Today’s devotional: the power of effective prayer

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

What does effective prayer look like in practice? There’s no “magic formula” that will cause a prayer to be answered in the exact way you want, but the Bible does illustrate that the attitude with which we approach prayer is important. In this devotional from Back to the Bible, Woodrow Kroll looks at one of the most remarkable examples of an effective prayer: King Hezekiah’s plea for help in the face of almost impossibly grim circumstances.

What was so effective about Hezekiah’s prayer? Kroll identifies seven key elements of the prayer. Here are the first three:

1. His prayer was instinctively spontaneous (verse 14). When Hezekiah received the threatening letter, he immediately spread it before the Lord. There was no thought of calling a committee or seeking the advice of others; Hezekiah knew what to do, as did Elisha (2 Kings 4:33) and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:4) in similar situations.

2. His prayer was praisefully reverent (verse 15). He addressed Jehovah as, “O LORD God of Israel which dwellest between the cherubims, Thou art the God, even Thou alone.” The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9) indicates the same kind of reverence.

3. His prayer was intimately personal (verse 16). After he addressed God in a reverent fashion, Hezekiah said, “LORD, bow down Thine ear and hear.” He had recognized God as sovereign; now he addresses Him as friend.

Read the rest of the devotional for all seven characteristics of Hezekiah’s prayer.

Think about the last time you prayed about something. If you were to examine the words and attitude behind that prayer, would it resemble Hezekiah’s in humility and sincerity? When have you felt that your prayers were truly effective?

Today’s Devotional: We Should Pray Like Teenagers Text

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Have you ever watched someone having a conversation via text messaging? They clutch their phone, pull it out every minute just to see if there are any new texts waiting for them—and when there are, they drop everything to respond.

The author of this devotional from Our Daily Bread relates Paul’s command to “pray without ceasing” to a texting teenager:

An article in The Washington Post told about a 15-year-old girl who sent and received 6,473 cell phone text messages in a single month. She says about her constant communication with friends, “I would die without it.” And she is not alone. Researchers say that US teens with cell phones average more than 2,200 text messages a month.

To me, this ongoing digital conversation offers a remarkable illustration of what prayer could and should be like for every follower of Christ. Paul seemed to be constantly in an attitude of prayer for others: “[We] do not cease to pray for you” (Col. 1:9). “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18). “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).

Read the entire devotional at

Have you ever met someone who prays without ceasing? Do you feel like you “live in an attitude of prayer for others?”

How do you teach a child to pray?

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Hnizdovsky_prayingchildIf you’re a parent, how do you pray with your young children?

The last few months have been an eye-opening experience for me, as my wife and I have been teaching our 2-year-old daughter to pray. If you’re a parent or otherwise work with young children, I’d love to hear about how you approach the task of teaching a toddler to speak to his or her Creator.

I’ll throw a few questions out there, along with some of my thoughts. Please chime in if you have anything to share!

When did you introduce the act of prayer into your child’s life? We started leading our daughter in prayer before bed around age 2; but by then she had witnessed many other people praying during church services, at dinnertime, and at other times. Once she could start communicating in more or less coherent sentences, it seemed time to introduce the concept. What about you?

When you started praying with your child, did they understand what they were doing? In our case, I don’t think our daughter has much of an idea of what she’s doing during prayer. On the one hand, I don’t like leading her through a religious ritual that she doesn’t understand; but on the other hand, my hope is that she’ll grow to appreciate the practice at her own pace, once it’s more of a habit.

What does your child pray about? In my own prayers, I try to incorporate repentance, thanksgiving, and specific requests. Thus far in my daughter’s prayers, we focus on just thanking God for the basic blessings that define her life: family, food, friends. What about you—how and when do you help your child incorporate more advanced concepts like forgiveness and repentance into prayer?

One thing is certain: praying with a young child is a beautiful and humbling experience, one that sheds new light on the familiar phrase “childlike faith.” Have you ever helped a child learn to pray, and if so, what advice can you share? Did it impact your own faith or prayer life in any way?

[Image by S. Hnizdovsky, from an original print by Jacques Hnizdovsky; used under a CC license.]

Today’s Devotional: Have You Ever Wanted to Give Up on Prayer?

Friday, February 26th, 2010

In Our Daily Journey, Regina Franklin writes about a time in her life in which she almost gave up on prayer. Exasperated after a series of seemingly unanswered petitions to God, she asked aloud, “Why bother praying?” Her husband answered, “Because God says so.” Regina concludes that she had let her circumstances govern her faith, rather than letting her faith lead her to “a deeper understanding of prayer”:

Telling them of the widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8), Jesus admonished His disciples to be persistent in prayer. Interestingly enough, He ends His lesson by saying, “But when the Son of Man, returns, how many will He find who have faith?” (v.8). Countless times I have allowed the outcome to determine my level of faith, rather than letting my faith lead me to a deeper understanding of prayer.

Unable to escape circumstances, we allow them to blind us, and—subsequently—we lose sight of the battle. Daniel, however, submitted to God’s will. In doing so, he refused to be moved from his declaration of faith in the power of God. He knew God would answer (Daniel 10:12-19). In 2 Corinthians 5:7 we read, “We live by believing and not by seeing.” Imagine the turn of events if Daniel had given up when the answer was delayed!

Read the rest at Our Daily Journey.

Have you ever found yourself asking the question “Why bother praying?” What was the answer you found?

Today’s devotional: helping the sinners in our midst

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Are there any sinners in your church?

Of course there are—no matter how well-dressed they are or how sincere in their worship, everyone in the church struggles with sin in their personal lives. Lust, anger, greed, jealousy… we know for a fact that these sins plague us all, and yet it’s all too easy for us to look at the congregation gathered around us and imagine that there’s nobody out there who has these “issues”… or even worse, to feign shock and surprise when sin comes to light in the church.

This devotional from Delve Into Jesus asks us to imagine how our churches would respond if the congregation knew all of your secret sins:

If all those gathered at your church on a Sunday morning knew of these sins, would they be as gracious as their Lord who suffered and died for these very sins He forgives?

There would certainly be a great deal of hushed whispering between friends in empty hallways, but most of it would consist of feigned disgust and manufactured outrage. We all know from personal experience that sin remains an ongoing problem after we give our lives to Jesus, yet many remain incredulous that anyone at their church could be battling any given particular sin. It makes them uncomfortable but at the same time it’s interesting and curious. And so, in order to maintain the pretense that everyone in their own circle of friends, at least, would never indulge in that particular sin or vice, they reassure one another that it’s a heinous sin to which none of them would ever fall victim. When this phenomenon gets really bad, as I’ve seen on a few occasions, the whispers escalate into staring glances and loud talking which halts abruptly when the person who is the topic of conversation walks into the room. The people being stared at and talked about are not oblivious – they know exactly what’s going on and what’s being said about them behind their back. It won’t take long before these people move on to another church where they can battle their sin in loneliness and anonymity.

There is only one acceptable motive for talking about someone else’s battle with sin, and that is to ask, “How can I help?” If there is something tangible which we can do to help, then we have an obligation to offer that help. An offer of help does not in any way suggest that we condone the sin. It’s entirely possible to demonstrate great love and compassion even as we let the person know that what they’re doing is at odds with God’s will for their life and that we want to help if we can.

Read the full devotional at Delve Into Jesus.

The proper response to sin when it crops up in the church is to offer love, prayer, and help—not disgust, outrage, or smugness. When sin appears in your church, which reaction is more common?

Why do you pray?

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Prayer is complicated. Some people pray out of duty, others out of theological understanding and others because they’re just at the end of their rope.

What about you? Why do you pray?

Share your thoughts!

Humble words that aren’t so humble

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Today’s featured devotional is from Oswald Chambers’ classic My Utmost for His Highest. It asks us to think carefully about what we say to God and our fellow man. What we think sounds “humble” in one context might communicate something very different in another:

The way we continually talk about our own inabilities is an insult to our Creator. To complain over our incompetence is to accuse God falsely of having overlooked us. Get into the habit of examining from God’s perspective those things that sound so humble to men. You will be amazed at how unbelievably inappropriate and disrespectful they are to Him. We say things such as, “Oh, I shouldn’t claim to be sanctified; I’m not a saint.” But to say that before God means, “No, Lord, it is impossible for You to save and sanctify me; there are opportunities I have not had and so many imperfections in my brain and body; no, Lord, it isn’t possible.” That may sound wonderfully humble to others, but before God it is an attitude of defiance.

Conversely, the things that sound humble before God may sound exactly the opposite to people. To say, “Thank God, I know I am saved and sanctified,” is in God’s eyes the purest expression of humility. It means you have so completely surrendered yourself to God that you know He is true. Never worry about whether what you say sounds humble before others or not. But always be humble before God, and allow Him to be your all in all.

Read the full devotional at RBC Ministries.

How important is community prayer?

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

One aspect of church worship that’s always been a challenge for me is communal prayer. Partway through the church service every Sunday morning, a designated member of the congregation leads the church in community prayer, incorporating prayer requests from the community and sometimes asking the rest of the congregation to add their voices to the prayer as they feel called to do so.

Community prayer doesn’t come easily for me. I’m a private person for whom public and community prayer doesn’t come naturally. But there’s something powerful in a group of believers gathered together for prayer, and Bible Prayer Fellowship argues that it’s a crucial part of Christian worship:

Every congregation and all believers everywhere need united agreement in prayer and faith. True, we can play privately, but we must also come together with the church expecting to find one accord in prayer. The church in Acts began in one accord in prayer (Acts 1:14; 2:1). United prayer was a top priority of the apostles and the people (Acts 6:4; 4:18-33; 12:1-25; 15:1-30). United agreement in prayer is necessary because of who we are.

We are related to Christ and each other like the members of our natural body are. Our head coordinates the life and action of all the parts of our body (I Corinthians 12). Christ is the head over all things to the church.

We are one family. We pray to “OUR Father.” Andrew Murray said that it is unnatural for the children in a family to always meet with their father separately and never know a shared relationship with him.

Read the rest of “Why Pray Together?” at the Bible Prayer Fellowship website.

What’s been your experience with communal prayer? What does it bring to worship that private prayer doesn’t? Have you seen tangible effects of community prayer in your community?

Share your thoughts!

Prayer as a powerful means of evangelism

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Today’s devotional comes from A Slice of Infinity, a daily series by noted Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias. Drawing on an unusual experience from a visit to a communist country, Ravi shows that powerful witnessing can take place when we simply model for others what prayer and worship look like:

A few years ago, two or three of my colleagues and I were in a country dominated for decades by Marxism. Before we began our meetings, we were invited to a dinner hosted by some common friends, all of whom were skeptics and, for all practical purposes, atheists. The evening was full of questions, posed principally by a notable theoretical physicist in the country. There were also others who represented different elements of power within that society. As the night wore on, we got the feeling that the questions had gone on long enough and that we were possibly going in circles.

I asked if we could have a word of prayer with them, for them, and for the country before we bade them good-bye. There was a silence of consternation, an obvious hesitancy, and then one said, “Of course.” We did just that—we prayed. In this large dining room of historic import to them, with all the memories of secular power plastered within those walls, the prayer brought a sobering silence that we were all in the presence of someone greater than us. When we finished, every eye was moist and nothing was said. They hugged us and thanked us, with emotion written all over their faces. The next day when we met them, one of them said to me, “We did not go back to our rooms last night till it was early morning. In fact, I stayed in my hotel lobby most of the night talking further. Then I went back to my room and gave my life to Jesus Christ.”

I firmly believe that it was the prayer that gave them a hint of the taste of what worship is all about. Their hearts had never experienced it.

Over the years I have discovered that praying with people can sometimes do more for them than preaching to them. Prayer draws the heart away from one’s own dependence to leaning on the sovereign God. The burden is often lifted instantly. Prayer is only one aspect of worship, but one that is greatly neglected in the face of people who would be shocked to hear what prayer sounds like when the one praying knows how to touch the heart of God. To a person in need, pat answers don’t change the mind; prayer does.

Read the complete devotional at Ravi Zacharias’ website.

Pointing people to God doesn’t always mean handing out tracts, preaching to them, or outwitting them in an apologetics debate—sometimes it’s as simple as showing them what worship means in your own life.

When Do You Pray?

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Whether it’s in the morning, during lunch or in the evening, most people try to block out some time every day for prayer.

What about you, when do you pray?

Share your thoughts!