In Luke 18:1-7, Jesus narrates the story of an unjust judge in a certain city who neither feared God nor respected humanity. In that city also was a widow who kept coming to the judge to seek justice against her enemy or adversary.
At the time, judges travelled around their countries sitting in tents to pass judgments on cases. They were often part of a corrupt system and would usually sit on a case if they were paid a bribe. Moreover, women at the time were the least respected. They did not have the same measure of legal recourse as their male counterparts. They simply were not heard at all in the courtroom, and there was no justice for them. However, we find in Jesus’ narration that, though the judge for a while was adamant about the widow’s request for justice, her persistence broke the way.
Jesus told this story to illustrate a point about faith and persistence in prayer. His concern was that His followers would learn to be persistent and diligent in prayer, and not give up until the desired result has been achieved. Verses 6 to 8 read: “The Lord said, ‘Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So, don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly….’”
EXAMPLES OF GOD ANSWERING PRAYERS
The Bible is replete with examples of God providing answers to the prayer of His people. Some of these are summarised below:
- Hannah: Having suffered many years of reproach for her inability to conceive a child, she prayed to God for a son. In response, God gave her Samuel (1 Sam. 1).
- Samson: When he humbly and sorrowfully prayed for one more chance to fulfil his God-given purpose of defeating the Philistines, God answered and gave him supernatural strength. He was able to push down the pillars of the building where they were celebrating their false gods (Judges 16:21-30).
- Elijah: We are shown the answer to four (4) powerful prayers offered by the prophet. All of them brought great honour to God (1 Kings 17-18, James 5:17-18).
- King Hezekiah: He became sick and was told by the prophet Isaiah that he will die. Feeling that his life and work were not complete, Hezekiah prayed that God would extend his years on earth. So, God sent the prophet back to tell him he would be healed and given 15 more years of life (2 Kings 20:1-6, Isaiah 38:1-6).
- Daniel: He surely prayed to God in the lion’s den, asking the Lord to keep him safe and set him free. God granted his request and shut the mouths of the lions (Dan. 6:10, 16-22).
- The Early Believers: They prayed with passion for the release of Peter from prison, and God sent an angel to set him free (Acts 12:3-11).
These examples should inspire our faith in God that He certainly answers the prayers of His people.
WHAT IS PRAYER?
Prayer may simply be referred to as communication or conversation between people and God. It is talking with God, and not to Him. This implies that as we speak to God, we must wait to also hear Him speak to us. The Bible uses other terms or phrases to describe talking with God. These include: Crying out to the Lord (Psalm 3:4); Calling on God (Psalm 17:6); Lifting one’s soul to the Lord (Psalm 25:1); Seeking the Lord (Isaiah 55:6); and Drawing near to God (Heb. 10:22).
REASONS FOR PRAYING
So, why do we have to pray to God before He provides our needs, in view of the fact that He is omniscient, and thus knows what we need even before we ask? After all, Matthew 6:8 says ‘Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.’” I would like to share six (6) of the reasons why we ought to pray as children of God.
- God is a relational Being, and He made us in like manner. His original intention for creating the human race was for us to have fellowship with Him. Thus, He has ordained prayer to be the means through which we can communicate with Him so as to enhance and deepen that fellowship.
- We pray because God commands that we do so. We find several references to this in the Scriptures, such as 1 Chron. 16:11, Psalm 105:4, Isaiah 55:6, Amos 5:4, 6, Eph. 6:17-18, Col. 4:2, 1 Thess. 5:17, Matt. 26:4, Luke 18:1 and John 16:24.
- Going before God in prayer gives the indication that we can do nothing without Him and thus affirms our need of Him. It is a sign of our humility before God and dependence on Him.
- God has ordained prayer as one of the means through which we can get to know and understand His will and plans for our lives (Exodus 3:1-15, Jer. 1:4-10). If you want to know the thoughts of a person and understand their ways, the surest way is to interact with them.
- God has chosen the prayer of His people as the way of causing the fulfilment of His purposes and promises on earth. There are many things that will not happen on earth if we do not pray as Christians. As John Wesley rightly says, ‘God does nothing on the earth save in answer to believing prayer.’ So, in Matthew 9:38, Jesus asked His disciples to ‘Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’
- Jesus Himself prayed, consistently. For example, He prayed at the beginning of His earthly ministry (Matt. 4:2); in the early mornings (Mark 1:35) and during the nights (Luke 6:12). Nearing the end of His ministry, he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46), and even on the cross (Matt. 27:46, Luke 23:46).
HINDRANCES TO ANSWERED PRAYERS
We all want to see our prayers answered and get the breakthroughs we so dearly desire. Often, we become upset with God when we don’t receive the answers, and begin to think He is not listening. But there are a number of factors that can hinder or block our prayers from producing the desired results. These may include…
- Living in sin (Isaiah 59:1-2, Psalm 66:18);
- Keeping a heart of unforgiveness (Mark 11:25-26, Matt. 6:14-15; 18:21-35);
- Unconfessed or unsettled sin (Matt. 5:23-24, Mark 18:15-17, James 5:16);
- Bitterness (Acts 8:20-23, Eph. 4:31, Heb. 12:14-15);
- Doubt or a Lack of Faith (Mark 11:12-14, 20-24);
- Having wrong motives for the things we request in prayer (James 4:3); and
- Praying outside God’s will (1 John 5:14-15, Matt. 26:39); just to mention a few.
REQUIREMENTS FOR EFFECTIVE PRAYERS
Although prayer has got no particular formula of things to say or do, there are still conditions that must be met for our prayer to be effective. They include the following:
- Praying in Faith (Mark 9:14-24; 11:22-24, James 1:5-8; 5:13-15)
We must have true and sincere faith that God hears prayers, that He has the ability to accomplish what is needed or supply our needs and that He will do what He knows is the best in a given situation.
- Praying in the Name of Jesus (John 14:13-14, Philippians 2:9-11)
This does not mean just adding ‘in the name of Jesus’ to the end of our prayers in order for God to hear us. In the Bible, to do something in someone’s name meant doing it with their approval and in their authority. Praying in Jesus’ name means praying with an awareness of His power, compassion and desire to respond to our needs and requests. Praying with this in mind will build our faith and give us peace that He has all things under His control. As followers of Christ, we must be aware of who He is, the sovereign power He possesses and what He wants us to do.
- Praying According to God’s Will (1 John 5:14, Matt. 26:42, Matt. 6:9-10)
The effect of prayer is greatest when we ask for things that are in harmony with God’s perfect will (that is, His desires, intentions, purposes and plans). God will not do anything against His sovereign will. We can know His will through His Word.
It is worth mentioning here that not only must we pray according to the will of God; but we must also live in His will. We can ask for things that are in harmony with God’s will when we are living in His will (Matt. 6:33, 1 John 3:22).
- Praying Persistently (Luke 18:1-7, Matt. 7:7-11, 1 Kings 18:41-45)
Praying persistently means that instead of worrying about a situation, we take it to God whenever it comes to mind, realising that He is in control and will do what is best. We must continue to ask until we get our answers. That does not mean begging God over and over again.
- Praying Corporately (Matthew 18:19-20, Acts 12:3-11)
Corporate prayer involves two or more believers coming together in agreement to pray about something. Such prayer has so much potency to produce effect.
HOW SHOULD WE PRAY?
- We must always pray with sincerity of heart. God does not respond to empty words, no matter how spiritual they might sound (Matt 6:7).
- We can pray silently (1 Sam. 1:13) or aloud (Neh. 9:4, Ezek. 11:13).
- We can pray in our own words or use words or ideas directly from Scripture.
- We can pray in human language or in the language of the Spirit, that is, in tongues (1 Cor. 14:14-18).
- Another way of praying is singing to the Lord (Psalm 92:1-2, Eph. 5:19-20, Col. 3:16).
- Deep and continuous prayers should at times be joined by fasting (Ezra 8:21, Neh. 1:4, Dan. 9:3-4, Luke 2:37, Acts 14:23).
- Regarding what posture or physical position is best for effective prayer, the Bible speaks of people praying in many different positions, including standing (1 Kings 8:22, Nehemiah 9:4-5); sitting (1 Chron. 17:16, Luke 10:13); kneeling (Ezra 9:5, Dan. 6:10, Acts 20:36); lying on a bed (Psalm 63:6); bowing down to the ground (Exodus 34:8, Psalm 95:6); lying on the ground (2 Sam. 12:16, Matt. 26:39) and lifting hands to heaven (Psalm 28:2, Isaiah 1:15, 1 Tim. 2:8).
- Lastly, we can pray at any time, anywhere, as long as we are not faced with any distractions that would shift our attention from the prayers.
Written by Pastor Samuel Acheampong (Nsakina New Town District Minister)