it." Dad and Mom taught me that the most
effective and contented Christians made prayer a part of their
Developing a strong relationship with God through prayer is not
something that happens overnight. But it can happen if a person
approaches it with the right attitude and is willing to give it
the time and energy it requires. Aristotle said, "Wishing to be
friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit."
But what in this life--and for eternity--could be better than
developing a relationship with a Father who loves us perfectly
and who wants to know us and grow us into the people He created
us to be? I can't think of anything that compares with that. And
the way to make it happen is through prayer.
AVOIDING PERSONAL PRAYER KILLERS
The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective
When my wife, Margaret, and I were first married, we owned
an old Volkswagen Beetle. One cold morning not too long after
we bought it, I went outside and got in the car to go to work
and it wouldn't start. I turned the key and nothing happened.
All I could hear was a faint clicking sound.
Now, I didn't have a clue about cars back then--and I still don't.
But fortunately we had a friend who did. He turned the key one
time, heard the clicking, and immediately started climbing into
the backseat of the car.
"What are you doing?" I asked. "The engine's back here. Even I
"I want to take a look at your battery," he said as he began yanking
out the backseat. "In a Bug it's here, under the seat."
He pulled the seat out. And sure enough, there was the battery.
"Here's your problem," he said. "You see those cables? They connect
the battery to the engine and its starter. But where the cables
connect to the battery it's all corroded." I could see heavy white
junk covering the places where he was pointing. "That corrosion
is blocking the electricity. Your engine's not going to start
as long as that stuff's blocking the power."
"Can you fix it?"
"Sure," he said. "We can get rid of this stuff--no problem."
I watched in amazement as he took a bottle of Coke and poured
a little on the battery terminals. The corrosion bubbled away.
Then he fooled around with the cables a little bit and said, "Try
it now." The car started perfectly, as though nothing had been
wrong with it.
Our relationship with God and our prayer life function in a way
very similar to how my car did back then. As long as there isn't
anything in the way blocking our "connection"
to God, we have unlimited power. But when we allow junk to come
between us and God, we're dead in the water. And no matter how
hard or how often we "turn the key" in prayer, we have no power.
10 COMMON PRAYER KILLERS
The best way to keep from having spiritual junk hinder your
prayer life is to avoid it. But when you haven't, the best thing
to do is clean it up as soon as possible. I've found that there
are ten very common blocks to effective prayer. I call them prayer
killers because they take away all power from our prayers and
hinder our relationship with God. If you find that one or more
of these blocks apply to you, confess them to God and ask for
His forgiveness to reestablish your connection with Him.
Prayer Killer # 1: Unconfessed Sin
Unconfessed sin is probably the most common prayer killer. Psalm
66:18 says, "If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will
not hear" (NASB). When the Scripture talks about regarding wickedness,
it's referring to unconfessed sin. God is perfect and can't abide
sin in us. If we knowingly tolerate sin in our lives, it pushes
God away from us. As a result, it makes our prayers powerless.
The good news is that when we confess sin, God forgives it, and
it's gone. The slate is clean and we are no longer held accountable.
Jeremiah 31:34 says, "For I will forgive their wickedness and
will remember their sin no more." Not only are we forgiven, but
God chooses to truly forget our sins of the past. At that point
our relationship is restored, and our prayers regain their power.
Our past actions may still have consequences, but the sin itself
If you have confessed and surrendered a sin to God and continue
to sense accusation toward yourself for that sin, it is not God's
voice you are hearing. It is Satan, the accuser, attacking you.
Always remember, God's forgiveness is complete. First John 1:9
says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will
forgive us our sins." Don't let Satan accuse you when Christ has
set you free.
Unforgiven sin also has other consequences. We could turn around
the Scripture from Psalms to say, "If I regard wickedness in my
heart, I will not hear God," and it would also be true. Sin dulls
our senses and isolates us from God. Look at the case of Adam
and Eve: When they sinned, they didn't want to walk with God;
they hid from Him.
Besides making us want to run from God, sin also makes us want
to isolate ourselves from other believers. In Life Together, Dietrich
Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from
the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive
will be the power of sin over him, and the more disastrous
is this isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the
light. In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole
being of a person.
Sin pushes the person out of the community of believers, and
being away from other Christians prevents us from receiving the
benefit of accountability. It's a vicious cycle. As the saying
goes, prayer prevents us from sin, and sin prevents us from prayer.
If you're harboring sin in your life, confess it now and receive
God's forgiveness. Clear away what's preventing you from connecting
Prayer Killer #2: Lack of Faith
Lack of faith has an incredibly negative impact on a Christian's
life. Without faith, prayer has no power. Even Jesus was powerless
to perform any miracles in Nazareth because of the people's lack
of faith (Mark 6:1-6).
Jesus' brother James gives some insight into the effect that faithlessness
has on prayer. James 1:5-8 says:
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives
generously to all without finding fault, and it will be
given him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt,
because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and
tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive
anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable
in all he does.
What incredible insight this is into the mind of the unfaithful
person. The word double-minded speaks of a condition where
a person is emotionally divided, almost as if he had two souls.
That condition makes a person unstable and incapable of hearing
from God or receiving His gifts.
Faith is really an issue of trust. Jesus said, "If you believe,
you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer" (Matt. 21:22).
People are often reluctant to put their trust in God. Yet every
day they trust people without question, displaying a faith that
God would love to receive from them...[Be sure to turn to the
link on "George Muller: Man of Faith and Miracles" to learn what
real believing faith is all about in this section "What Is Prayer?"]
Prayer Killer #3: Disobedience
I remember one afternoon when I was seventeen lying on my bed
at home studying my Bible. About a month before, I had rededicated
my life to Christ and accepted the call to preach. This day I
was working on memorizing 1 John and came across this verse: "Dear
friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before
God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his
commands and do what pleases him" (1 John 3:21-23)...I realized
that we receive from God because we obey Him. That's a
condition that we must meet in order to approach Him in prayer.
If we are to grow in our relationship with God and become strong
people of prayer, we must learn to obey. Keeping free from sin
is not enough. Neither is faith. If our mouths says that we believe,
but our actions don't back up that belief with a strong display
of obedience, it shows the weakness of our belief. Obedience should
be a natural outgrowth of faith in God. He that obeys God, trusts
Him; he that trusts Him, obeys Him. [read James 2:1-14.]
Norman Vincent Peale told a story from his boyhood that gives
insight into the way disobedience hinders our prayers. As a boy,
he once got ahold of a big black cigar. He headed into a back
alley where he figured no one would see him, and he lit it.
As he smoked it, he discovered that it didn't taste good, but
it sure made him feel grown up. As he puffed away, he noticed
that a man was walking down the alley in his direction. As the
man got closer, Norman realized--to his horror--that it was his
father. It was too late to try to throw away the cigar, so he
put it behind his back and tried to act as casual as possible.
They greeted each other, and to young Norman's dismay, his father
began to chat with him. Desperate to divert his father's attention,
the boy spotted a nearby billboard advertising the circus.
"Can I go to the circus, Dad?" he pleaded. "Can I go when it comes
to town? Please, Dad?"
"Son," his father answered quietly but firmly, "never make a petition
while at the same time trying to hide smoldering disobedience
behind your back."
Peale never forgot his father's response. And it taught him a
valuable lesson about God. He cannot ignore our disobedience even
when we try to distract Him. Only our obedience restores our relationship
with Him and gives our prayers power.
Prayer Killer #4: Lack of Transparency with God and with
On June 1994, I had the privilege of speaking to 65,000 men at
Promise Keepers in Indianapolis, Indiana. I spoke on the value
of moral integrity, valuing our wives, and keeping ourselves sexually
pure. During the weeks leading up to the event, I never in my
life felt so much sexual temptation and pressure. I told my wife,
Margaret, "Don't let me out of your sight for the next few weeks." I
knew I was under serious attack.
I also made a decision at that time to share my struggles with
my prayer partners. It wasn't easy, but I reasoned that if I was
honest with them, they would be able to pray more effectively
for me. My transparency made it possible for them to pray for
me very specifically, and I was able to stand against temptation.
I believe it was their prayers that helped me endure this incredibly
difficult time and remain faithful to God.
James 5:16 says, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another,
and pray for one another, so that you may be healed"
(NASB). James is sharing a truth about God: When we confess our
sins to one another, which requires us to be absolutely transparent,
God is able to heal and cleanse us. We experience a spiritual,
physical, and emotional restoration. In addition, our transparency
helps others, because it shows them that they are not alone in
Dietrich Bonhoeffer has written about the importance of sharing
openly with other Christians. In Life Together, he says:
In confession the light of the Gospel breaks into the darkness
and seclusion of the heart. The sin must be brought into the
light. The unexpressed must be openly spoken and acknowledged.
All that is secret and hidden is made manifest. It is a hard
struggle until the sin is openly admitted. But God breaks
the gates of brass and bars of iron. Our brother breaks the
circle of self-deception. A man who confesses his sin in the
presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with
himself. He experiences the presence of God in the reality
of the other person.
The most difficult part in being honest is confessing. Ego
becomes a stumbling block, as does fear of hurting our image.
It's something that our entire society struggles with. Everyone
wants to blame others for their shortcomings and problems...
Transparency is a difficult thing for a lot of people. Many pastors
I know have an especially hard time with it. But openness with
others can have a profound effect on you. Transparency with God
when you pray puts you on His agenda instead of your own. And
it also releases other believers to pray for you strategically
Prayer Killer #5: Unforgiveness
You may remember the Scripture passage in which Peter asked Jesus
about forgiveness. He asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive
my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" (Matt.
18:21). Hebrew law required a person to forgive a person three
times for an offense. Peter, by suggesting seven, thought he was
being very lenient and forgiving. He was probably shocked when
he heard Jesus' answer: "Not seven times, but seventy-seven times" (Matt.
Jesus was trying to teach Peter that forgiveness is not a matter
of mathematics. Nor is it a choice of words. It is an attitude
of the heart, and it is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to
forgive. [i.e. Good yardstick whether God's Holy Spirit resides
within you, can you forgive someone who has really hurt you? Can
your reconcile with that person?] Why is forgiveness so important?
The answer is found in Matthew 6:14-15, "For if you forgive men
when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive
you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will
not forgive your sins."
Forgiving and being forgiven are inseparable twins. When a person
refuses to forgive another, he is hurting himself, because his
lack of forgiveness can take hold of him and make him bitter.
And a person cannot enter prayer with bitterness and come out
with blessings. Forgiveness allows your heart to be made not only
right, but light.
Prayer Killer #6: Wrong Motives
...God makes no mistakes about our motives. When they're not right,
our prayers have no power. James 4:3 says, "When you ask, you
do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives."
Sometimes even knowing our own motives can be difficult. In my
experience, I've observed two things that quickly expose wrong
A PROJECT GREATER THAN OURSELVES: Big projects--ones
that put us in way over our heads--force us to examine why we
are doing them. And that process exposes our motives...
Prayer: When we pray, God speaks to us and shows us
our motives. If we are acting out of pride, fear, possessiveness,
self-satisfaction, convenience, etc., God will show it to us,
if only we are willing to listen. And if we are willing, He
will change those motives.
Because I always want to try to keep my motives pure, I ask
Bill Klassen, my personal prayer partner, to keep me accountable.
One of the questions he always asked me when I was still the senior
pastor at Skyline was,
"Are you abusing the power you have in the church?" That kept
me honest. And knowing I'd have to face Bill each month and answer
that question helped me to check my motives continually so that
they would be pure and in line with God's desires for me.
Prayer Killer #7: Idols in our Lives
When most people think of idols, they think of statues that are
worshipped as gods. But an idol can be anything in our life that
comes between us and God. Idols come in many forms: money, career,
children, pleasure. Once again, it's an issue of the heart.
Ezekiel 14:3 clearly shows the negative effect of anything that
comes between a person and God. It says, "Son of man, these men
have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks
before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?"
The distaste that God has for idols should be clear from this
passage. He doesn't even want an idol worshipper to talk to Him.
On the other hand, when we remove idols from our lives, we become
ripe for a personal revival.
Take a look at your own life. Is there anything that you're putting
ahead of God? Sometimes it's hard to tell. One of the ways to
know that something in your life is an idol is to ask yourself, "Would
I be willing to give this thing up if God asked me to?" Look honestly
at your attitude toward your career, possessions, and family.
If there are things you wouldn't release to God, then they're
blocking your access to Him.
Prayer Killer #8: Disregard for Others
Psalm 33:13 says, "From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all
mankind." God's perspective is expansive. He loves everyone, and
His desire is that we care for others in the same way. When we
disregard others, it grieves Him.
Scripture is full of verses supporting God's desire for unity
among believers--between Christians brothers and sisters, husbands
and wives, laypeople and pastors. For example, in John 13:34,
Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I
have loved you, so you must love one another." First Peter 3:7
exhorts husbands and wives to be considerate to one another. Otherwise,
it says, their prayers will be hindered. And 1 Peter 2:13 says, "Submit
yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among
One of the added benefits of prayer is that it helps you learn
to love others. It's impossible for a person to hate or criticize
someone they're praying for. Prayer breeds compassion, not competition.
For example, Bill Klassen often tells people about how he was
as a young Christian. He said that after church on most Sundays
he'd have "roast pastor" for lunch. He criticized his pastor pretty
severely. But as he grew in his prayer life, God began to break
his heart for pastors. His spirit of criticism melted into a spirit
of compassion. And it ultimately directed him to start his own "Prayer
Partner" ministry, devoted to motivating layman to pray for their
pastors. That was quite a turnaround.
Prayer Killer #9: Disregard for God's Sovereignty
I believe very strongly in the sovereignty of God. I think that's
one of the things that has helped me remain positive during difficult
times over the years. I know that God knows me completely and
knows what's best for me. Jeremiah 1:5 says, "Before I formed
you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart."
When Jesus showed the disciples how to pray, the first thing He
did was teach them to honor God for who He is, "Our Father in
heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be
done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:9-10). That is a clear
acknowledgment that God is in charge, that He is sovereign. And
it establishes our relationship to Him: that of a child under
the authority of his Father. Any time we disregard the divine
order of things, we're out-of-bounds, and we hinder our relationship
with our heavenly Father.
Prayer Killer #10: Unsurrendered Will
There once was a Scottish woman who earned a modest living by
peddling her wares along the roads of her country. Each day she
would travel about, and when she came to an intersection, she
would toss a stick into the air. Whichever way the stick pointed
was the way she went. On one occasion an old man stood across
the road from her as she tossed the stick into the air once, twice,
three times. Finally the old man asked, "Why are you throwing
that stick like that?"
"I'm letting God show me which way to go by using this stick," she
"Then why did you throw it three times?" the old man asked.
"Because the first two times, He was pointing me in the wrong
direction," was her reply.
The ultimate purpose of prayer is not to get what we want,
but to learn to want what God gives. But that will never happen
if we don't surrender our will and put ourselves on God's agenda
instead of our own.
A person whose will is surrendered to God has a relationship with
Him similar to the one described in the parable of the vine and
the branches. It says, "If you remain in me and my words remain
in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you" (John
15:7). The branch depends on the vine and lives in one accord
with it. In return, the vine provides it with everything it needs,
and the result is great fruitfulness.
There are great benefits to surrendering your will to God. One
is that God promises to answer your prayers and grant your requests.
Another is that we get to receive the power of Christ through
the Holy Spirit. Just as with the vine and the branches, He flows
through us, gives us power, and produces fruit.
Developing an effective prayer life depends on keeping your
relationship with God strong and uncluttered by sin and disobedience.
1 Peter 3:12 says, "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the
Lord is against those who do evil." If we strive for righteousness
and confess our errors, we can remain close to God. But maintaining
our relationship with Him is an ongoing process. A Christian can't
simply pray once through a list like these ten prayer killers
and expect to be done with it. Every day we need to go to God
and ask Him to reveal anything that may be hindering our progress.
Look at Psalm 139:23-24. It contains the words of David, a man
after God's own heart, who had one of the best relationships with
God in all the Bible:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Test me and know my
anxious thoughts, See if there is any offensive way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
David overcame some horrible sins in his life to be close to
God. He was a murderer and adulterer, yet he humbled himself before
God and confessed his sins. And that allowed him to come closer
to God and keep growing and building in his relationship with
David is a great model for us to follow. If God was able to forgive
him and build a special relationship with him, then He can do
the same with us. If we are faithful, God will draw us close to
Him. And He will answer our prayers.
[That is the end of these excerpts. These excerpts were taken
from pages 1-28, and 51-63 of "PARTNERS IN PRAYER" by John C.
Maxwell. These have been given as an appetizer. For the main course,
which I guarantee will make the prayer life of both you and your
congregation healthy, but sure to buy PARTNERS IN PRAYER online
at http://www.gospelcom.net/injoy/shop/product.phtml ,
then click on "authors list" and then on "John Maxwell" and then
on "Partners In Prayer."
Partners in Prayer, the first book in the John Maxwell
Church Resources series, shows church leaders and laypeople how
to unleash the potential of prayer on behalf of themselves, one
another, and the church. If your church--or private devotional
life--is starving in the area of prayer and you want to tap into
the power and protection prayer provides, Maxwell gives practical
the fundamentals of prayer
improving personal prayer life
praying for others, including church leaders
building a prayer partners ministry in the local church
encouraging prayer revival nationwide
Are you missing out on God's gift and blessing of prayer? Is
there someone you know who would benefit from your committed prayers
on their behalf? Despite God's promise of the power of prayer
to change our world, many of us never experience it. John Maxwell
shows you how to strengthen your prayer life and reap the benefits
awaiting those who become Partners in Prayer.
Christian Living/Pastoral Helps
THOMAS NELSON PUBLISHERS
[Just for a tiny peak into what the rest of this book is about--learning
how to pray for your pastor--here are excerpts from the next
EXPANDING YOUR PRAYER FOCUS
My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to
God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads
for his friend.
THE POWER OF PRAYING FOR OTHERS
The act of praying or pleading with God on behalf of someone
else is commonly called intercession. It is a selfless act and
it is considered by some people to be the highest form of prayer.
Jesus was an intercessor. During the last hours before He was
arrested and crucified, He spent time interceding for the disciples
and the believers who would come after them, which includes us!
I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for
those you have given me, for they are yours...Holy Father,
protect them by the power of your name--the name you gave
me--so that they may be one as we are one...My prayer is
not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe
in me through their message, that all of them may be one,
Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. (John 17:9-21)
Jesus came into this world to talk to people about God, but
while He was here, He also talked to God about people. And now
in heaven, He continues to pray for us, interceding on our behalf
CHARACTERISTICS OF AN INTERCESSOR
Occasionally I find people whose desire to pray for others
is so strong that they are compelled to intercede for others.
Sometimes they pray primarily for one particular person, but usually
they pray for many. Bill Klassen, who started the prayer partner
ministry at Skyline, and his wife Marianne, are two people who
feel that way about prayer. I believe they have been called to
be intercessors. Men and women like them who have that kind of
heart for prayer often share three characteristics:
IDENTIFICATION: People who feel called to intercede
for someone usually have a very strong identification or empathy
for that person. Sometimes that identification begins with a
respect for that person's ministry or position, such as that
of their pastor. But the feelings of connection and empathy
almost always deepen on a more personal level.
SACRIFICE: Intercessors display a willingness to make
sacrifices for the people for whom they pray. Intercessors display
a willingness to make sacrifices for the people for whom they
pray. They often spend lengthy periods of time pleading with
God on others' behalf. For example, look at Moses. He interceded
on behalf of all the children of Israel after the fiasco of
the golden calf. He was willing to sacrifice even his own soul.
He said to God, "Please forgive their sin--but if not, then
blot me out of the book you have written" (Ex. 32:32). Moses
had an enduring relationship with the people of Israel and felt
responsible for them. He spent a lot of time interceding on
AUTHORITY: Willingness to sacrifice is the price of
intercession, but with it comes authority with God through the
power of the Holy Spirit. God rewards those who are willing
to stand in the gap for others and plead for them.
HOW TO PRAY FOR OTHERS
If you are ready to pray for others but aren't sure how to
go about it, here are four [he says four then goes on to list
six] things that you can always pray, whether you're a pastor
praying for your people, a layperson praying for a church leader,
a citizen praying for government officials, a parent praying for
a child, or a believer praying for an unsaved person:
1. Pray that They Know God's Will for Their Lives
The best that people can hope for in life is to know God and
fulfill the purpose He has planned for them. So it naturally
follows that we should ask God for that when we pray for others.
The apostle Paul, a good leader and strong man of prayer, made
it a practice to pray that others would know God's purpose for
them, and we can learn a lot from what he says about intercessory
prayer. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul wrote, "We have
not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with
the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (1:9).
Paul recognized that knowing God's will was a spiritual issue
and that prayer was needed for people to know it. For that reason
he prayed that the people in the church at Colossi would know
God's will, His purpose.
2. Pray That They Would Do God's Will in Their Lives
Paul prayed that the people would know God's will, but he also
understood that knowing God's will did not guarantee doing God's
will. So he took his prayers for others one step further. He
prayed that they would act on what they learned. The next verse
in his letter goes on to say, "We pray this in order that you
may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every
way: bearing fruit in every good work" (1:10). Only through
action does a person fulfill the purpose God has for him.
When you begin praying for purpose in another person's life,
it helps to be specific as possible in your request. We probably
won't be able to pray about the details because we won't know
exactly what God's will is for their life. But we can be specific
about the process. Pray in three areas for them.
KNOWLEDGE: First pray that they would know God's
will, that He would communicate it to them with clarity, and
that they would understand it.
ATTITUDE: Next, pray that they would have the right
attitude toward what God has to tell them. This is often a
much more difficult step for people to take. It's one thing
to know God's will, but it's another to be willing to change
how we feel about it and accept it.
BEHAVIOR: Finally, pray that they would be able to
change their behavior to align themselves with God's will.
That is often the most difficult step in change because it
requires people to face the unknown or do things they're not
used to, and that makes them feel uncomfortable.
3. Pray for Productivity in Their Lives
In Paul's letter to the Colossians, he also prayed that the
people would lead productive lives. He wrote, "And we pray this
in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may
please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work" (1:10).
The life of an obedient Christian is fruitful. That is how our
Creator designed us to be. As Jesus said, "I chose you and appointed
you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last" (John 15:16).
The greatest fruit that a person's life can bear has lasting
value; usually that means actions with eternal consequences,
such as salvation for unbelievers and ministry to other members
of the body of Christ. So when you pray for others, pray that
they would be productive, and that they would choose to bear
fruit that is eternal.
4. Pray for Them to Have a Growing Relationship with
Paul also prayed that the people would keep "growing in the
knowledge of God" (Col. 1:10). He knew that everything in life
hinged on the health of our relationship with our Creator. And
he had also learned a valuable lesson as a result of the growth
in his own relationship with God: contentment (Phil. 4:11-12).
I once read a great definition of happiness. It said, "Happiness
is growth." I've found that to be true in my life. When I'm
growing in my relationship with God and being obedient to Him,
that is when I've been most content. And that's a good thing
to ask God to do for others in prayer.
5. Pray for Them to Have a Right Attitude
When Paul prayed, he also asked that the people would receive
power. He wrote that he wanted them to be "strengthened with
all power according to his glorious might so that [they] may
have great endurance and patience" (Col. 1:11). The power he
was speaking of was that of God's Holy Spirit.
As Christians, each of us can be empowered by the Holy Spirit.
If we are to do anything of value, we must have Him as the source
of our power. Think of yourself as being similar to a vacuum
cleaner in your home. Like us, a vacuum cleaner was created
with certain inherent abilities, and it has a specific purpose.
But if it's not plugged in and receiving power, it's useless.
It depends on another source to make it effective. If you pull
the plug, it's worthless.
We're like that. Without the power from our Source, Jesus Christ,
we're not effective. We may be able to do some things on our
own, but they have no eternal value. When we really understand
this, we begin to see ourselves as we really are. We realize
that we need and must depend on God.
That's why it's important to ask God to give others His power
as we pray for them. Without that power, they won't be able
to make a difference for Him. But with that power, they can
show strength in the face of adversity, patience during trials,
and endurance to finish the race God has laid out before them.
And then, in the end, we can hope that God will tell the Christian
brothers and sisters we prayed for, "Well done, good and faithful
6. Pray for Them to Have a Right Attitude
Finally, Paul prayed that the people in the church at Colossi
would be "joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified
you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom
of light" (1:11-12). In other words, Paul was praying that they
would maintain a positive, joyful attitude. You may ask, "Why
would Paul pray for people's attitudes?" You can find the answer
in this poem that I wrote a decade ago:
WHAT IS YOUR ATTITUDE? It is the "advance man" of our true selves.
Its roots are inward but its fruit is outward.
It is our best friend or our worst enemy.
It is more honest and more consistent than our words.
It is an outward look based on past experiences.
It is never content until it is expressed.
It is the librarian of our past;
It is the speaker of our present;
It is the prophet of our future.
Our attitude impacts nearly every aspect of our lives. It influences
our behavior, affects our ability to learn, determines our contentment,
and colors our relationships, including our relationship with
God. It affects each person's life and Christian walk greater
than you might think.
As you pray for others to keep a joyful attitude, remember that
joy is different from happiness. Joy is internal and based on
Christ. Happiness is external and based on circumstances. Joy
is eternal and linked to our salvation, where happiness is temporary
and based on fleeting emotions. Pray that your Christian brothers
and sisters find joy in their lives, and that as a result,
they would be salt and light to those around them.
As you spend an increasing amount of time praying for others,
you will find that your attitude toward people improves. It becomes
more positive and compassionate. And your prayer time will also
mature. You will find that:
WHERE YOU ONCE FOCUSSED ON RECEIVING, YOUR CONCERN HAS
SHIFTED TO GIVING. "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts
WHERE YOU WERE ONCE CONCERNED WITH YOUR INJURIES, YOUR FOCUS
HAS CHANGED TO HEALING. "Bear with each other and forgive whatever
grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the
Lord forgave you" (Col. 3:13).
WHERE YOU ONCE THOUGHT ABOUT YOUR PROBLEMS, YOUR FOCUS IS
NOW ON GOD'S POWER. "Trust in him at all times, O people; pour
out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge" (Ps. 62:8).
In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster said:
To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses
to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon
prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives. The closer
we come to the heartbeat of God the more we see our need and the
more we desire to be conformed to Christ. To pray is to change.
That is true of prayer, but it's also true that prayer changes
I mentioned in the previous chapter that at one time my brother
Larry, was not walking with the Lord. Back then he was pursuing
his own agenda. He was a businessman and very successful financially.
All during the time that he was neglecting his relationship with
God, both of my parents interceded for him every day, asking God
to bring Larry back to Him.
One afternoon while playing tennis together, I finally asked Larry,
"When are you going to stop messing around and come back to God?" "John," he
replied, "I don't know--but I just know I will someday. No matter
what I do, I can't get away from the prayers of our parents."
Larry was right. He couldn't get away from their prayers, and
after a number of years, he came back to the Lord. By then he
had become financially independent. He changed his focus and began
using his resources for things of eternal value. Now he's not
only a tither and giver to his church, but he's also involved
in many organizations dedicated to serving people and growing
God's kingdom: He's a trustee at Indiana Wesleyan University.
He is the director of the RTN radio network, a system of seven
nonprofit Christian radio stations. He's a past director of Health
Care Ministries, and the current director of World Gospel Missions--organizations
that provide direct support to medical mission programs in Third
World countries. And he's also a board member of INJOY, my organization
that teaches and equips Christian leaders.
When Larry gets to heaven, I believe God will reward his life
of obedience. But I also believe that my dad and mom will share
in that reward. Without their faithful prayers, Larry might never
have found his way back to God. And the thousands of people whose
lives he's touched would have missed out on the blessing God had
Dr. Wilbur Chapman often told of his experience when he went to
Philadelphia to become a pastor of Wanamaker's church. After his
first sermon, an old gentleman met him in front of the pulpit
and said, "You are pretty young to be pastor of this great church.
We have always had older pastors. I am afraid you won't succeed.
But you preach the gospel, and I'm going to help you all I can."
"I looked at him," said Dr. Chapman, "and said to myself, 'Here's
But the old gentleman continued: "I'm going to pray for you that
you may have the Holy Spirit's power upon you, and two others
have covenanted to join with me."
Then Dr. Chapman related the outcome. "I did not feel so bad when
I learned that he was going to pray for me. The three became ten,
the ten became twenty, and the twenty became fifty, and the fifty
became two hundred, who met before every service to pray that
the Holy Spirit might come upon me. In another room the eighteen
elders knelt so close around me to pray for me that I could put
out my hand and touch them on all sides. I always went into my
pulpit feeling that I would have the anointing in answer to the
prayers of the 219 men.
"I was easy to preach, a real joy. Anybody could preach with such
conditions. And what was the result? We received 1,100 into our
church by conversion in three years, 600 of which were men. It
was the fruit of the Holy Spirit in answer to the prayers of those
men. I do not see how the average pastor, under average circumstances
preaches at all.
"Church members have much more to do than go to church as curious,
idle spectators to be amused and entertained. It is their business
to pray mightily that the Holy Ghost will clothe the preacher
with power and make his words like dynamite.""
[There are many more accounts like this one in this book. These
excerpts have been given here as a foretaste of the whole book,
taken out of the first 75 pages of "PARTNERS IN PRAYER". To gain
a full understanding and knowledge of Prayer Partnering you need
to read the whole book. Used as pastoral resource, handed out
to your congregation, this book will help you and your congregation
become transformed. If you and/or your congregation are hurting,
I don't see how you can afford not to. So be sure to order PARTNERS
IN PRAYER online at: http://www.gospelcom.net/pastornet/prayer_partners/pip_resources.html.
You may also want to check out EQUIP'S site http://www.pastorsnet.org where
pastors and their families are linked with prayer partners and
caregivers. Applying the principles found in the complete book
will enliven and bring growth to your whole congregation and enable
your personal ministry in ways you can't even imagine right now
as you read these words. Look at it this way, your true potential
is locked up in the prayers of others. Helping them to learn to
pray and to pray for you can and will unlock the true potential
the Lord has in store for your ministry.]