How many of you can say you’ve had the privilege of having a praying mother and/or grandmother? If you have had a praying parent in your lineage, you are blessed. Mothers and grandmothers influence their children by Godly-living and hitting their knees before the throne room of God with consistent prayers. I had a praying mother. When I was eight years old, she knelt with me to pray and ask Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. I decided at that young age because I had her as a godly example. I know it’s the greatest reason I have kept my faith. James 5:16 says, “For tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer”. Even if your mother or grandmother has moved her residence to heaven like mine, the power you are experiencing in your life right now is the fruit of her prayers. My mother, various mentors as well as my husband have all influenced my prayer life. Today, I want to share with you 5 keys of effective, powerful prayer.
Key #1 - How you approach God matters.
Approach Him in prayer in humility and devoid of self-reliance. He looks on us as His child, as a mother would comfort her own child.
If you want nothing to happen, then remain prayerless because it’s only when you pray that things happen. It’s not by might nor by power but by His spirit. Be led by the spirit.
Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947) was described as one of “God’s Generals” in a book of the same name. I read his book while traveling to go be with my mom the night she died. I wanted to raise my level of faith. Wigglesworth said, ”I don't often spend more than half an hour in prayer at one time, but I never go more than half an hour without praying.” Talk about praying without ceasing! In his book, he states, “We must have this “Like Precious Faith” in order to have our prayers answered. If we ask anything according to God’s will, we are told that He hears us, and if we know that He hears us, then we know we have the petitions that we desire. Oh brothers and sisters, we must go into the presence of God and get from Him the answer to our prayers.
Mark 11:24 says, ...Whatsoever things you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them.”
Dr. Lester Sumrall’s (1913-1996) testimony of being mentored by Smith Wigglesworth makes my heart ache. When the evangelist was in his early twenties, he met Smith Wigglesworth at a revival meeting. Wigglesworth was in his older years and took an interest in the young Sumrall and invited him to visit. Their weekly visits lasted two years and he became a father in the faith and mentor to Lester. It shaped him into the man he would become and live to be, doing many great things for God. During their visits, Smith Wigglesworth would just begin praying and pray for a half-hour or so. Tears and travailing. Then, he would stop suddenly and break for lunch and their meeting would end abruptly. He had such faith to believe for the most amazing miracles. Wigglesworth had a vision of a great End-time Revival during one of their prayer visits that would span the globe. Sumrall believed he saw its beginnings before his death with the spread of the Gospel exponentially growing around the world on television, radio and what would one day be the internet.
Key #2 - Your level of faith when praying matters.
You are not a beggar hoping for crumbs from the table. Instead, you are His child whom He greatly loves and wants to give good gifts.
Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boom said, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?"
The steering wheel is what gets you from point A to point B. There’s not a moment in time as a driver of the car that your hands are not on that steering wheel, hopefully, unless you are like my husband and I, sometimes getting pulled over for holding our cell phones! That steering wheel is what keeps you going on the straight and narrow, so to speak. The steering wheel allows you to navigate and be protected from the things that may come into your driving space. The steering wheel is needed every moment that you’re in the car. If you’re moving, you need your hands on the steering wheel.
But the spare tire, while necessary, is something that plays a secondary role. Like me, I’m sure some have never touched the spare tire in your car. Some of you may have no idea where the spare tire even is! You recognize that a spare tire is needed in case of an emergency. But if you’ve ever heard the flapping of a blown tire and had to pull off to the side of the road, your heart and mind race as you think, “I don’t even know how to change the tire. I’m not even sure how I’m supposed to get the spare tire out. I’m not sure what to do.” My husband's brother is always asking if the kids in the family know how to change a tire. I do not. I would not even think of trying and just call someone to have the tire changed.
Is your prayer life like a steering wheel or a spare tire? Does your prayer life guide you in every facet of your life? Is it something you have your hands on every waking moment of the day? You can’t take your hands off it, knowing that if you stop praying, your life can fall apart at the seams. Or is it a spare tire, something that comes out only in emergencies? 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says to “Pray without ceasing.”
Key #3 - Frequency and consistency matters.
Prayer is like a muscle. Use or lose it. As a child, I watched my mother every morning sit at the dining room table and pray and read her Bible. It was marked up and falling apart. It made such an impression on me that I wanted that type of prayer life. She was so assured of how real Jesus was. Even at the end of her life, she would say she would see Jesus in her dreams. She would hold His hand & walk with Him.
Psalms 63:1 & 6 is a psalm of David, regarding a time when he was in the wilderness of Judah. "O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night."
Psalms 84:10 says, "A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a doorkeeper (a porter/janitor) in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked." Psalm 84 was a scripture that my friend Janet and I, in the beginning of planting our church, would come to stand on. It was a foundational truth.
Early on, another church merged with ours. At our new location, I sensed God wanted me to fast and pray through the “Night Watches”. There was such heavy spiritual warfare during this 30 day fast. He was teaching me that there are times He wants you to commune with Him and learn to distinguish His voice. To learn to listen in quiet moments with no interruptions. 3:00 am and 6:00 am became times that God would wake me up to ”talk”.
Waking early is not meant to simply study God’s Word or to exercise discipline. Waking up early is when I meet God. My husband and I teach the importance of a fervent prayer life. Getting up early for devotions is key. Scripture says, 'early will I seek You..”
Isaiah 50:4-5 says, “The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom so that I know how to comfort the weary, Morning by morning he wakes me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away.”
In our previous church, our Pastor invited an evangelist couple to minister. Sheryl Brady, now one of TD Jakes’ campus pastors on television, made such an impact on my life. I’ll never forget what she said that Sunday. While leading worship, she spoke about how much she loved to be in God’s presence. As she woke in the morning, she would sense the Holy Spirit hovering, waiting to commune with her. When she said that, it made my heart ache. I desperately wanted that kind of experience. God knew my heart’s cry even at that very moment because she looked right at me and called me to come out of my seat. She spoke prophetically, saying that I had the heart of a worshiper. She had no idea!
More often than not, as I wake in the morning, I hear a song playing in my mind. It’s as if the Holy Spirit is waiting for me to wake up and worship. Now that’s communing!
But we have to take some action. In the story of Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:13 - "Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water springing up into everlasting life."
This woman asked Jesus where to find this living water. God was showing us that no matter the route, He will provide and nourish us. Of course, this water is found in the Word and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Prayer and meditation is the way to drink; so that we too may never thirst again. But WE need to drink. Jesus offers but he won’t force us to drink. It’s up to us how deeply and often we drink from His well.
Key #4 - Come expectant.
Whether its early in the morning, in the middle of the afternoon, during the watches of the night — we can expect glory, splendor, and majesty. We should expect God to meet us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I look back on some of the moments of my prayer life when all I could do is pour out my heart and soul in a gut-wrenching cry for Him to move on my behalf. That is travailing prayer.
E.M. Bounds wrote “Power Through Prayer”. He died in 1913 at the age of 78 years old. He came to faith in his early 20’s during the Third Great Awakening. After hearing an evangelist preach at a tent revival meeting, he left his law practice and went into seminary and was ordained at 24 years old. Living in the South during the Civil War, he was forced to join the Confederate army. Following an injury in battle, he was arrested then released. Returning home, he felt compelled to help rebuild and became a Pastor. He established weekly prayer meetings that lasted hours. It was said that he woke at 4:00 am to pray and prayed until 7:00 am then broke for breakfast. It is said that he was seen weeping during his prayer time. In all his years of ministry, he only had two books published. 13 works were compiled from his writings after his death. Two ministers that admired his work, tirelessly prepared his manuscripts for publication by 1921, almost 10 years after his death.
EM Bounds once said “God shapes the world by prayer. Prayers are deathless. They outlive the lives of those who uttered them.” My mom’s prayers are eternal!
In his book Power Through Prayer, EM Bounds said - “Are we praying as Christ did? Do we abide in Him? Are our pleas and spirit the overflow of His spirit and pleas? Does love rule the spirit—perfect love? These questions must be considered as appropriate at a time like the present. We do fear that we are doing more of other things than prayer. This is not a praying age; it is an age of great activity, of great movements, but one in which the tendency is very strong to stress the seen and the material and to neglect and discount the unseen and the spiritual. Prayer is the greatest of all forces, because it honors God and brings Him into active aid. There can be no substitute, no rival for prayer; it stands alone as the great spiritual force, and this force must be imminent and acting. It must be continuous and particular, always, everywhere, and in everything. We cannot run our spiritual operations on the prayers of the past generation. Many persons believe in the efficacy of prayer, but not many pray. Prayer is the easiest and hardest of all things; the simplest and the sublimest; the weakest and the most powerful; its results lie outside the range of human possibilities—they are limited only by the omnipotence of God. Meaning God, having unlimited power; is able to do anything.”
Key #5 - Fervency through travailing prayer.
Jesus demonstrated in the Lord’s Prayer that we should ask for forgiveness of our sins and to forgive others. Travailing prayer is a manifestation of the grief of the heart of God. We serve a Holy God that is grieved by sin.
James 5:16 (NLT) “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
Joel 2:17 says, "Let the priests, who minister in the Lord’s presence, stand and weep between the entry room to the Temple and the altar. Let them pray..."
Weeping between the porch and the altar is a mandate for leaders to assemble God’s people together for a time of prayer, fasting and consecration. The porch represents the flesh or the outer court of worship, the altar represents the Spirit, the place of sacrifice, the place of giving up and re-dedicating one’s life back to God. It’s time to weep between the porch and the altar until the Spirit of the Lord is poured out upon us.
Why is it necessary to take up wailing, mourning and crying? It is a time for the altar of our hearts to return back to God. Jeremiah says, “Oh, that my head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night.” (Jeremiah 9:1)
Jesus also gave us the example of travailing prayer as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. Grieved and distressed, His prayer was about laying down His life and His own desires. Luke 20:44 says, “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.”
He said in Mark 14:36 - “Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Jesus looked deeply into the “Father’s Cup” he was about to drink and was terrified. Everything in his human flesh wanted to flee the impending physical torture of crucifixion. And His spirit groaned with dread at the far greater, impending spiritual torture of having the Father turn His face away, being separated from Him. Having longed and even pled, to be delivered from God’s will, Jesus expressed in these nine simple words a humble faith in and submission to God’s will that was more beautiful than all the glory in the created heavens and earth combined. He perfectly and obediently trusted in his Father.
How incredible are these examples of effective prayer? They have been instrumental in the formation of my spiritual life. I pray they become the same for you.