How to Pray Successfully

I once saw a cartoon that showed a man sitting in church with a rather disgruntled look on his face. His "thought cloud" read, “Oh great, here comes Bob. I told him I would pray for him. ‘Dear God, help Bob. Amen.'" Then when he greeted Bob, he said, "Hey, Bob, I’ve been praying for you.”

The message here is sad but it's too often true. We like for people to believe that we're prayer warriors, but we really don't spend much time in prayer. Perhaps the man in the cartoon wasn't technically lying, but he wasn't telling the whole truth either. He had prayed, but he had prayed a very shallow prayer.

What Is Prayer (and Does God Answer)?

On the other hand, you may have heard of a man of prayer named George Mueller who once ran an orphanage. Though accustomed to lacking material things, one evening there was no food whatsoever available for dinner. When the children asked Mr. Mueller what to do, he said, "Prepare the table. God will provide."

They set the table, prayed for food, and then heard a knock at the door. It was a bread delivery man whose cart had broken down. He said he would be unable to deliver the bread to his usual customers, and he wondered if Mr. Mueller could use it free of charge.

Prayer is a powerful tool. We cannot expect God to always answer as timely and as powerfully as He did for Mr. Mueller. However, the Bible commands us to pray.

In the midst of instructing the Philippians on how to be happy, Paul told them, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6). As Christians, we are charged to pray, and we are assured of God's blessings through prayer. We have access to God through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:18), the Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26), and we are to draw near to the throne of God (Hebrews 4:16).

Supplication

Prayer is simply letting our requests be made known unto God. It is telling God your needs, and asking Him to grant your requests to address those needs. James 5:13-14 says, "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray . . . Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord." Suffering and sickness are obvious reasons to pray, but as we shall see, we should pray for the general well-being of ourselves and others, by addressing specific situations or individuals.

Sustenance

We should pray for sustenance, and even prosperity. Proverbs 3:1-2 says, "My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity."

Romans 8:32 says, "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all--how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?"

2 Corinthians 9:10 says, "Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.

Asking

Overcoming Evil Desires by Claiming God’s Promises -- GOD HAS GIVEN US HIS VERY GREAT AND PRECIOUS PROMISES, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and ESCAPE THE CORRUPTION IN THE WORLD CAUSED BY EVIL DESIRES. 2 Peter 1:4

Promises

Here are some promises to claim as we pray:

Strength to Endure

HE WILL KEEP YOU STRONG TO THE END, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:8

Wisdom and Understanding

My son, if you ACCEPT MY WORDS AND STORE UP MY COMMANDS WITHIN YOU, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, THEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND THE FEAR OF THE LORD AND FIND THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. Proverbs 2:1-5

Peace

REJOICE in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. DO NOT BE ANXIOUS ABOUT ANYTHING, but in everything, BY PRAYER AND PETITION, WITH THANKSGIVING, PRESENT YOUR REQUESTS TO GOD. AND THE PEACE OF GOD, WHICH TRANSCENDS ALL UNDERSTANDING WILL GUARD YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--THINK ABOUT SUCH THINGS. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--PUT IT INTO PRACTICE. AND THE GOD OF PEACE WILL BE WITH YOU. Philippians 4:4-9

Wisdom and Understanding--My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, THEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND THE FEAR OF THE LORD AND FIND THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. Proverbs 2:1-5

Prosperity

We need to avoid greed and a lust for money, but we can pray for financial security.

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you PROSPERITY. Proverbs 3:1-2

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, GRACIOUSLY GIVE US ALL THINGS? Romans 8:32

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and INCREASE YOUR STORE OF SEED and WILL ENLARGE THE HARVEST OF YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. 2 Corinthians 9:10

Success

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that IN ALL THINGS AT ALL TIMES, HAVING ALL THAT YOU NEED, YOU WILL ABOUT IN EVERY GOOD WORK. 2 Corinthians 9:8

Effectiveness --Make every effort to add to your FAITH: GOODNESS; KNOWLEDGE; SELF-CONTROL; PERSEVERANCE; GODLINESS; BROTHERLY KINDNESS; AND, LOVE. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will KEEP YOU FROM BEING INEFFECTIVE AND UNPRODUCTIVE in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, YOU WILL NEVER FALL, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-11

Overcoming Temptation

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; HE WILL NOT LET YOU BE TEMPTED BEYOND WHAT YOU CAN BEAR. But when you are tempted, he will also PROVIDE A WAY OUT so that you can stand up under it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Turning Bad into Good

And we know that God causes ALL THINGS TO WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Knowing God’s Will

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then YOU WILL BE ABLE TO TEST AND APPROVE WHAT GOD'S WILL IS--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Thanksgiving

As we saw in Philippians, thanksgiving is an essential aspect of prayer. We should thank God for previous answers to prayer, as well as his unsolicited blessings of grace which he showers upon us even when we neglect prayer. We should express thanksgiving for others as well as ourselves (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We are always to maintain an attitude of thankfulness (Colossians 4:2).

Confession

As we speak to God in prayer, we are to confess all of our known sins to Him (1 John 1:9). This just means identifying and naming our sins to God. We simply need to recognize our sins, and remember God's forgiveness and the need for it. This restores our temporal fellowship with God, and it reminds us of our dependence on God as well as the areas where we need improvement. It wouldn't be a bad idea to follow-up our confession with a request for power over that sin in the future. Also, confession includes completely forgetting about that sin.

Who to Pray For

We should pray for all people, but especially "all those in authority" (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Obviously our leaders need prayers so that they will be able to properly exercise their God-given authority in making important decisions on the behalf of many other people. The higher the position of leadership, the more difficult the decision-making process is, the more people are available for prayer, and the more prayers are needed. James 5:16 says we should pray for each other, and Ephesians 6:18 says to pray for all the saints. There is no better source of strength for a Christian than to know that his name is included in the prayers of the other members of the body of Christ (Hebrews 4:16) through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26).

When and How to Pray

Ephesians 6:18 says, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." We are to be in a constant attitude of prayer. We are to remain alert and sober for the purpose of prayer (1 Peter 4:7), especially in times of trouble. Colossians 4:2 says, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Prayer will take time, effort, and energy, but we are charged to pray, even though God already knows our needs (Luke 12:7), and we are to pray in faith and expect God to respond (Luke 11:9, John 15:7). Jesus taught that prayers are to be made with an attitude of quietness and humility, which corresponds exactly to the whole attitude of the Christian mentality. Jesus condemned prayer by memorization (Matthew 6:7), and He suggested that a solitary place is a good location for praying (Matthew 6:6). This is not to say that we should not practice corporate prayer, but even when praying with others, we should approach God with a quiet and humble spirit.

The Sick (Physical ailments--Hands/arms)

James 5:13-16: Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. . . pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

We should pray when we're happy, and pray when we're sick. If we are righteous, then our prayers will be answered.

Acts 4:24-31: They raised their voices together in prayer to God. ". . . Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

We should pray for courage, as well as for healing and miracles.

Answers to Prayer

When we do obey God by praying, he does promise to answer our prayers. John said in 1 John 5:14-15 that we can be sure that "if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us, and if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of Him." James 5:15-16 says, "And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up... The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. And if we know that He hears us--WHATEVER WE ASK--WE KNOW THAT WE HAVE WHAT WE ASKED OF HIM. 1 John 5:14-15

Husbands, . . . BE CONSIDERATE AS YOU LIVE WITH YOUR LIVES, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that NOTHING WILL HINDER YOUR PRAYERS. 1 Peter 3:7

Asking Amiss

James 4:3 says that when our prayers are not answered, it's because we "ask with wrong motives," and we're not praying in God's will and in submission to the Holy Spirit. We can't guess about God's will for things such as the size of a church budget or the membership growth of a church. We must be sure that any goal-setting we do is truly inspired by the Holy Spirit. We sometimes have to be less specific and simply pray for discernment.

We must be careful what we ask in prayer. For example, if we have a fear or a burden, we shouldn't necessarily pray that it be removed. God may have a purpose for us which we can only realize through that situation. Maybe He is trying to teach us endurance, patience, or simply not to worry. Furthermore, prayer should never be used lightly as a token to pacify a demanding congregation, or as an excuse for fellowship.

Many of us have had one or more experiences when it seemed like our prayers were unanswered, in spite of making sure that we weren't asking amiss. Perhaps we have prayed for healing for someone who was sick, but that person died of their illness. It makes us want to ask, "What is the point in praying for someone if God already knows what He is going to do?" I'm not completely at ease about my own understanding of this, but I'll share some thoughts, although I may not be able to provide a definitive answer.

In 1978, my mother was diagnosed with inoperable heart disease when she was only 55 years old. She had been a strong Christian all of her life, and we prayed for four years for her healing. Instead of being healed, her condition continually worsened until she was completely confined to her bed and an oxygen bottle.

During the four years of praying for her healing, I claimed John 14:13-14, which says, "that the Father may be glorified, you may ask anything in my name, and I will do it." Seeing that my prayers were unanswered, I decided that it must be God's will for my mother to die, so I reluctantly changed my prayer and asked God to end her suffering, thinking that maybe that was God's will. It was, and He answered, quite quickly, and she died in 1983.

Here's what I learned: I was asking with wrong motives, as James 4:3 explains. When I was praying for her healing, I was asking according to my own will; i.e., what was selfishly best for me. When I considered what was best for her, and what God's will might be, I essentially asked for her death, and God answered that prayer. Not my will but thine be done.

Believers are charged by God to pray, although God already knows our thoughts and needs. We are to boldly approach His throne with specific requests, in an attitude of thanksgiving, confession, and reverence. This doctrine of prayer is widely taught, but greatly overlooked in practice. There have actually been occasions when Bible churches have canceled prayer meetings due to the telecast of the Super Bowl! How much of your day is devoted to quiet, fervent prayer?

How to Get Your Prayers Answered

You’ve probably had the same frustrations in your prayer life that I have. I know that prayer is a powerful tool, but I’ve never been able to master it. I’ve claimed Christ’s promises in Matthew 7:7-8 and Matthew 21:22, and still my prayers haven’t been answered. Years ago I began a prayer journal where I record the things I’ve prayed about, as well as how the prayers were answered. After years and years of prayer records, I believe that I’ve finally figured out the key to prayer.

Selfless Prayer

You’re probably like me, in that most of the things that I have asked for in my prayers relate to my family, my friends, my job, my church, my daily walk with God, etc. Well, look at the number of times that I used the word “my” in the previous sentence. Most of my prayers have been about me. That’s the problem. The Christian life is about grace, humility, and love; and, love implies a willingness for self-sacrifice for others. My prayers should probably be more about others than myself (Philippians 2:3).

Furthermore, my prayer records bear this out. Here’s a profound reality: The further that I am removed from a situation, the more effective my prayers are. When my mother was deathly ill, I spent countless hours in praying for her healing, only to see her die after five years of suffering. On the other hand, I have had the experience of praying for the health of someone that I hardly knew, and my prayer was immediately answered with healing.

In other words, when I have had a personal stake in a prayer, and I was going to personally benefit from an answer to that prayer, then the prayer has generally not been too effective. However, when I take myself out of the situation, my prayers have been much more effective.

As another example, when I’ve prayed about financial situations for myself, my prayers haven’t been answered as well as when I’ve prayed about someone else’s financial needs.

Unfortunately, this also means that sometimes, when I am indeed very far removed from the situation, I may not even know how the prayer was answered. I’ve taken international trips where I’ve met people and prayed for them, then I’ve come home and never seen them again. I will never know how those prayers were answered. However, according to this principle of removing myself from my supplications, I have to believe in faith that God indeed answered those prayers.

So, I believe that the most effective prayer is selfless (intercessory) prayer. If I can stop being so selfish, I can have much more success in having my prayers answered.

Genesis 25:21: Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, . . .

In Genesis 24, Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac. Genesis 24:12-15: Then he (Abraham's servant) prayed, "O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a girl, 'Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,' and she says, 'Drink, and I'll water your camels too'-let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master." Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out . . .

1 Kings 18:36-37: . . . the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, ...

Pray so that others may know the truth.

2 Kings 19:15-19: And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: "O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God. . . Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God."

Acts 9:40-42: Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, "Tabitha, get up." She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. . . This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.

1 Kings 18:36-37: . . . the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, . . .

2 Kings 19:15-19: And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: "O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God. . . Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God."

2 Chronicles 33:12-13: In his distress he sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God.

We should pray privately and submissively.

2 Kings 6:17: And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

We should unselfishly pray for others--when we have nothing to gain by it personally.

Again, James 5:13-16: Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. . . pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

We should pray when we're; pray when we're happy; pray when sick; anoint the sick with oil; pray for others—be unselfish; Be righteous.

Honor God

Genesis 24:12-15: Then he (Abraham's servant) prayed, "O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a girl, 'Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,' and she says, 'Drink, and I'll water your camels too'-let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master." Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out . . .

We should ask for success and kindness, and put out fleece. (India)

In Genesis 32, Jacob was on his way to meet his brother Esau. Genesis 32: 9-12: Then Jacob prayed, "O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD, . . . I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, . . . But you have said, 'I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.' "

Tell God about your relationship with Him, and be honest; and, Claim His promises.

2 Kings 19:15-19: And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: "O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God. . . Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God."

Nehemiah 1:4-11: When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said: "O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave. . . O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man."

We should fast; honor God; confess; and, ask for success.

Daniel 9:4-23: I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened . . . Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame . . . because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us. . . all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him. . . O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath . . . Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. . . We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, . . . As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, . . .

Confess your sins to God (1 John 1:9). Call upon God’s mercy—for His sake, not ours.

Pray for God's Glory, Not Our Benefit

Matthew 6:5-13: But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

We shouldn't babble in our prayers, with repetitive, meaningless, excessive words. We should pray for sustenance—-not excess.

Matthew 26:39: Going a little farther, he (Jesus) fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

Acts 4:24-31: They raised their voices together in prayer to God. ". . . Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

We should pray corporately; pray specifically; pray for courage; and, pray for healing and miracles.

Acts 9:40-42: Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, "Tabitha, get up." She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. . . This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.

We should pray submissively.

Daniel 9:4-23: I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened . . . Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame . . . because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us. . . all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him. . . O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath . . . Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. . . We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, . . . As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, . . .

Again, call upon God’s mercy—for His sake, not ours.

Confess

Recognize and confess all known sins (1 John 1:9).

Ezra 9:5-15: I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God and prayed: "O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. From the days of our forefathers until now, our guilt has been great. . . But now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant . . . But now, O our God, what can we say after this? For we have disregarded the commands you gave. . . What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins have deserved and have given us a remnant like this. . . O LORD, God of Israel, you are righteous! . . . Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence."

Be humble, and be thankful.

Nehemiah 1:4-11: When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said: "O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave. . . O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man."

Fast; Confess; and, ask for success.

Daniel 9:4-23: I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened . . . Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame . . . because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us. . . all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him. . . O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath . . . Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. . . We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, . . . As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, . . .

Confess; and, Call upon God’s mercy—for His sake, not ours.

We should confess our individual sins to God. If we can't think of anything, we would do well to make sure that we haven't been guilty of any of the sins of immorality according to Romans 2:

   1) PRIDE--arrogant attitude, parading self with a haughty attitude,
        esteeming your own merit above that of other people;
   2) Insolence--rude, a quality of violence triggered by arrogance, insulting;
   3) Boastful--quack or impostor, verbal pride expressed with arrogance;
   4) Temper--Fits of rage (outbursts of anger); impatience
   5) Hate--intimidation;
   6) Heartless--without natural affection, lack of love of kindred,
       lack of family affection;
   7) Unmerciful--ruthless, without pity on the sufferings of other people;
   8) VINDICTIVE--unforgiving spirit
   9) JEALOUSY--Demanding complete devotion, suspicious of a rival;
  10) Coveting--covetousness (greed)--desire to have more though you don't
      need more, don't have a noble purpose for having more, frantic
      search for happiness, taking advantage of a simpleton;
  11) ENVY--feeling of displeasure which is produced by witnessing or
      hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others, greed,
      inability to be happy in the face of someone else's prospering
      and commendation;
  12) Shameful lusts--PRAISE / MONEY, greed, stealing, selfish ambition
  13) Malice--malignity, evil disposition, puts an evil interpretation
      or construction on something that someone says, disposition to
      cause mischief, maligning, law breaking, depravity;
  14) Maliciousness (depravity)--badness in quality or character,
      innate depravity or malice;
  15) Unrighteousness--doing what ought not to be done, wrongdoing to
      others, oppression;
  16) Sexual immorality (thoughts)
  17) Deceit--lies
  18) Foolishness (foolish hearts)--senseless, futile thoughts, faithless
  19) Idolatry--not glorifying/thanking God, not retaining God's knowledge
  20) Strife--discord, dissension, quarreling, factions, contention
      and wrangling, snarling conversation;
  21) EVIL--maligning, law breaking, DOING WHAT OUGHT NOT TO BE DONE
  22) SEXUAL immorality (thoughts)
  23) DECEIT--lies--deceit--guile, bait in a trap, to trap, to lure by
      deception into some loss or injury;
  24) FOOLISHNESS--senseless--without understanding (senseless)--senseless,
      lacking in discernment, stupid, darkened mind, blind to what is
      right and wrong, confusing right and wrong, no grasp of any
      reality toward life in any area, have rejected God's viewpoint
      (government);
  25) Futile thoughts / deeds
  26) Faithless--covenant breakers, not put together, not agreeing,
      not a covenant keeper;
  27) IDOLATRY--not glorify/thank God, not retaining God's knowledge
  28) Wickedness (evil)--bad effects caused by evil, pain /sorrow
      from evil, pernicious evil--destructive in character,
      malignant thing in itself;
  29) Whisperers--gossips, secret slanderers, being judgmental;
  30) Back-biter--speak ill of others in open slander
  31) Murder--homicide, illegal killing of a human being;
  32) Haters of God--despising divine authority;
  33) Inventors of evil--one who devises things which are
      inherently evil, devises new ways of expressing evil;
  34) Disobedient to parents--unwilling to be persuaded, spurning
  35)   your parents, an obstinate rejection of parental authority;
  36) Violate the weaker brother scenario
  37) Showing favoritism
  38) Eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner

Pray Privately

Matthew 6:5-13: But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Don’t babble with repetitive, meaningless, excessive words. Pray for sustenance—not excess;

Acts 9:40-42: Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, "Tabitha, get up." She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. . . This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.

Mark 1:35: Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Pray submissively.

Luke 5:16: But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Pray Corporately

Acts 4:24-31: They raised their voices together in prayer to God. ". . . Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

Involve Yourself (Physically)

2 Kings 4: 32-35: When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy's body grew warm. . .

2 Kings 20:1-7: 1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” 2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, 3 “Remember, LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: 5 “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”

Involve yourself emotionally (be honest); and, take action.

Acts 6:6: They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

I once heard a man pray for a certain thing, and he said, "I don't care how much it costs." Now, that is the ultimate example of involving oneself in his prayers. Have you ever had the nerve to pray like this?

Lay on hands

Acts 13:3: So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

Fast (first)

James 5:13-16: Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. . . pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Anoint the sick with oil; pray for healing

Put Out Fleece

Judges 6:36-40: Gideon said to God, ". . . look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said." And that is what happened. . . Then Gideon said to God, "Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew." That night God did so.

Cast Lots

1 Samuel 14: 41: Then Saul prayed to the LORD, the God of Israel, "Give me the right answer." And Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the men were cleared. Saul said, "Cast the lot between me and Jonathan my son." And Jonathan was taken.

Acts 1:24-25: Then they prayed, ". . . Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry. . ." Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

(India)

Be Humble

Luke 18: The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector: 9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

2 Kings 20:1-7: 1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, 3 “Remember, LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: 5 “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.

2 Chronicles 33:12-13: In his distress he sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God.

Ezra 9:5-15: I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God and prayed: "O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. From the days of our forefathers until now, our guilt has been great. . . But now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant . . . But now, O our God, what can we say after this? For we have disregarded the commands you gave. . . What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins have deserved and have given us a remnant like this. . . O LORD, God of Israel, you are righteous! . . . Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence."

Be Thankful

2 Chronicles 33:12-13: In his distress he sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God.

Ezra 9:5-15: I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God and prayed: "O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. From the days of our forefathers until now, our guilt has been great. . . But now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant . . . But now, O our God, what can we say after this? For we have disregarded the commands you gave. . . What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins have deserved and have given us a remnant like this. . . O LORD, God of Israel, you are righteous! . . . Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence."

Phil. 4:4-7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Don’t be anxious.

Peace--REJOICE in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. DO NOT BE ANXIOUS ABOUT ANYTHING, but in everything, BY PRAYER AND PETITION, WITH THANKSGIVING, PRESENT YOUR REQUESTS TO GOD. AND THE PEACE OF GOD, WHICH TRANSCENDS ALL UNDERSTANDING WILL GUARD YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--THINK ABOUT SUCH THINGS. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--PUT IT INTO PRACTICE. AND THE GOD OF PEACE WILL BE WITH YOU. Philippians 4:4-9

Take Action

2 Kings 20:1-7: 1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, 3 “Remember, LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: 5 “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”

Be humble; involve yourself emotionally (be honest), and take action.

Nehemiah 4:9: But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.

Fast (Involvement)

Nehemiah 1:4-11: When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said: "O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave. . . O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man."

Acts 13:3: So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

Fast (first).

Ask for Success

Nehemiah 1:4-11: When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said: "O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave. . . O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man."

Pray When In Distress

Jonah 2:1-2: From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 He said: "In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.”

James 5:13-16: Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. . . pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Pray when in distress; pray when happy; pray when sick; anoint the sick with oil; and, be righteous.

Pray Specifically

Acts 4:24-31: They raised their voices together in prayer to God. ". . . Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."

Don’t babble (repetitive / meaningless / excessive words)

Matthew 6:5-13: But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Pray For Sustenance--Not Excess

Matthew 6:5-13: But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Be Blameless

James 5:13-16: Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. . . pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Be righteous, and your prayers will be answered.

Pray In Death

2 Kings 20:1-7: 1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” 2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD,

Acts 7:59-60: While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

The last prayer; at the point of death, pray for God to receive your spirit;

Owen Weber 2011