Answers to Some Really Great Questions on Prayer

Uncategorized Mar 22, 2022

The following blog post was first published in 2017 when I taught Teach My Heart to Pray for the first time at Thompson Station Church. I invited participants to ask me their questions regarding prayer. I've added a few new questions and answers to that original post.

Teach My Heart to Pray is a 4-session study on prayer that is designed to teach Christ- followers how to make the most of the amazing privilege we've been given to approach God's throne of grace with bold confidence that results in experiencing God's power working in and through our lives in the world today.

It's also the recruiting plan for creating dynamic intercessory prayer teams that staff Prayer Clinics. You can learn more and order Teach My Heart to Pray HERE.

Here are the answers to some really great questions on prayer:

Is every conversation with the Lord considered a prayer? Or only when you say, "in Jesus' Name I pray?" 

 Every conversation with the Lord is considered a prayer! Prayer is communication with God. When you say, "in Jesus' Name I pray" those are merely words unless you understand their meaning. Some people use "in Jesus' Name I pray" as a sort of spiritual postage stamp to get their prayer to heaven. But in reality, to pray in the Name of Jesus is more about surrender than it is about sending. 

  When we pray in Jesus' Name we acknowledge several things:

1. He is the reason we get to enter the presence of God and make our request. To pray in the name of Jesus is to humbly acknowledge the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf; and to receive His righteousness as our own (which is what gives us access to God).

2. That we are willing to allow our request to be filtered through His wisdom and knowledge and power. We are offering our requests to God and inviting Jesus to adjust them so that they agree with God's best for our lives.

  Be careful to understand that God's purpose is always best even when you don't understand how it could be. When you pray "in the Name of Jesus" you are choosing to let Jesus translate your prayer into God's desires. This gets easier and easier to do the more you get to know God. And you get to know God more by spending time with Him in His Word and through prayer.

  Any conversation you have with God is prayer, and any petition presented is delivered to Him. If you simply forget to say the word, "in Jesus' Name I pray" God knows you simply forgot and He doesn't hold it against you. When you stubbornly refuse to submit your request to the filter of Jesus then you and God will be in for a tug-of-war and things might get messy until He wins.  

Why do I find it "hard" to pray? 

 I have 3 reasons:

1. You don't know how to pray because we're not doing a great job of teaching you! Ask God to give you a hunger for Him and then set out to learn to pray. Participate in Teach My Heart to Pray with your small group at church; or find a few friends and participate in this great course online that will help you with this, Prayer that Makes a Difference is a FREE 21-day course on prayer. You can participate in it right here on this website! Prayer that Makes a Difference 

2. You aren't convinced that prayer works. As long as it seems like prayer is a useless endeavor you've really got no interest in it. The remedy to this is to begin praying specifically for things that matter to you then wait and watch to see how God responds. Dive into the lives of some of the great pray-ers in the Bible and look to see how God answered them. 

3. You have an adversary (the devil) who is intent on keeping you prayerless.

Romans 15:30-31, Paul says, "I beseech you to strive together with me in prayer" Both the words beseech and strive leave me thinking that prayer itself (even for Paul) required effort. 

Prayer is hard work! But keep this in mind; when you strive and wrestle to have an effective prayer life, Andrew Murray said, "The power of prayer rests in the faith that God hears it!" 

God hears you when you pray. Regardless of what the adversary might be telling you, prayer works because God hears and answers you when you pray! 

What do you and what should we picture or visualize when we pray? 

Picturing is so powerful, especially for those with vivid imaginations. I like to picture the throne room of heaven. If you read Revelation 4 you can gain the beginnings of a visual of this place.

Hebrews 10:9-22 also encourage us to imagine ourselves entering this throne room boldly with the humble understanding that we are welcome there because of the blood Jesus poured out for us.

It is also a powerful thing to visualize the answer to your prayer, borrow the feelings the answer to your prayer will bring and go ahead and thank God for proving Himself faithful to hear and answer you when you pray. 

This will encourage your faith and empower your prayer. God has answered your prayer already--He is working the all things together right now.

Why do I feel I am neglecting family, friends, etc if I "forget" to mention them in prayer?

Because the devil is an accuser and he wants to heap guilt on you to distract you from the great praying you are doing. If you'd like a systematic approach to praying for family and friends, consider putting together a notebook with tabs on it where you indicate the people you care about for whom you'd like to pray over consistently. Then, each time you sit still to pray, take a minute to jot a prayer for them in the book.

  This is a great way to track God's answers to your prayers! (In our class we made these notebooks.)

Can you pray incorrectly?

Yes! There are 6 common mistakes people make when they pray. We spent an entire class on these mistakes. You can read these in this blog post: 6 Reasons Your Prayers Aren't Working 

Now I know without a shadow of a doubt that God is...who He says  He is. My mind 100% realizes and knows to yield to Him. Why can't I "make" my heart yield to Him? I feel like I'm not "in" I'm not 100% yielding and I want to and know I need to! 

What a beautiful and honest question. Me too!! When you feel this way, pray like this, "Lord, I want to want what You want me to want...please change my 'want to.'"

When we pray...we have to anticipate God's answer to us. The anticipation paralyzes me...why?

This can happen so easily! We want the answer to our prayer so desperately that we can't see straight! At times like these, yield your longing to Him, talk with Him about how hard it is to wait for His answer to unfold, and find peace in understanding that He knows better than you do how and when to deliver your answer. I have several great blog posts that might help you with this, here is one, Why Does God Make Us Wait?

I know He is directing my path? Does he prepare us for a coming battle or storm?

Yes! He does! But don't create anxiety for yourself by fixing your eyes on the horizon and dreading the battle or storm. Just know that battles and storms are inevitable and that God will be with you in them; just as He is with you in preparation for them; and in the healing and restoration that follows them.

The "with-ness" of God is your strength! That's in the Bible somewhere--just not exactly like I worded it. :) 

Do we really change God's mind when we pray?

No, we release what God has in mind when we pray.

James 4:2 says that we have not because we ask not. 

Jeremiah 18:7-8 expresses God's genuine desire to "change his mind" --to relent and to withdraw judgement when His people pray. "If they repent I will not destroy..." 

Ezekiel 22:30--31 tells us that when we don't pray, God's judgement continues forward, "I looked and found no one so I will pour out fury..."

According to Jeremiah and Ezekiel our prayers impact the way God balances His judgment with His mercy. (And God is always eager to exercise mercy.) 

Our prayers matter! This reminds me of a few lines from a hymn we sang in the church where I grew up, 

Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh what needless pain we bear...all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

I have heard that you should pray once for something where I pray for it all the time. Which should I be doing?

According to Matthew 7, pray and keep on praying! We spent an entire lesson on praying through to a breakthrough. Here is a great blog post that captures the punch in that lesson, How to Argue with God and Win, Step by Step

Is a wife's prayer hindered because of her husband's sins? Not sure where I heard or saw this verse.

Nope. It's the other way around. A husband's prayer will be hindered by the way he treats his wife! 

I Peter 3:7 says,  "Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered." ESV

Can the enemy read my thoughts? Does he eavesdrop on my prayers?

No, Satan cannot read your thoughts. But he doesn't have to. He can, most of the time, know what you're thinking by listening to what you say and observing how you behave. 

Yes, Satan absolutely eavesdrops on your prayers. He can learn how to attack you with doubt and chip away at your faith when he can hear your heart. HOWEVER, you can banish him from your prayer closet by lacing your prayers with praise. The enemy flees when we praise God, proclaim His greatness and acknowledge Him in all His glory and Satan, along with his demons will skedaddle from your prayer room.

What happens to the soul of one who does not forgive and has no faith and passes on? 

When someone dies without forgiving they miss the opportunity to experience freedom that comes with forgiveness. But for the one who is living, even if the person they need to forgive has died, they can still experience freedom by releasing that person through forgiveness. Forgiveness has more to do with your relationship with God than it does with your relationship with others.

Jesus told us that if we refuse to forgive, we hinder our prayers from being heard and answered. God's very nature is to recognize our offense, and yet forgive us. In order to embrace the heart and mind of Christ we must clothe ourselves with His forgiving nature. 

If "one has no faith and passes on" they missed their opportunity to choose to believe in Jesus as the only way of salvation. However, which one of us can truly know the heart of another? Only God knows, and therefore, only God can be the judge of another. 

If someone gave their life to Christ and got caught in the devil's trap of offense they still go to heaven when they die; they just robbed themselves of experiencing all of what they could have experienced while they were living on earth.

How do you know when God is saying wait instead of no?

As you pray, you will want to grow in your relationship with God. You want to understand Him, understand what He considers good. You want to yield your understanding to His. You want to grow to trust Him. All along the way, you will strive to hear His voice and know His ways.

As you walk through your waiting time, God will let you know what He's up to. He will perhaps convince you to change your prayer; adjust your prayer; maybe even mature your prayer. Before you receive your answer you might be praying something completely different.

When you pray be careful to pray with open hands, trusting the God who loves you to respond to you. If He chooses to deny your request, press in to Him and do like Jacob. Refuse to let go until He blesses you.

Is praying out loud more effective than silent prayers in my mind?

My answer is this: yes and no. The most powerful prayer in each of us is when we pray honestly from the depth of our hearts—either out loud with words or silently without spoken words.
   I personally think that our tears are often our most effective prayers. Even God collects them!
   But when it comes to praise and claiming Scripture promises I think it is more powerful to speak these words out loud. When we speak the name of Jesus the demons have to bow down. And when we declare our confidence in God through praise, the demons scatter. When we profess the promises we find in the Bible, the demons are deterred.

So speak Scripture aloud and praise God vocally. And share the depths of your soul however the Spirit leads you to knowing that even He will interpret the groans that go beyond words. (see Romans 8:26)


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