If one is to learn about prayer, he must go to the Bible, because the Bible is the key source book for prayer. God’s Word is our immovable, unshakable prayer foundation. Prayers that are not founded upon that Word will go amiss and fail. Conversely, all prayers that are properly founded on His Word will not fail.
Men who changed the world were men of prayer. Moses was a man of prayer. On at least one occasion he spent forty days and forty nights in prayer, and Moses’ leadership had an impact upon the world such as no other man has ever made. Though the Jews call Abraham “our father,” only Moses do they call “our teacher.” Moses’ communion with God in prayer made him what he was. Elijah was also a man of prayer. He also prayed forty days and nights. His life also had a powerful effect upon the world.
In what way does the Bible influence our praying?
The Bible Reveals God’s Nature
If we are to have confidence in God, and if we are to believe that we can depend upon Him, we must understand who He is. The Bible tells us who God is and what He is like.
O LORD, our LORD,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set your glory above the heavens!
Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that you visit him? (Ps. 8:1-4).
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork (Ps. 19:1).
Hundreds of other passages declare the greatness, the majesty, the power, the glory, the extent of our God. If we are to become strong in prayer, we must read those passages. We must know them if we are to know God’s nature. When we know God’s nature, we can pray to Him in confidence.
Solomon’s great dedicatory prayer of the temple begins with, “LORD God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their heart” (1 Kings 8:23).
Jesus’ great teaching prayer for His disciples begins with, “Our Father in heaven, / Hallowed be Your name” (Matt. 6:9). One great prayer of the disciples began with, “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them” (Acts 4:24).
All of these prayers had their basis in the Bible, and all of them gave honor to the innate nature of God.
God’s Word Is Vital in Prayer
I believe that the Bible in your life will cause your prayer life to abound. By that I mean that an intimate acquaintance with the Word of God will cause you to want to pray; it will actually give birth to your praying. Deep study of the Word of God and frequent involvement with the Word of God will, quite naturally, cause prayer to spring forth from your heart and from your lips.
I first became aware of this truth in the life of my mother. As a child I would often see her praying with her Bible in her lap. She had read until prayer came to her lips; then she put her Bible down and prayed. She taught me that Bible reading and prayer often flow together and become one.
Perhaps you have sometimes knelt and read a chapter or more from your Bible aloud, and you were aware that God had accepted that reading of His Word as prayer—because the reading forth of the Word of God with your lips had actually been a prayer, and God brought forth the desired results of that prayer in your life.
The Bible Causes Prayer to Come Alive
The Bible “is a tree of life to those who take hold of her” (Prov. 3:18); “the Word of God is living and powerful” (Heb. 4:12). Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). When the living Word of God becomes an important part of you, its vitality is imparted to you. When this happens, God’s Word makes your prayers come alive.
When God’s Word is alive in you, things happen when you pray. There are many examples of this in the Bible. For instance, there was Hezekiah, the king of Israel. At one time he was “sick and near death,” and he “prayed to the LORD, saying, ‘Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight’” (2 Kings 20:1-3). God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and gave him fifteen more years of life.
As we study this Bible example, we can build up our own faith to pray for a specific need as Hezekiah did. As we pray, our prayers will be prayers of faith, not prayers of doubt. Such prayers become prayers of thrilling expectation, because we have seen in God’s Word what He has already done in a particular situation such as ours. When we have confidence in what God has said and what He has done, then we pray boldly and realize what we have asked.
This is the biblical principle behind what I’ve been saying: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). And then we have God’s wonderful promise concerning prayer: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, in whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15).
Elijah was a man of God, a mighty man of faith. When the son of a widow whom he knew died, Elijah prayed, “‘O LORD my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.’ Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived” (1 Kings 17:21-22).
Prayers like these, rooted firmly in the Word of God, will change your life and the lives of your family. Prayers of faith like these will change the world. As you read the Word of God, do so with your heart open, and your reading can become praying. Likewise, when you pray, have your Bible close at hand because, as you have seen, the two of them—God’s Word and prayer— flow together. Thus, even as the disciples asked Jesus, “teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1), by your frequent and intimate involvement with God’s Word, He will teach you to pray as well.
Faith Is a Key to Prayer
Why is it that some believers are never able to pray strong, effective prayers? One reason may be that they do not spend time studying the Word of God.
As we have just read, the Bible creates faith. If you are not praying in faith, your exposure to God’s Word may be limited. This is serious. If you don’t pray in faith, your prayers will not be heard; they will be empty, useless, dead.
God’s Word, your faith, and your prayer are closely, essentially related. In other words, God’s Word in you, building up your faith, will result in answered prayer. The opposite is also true—the lack of God’s Word in you, resulting in little or no faith, will lead to few if any of your prayers being answered.
Here’s a principle you can count on: God’s Word in you in abundance will teach you how to pray effectively.
The Bible Teaches Man How to Listen and Pray
One of the major problems with most Christians is that they talk more than they listen. Have you ever watched a group of people in conversation? Try observing them when they don’t know you are watching. In most cases, two or more people are talking at the same time, while the others are waiting for a momentary break in the flow of words so they can jump in with their ready contribution.
Hardly any of them are listening!
Too often this happens when we approach God in prayer. We have become so accustomed to talking, talking, talking without listening, that we pray, pray, pray without hearing what God is saying to us. Therefore, we don’t hear from God. It isn’t that He isn’t speaking to us. Rather, we don’t hear because our ears are so full of the sound of our own wordiness that we can’t hear Him. It’s a simple, organic fact that nobody can be speaking and listening at the same time. We do one or the other.
As a child, Samuel, who became a mighty man of God, learned a valuable lesson. He was told to say, “Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears” (1 Sam. 3:9). In other words, “I am going to keep still, Lord. I know You are talking to me, so I will listen and keep my mouth shut.”
When we develop such an attitude and put it into practice, we will be able to hear from God. But all too often we tell God by our actions, if not by our words, “Listen, God, for Your servant speaks.”
No matter how much you think you have to say to God, the Creator of the universe, it is never as important as what He would say to you. Prayer has two sides—your side and God’s. If you have something to say to Him, say it, and listen. If you come before Him to praise Him, do so, and become quiet before Him. If you sense His desire to speak to you, come before Him and listen.
If, in your praying, you develop the ability to listen to God, you will be the richer for it.
I have known persons of great prayer power to become quiet before the Lord for long minutes at a time. Their prayers often are not in words, but simply inarticulate groans of great intensity. They were not really speaking; they were listening.
At such times these people were learning from God. I have also learned that God can speak to me most effectively while I listen during times of prayer. Also, I have found that these moments of quiet with God are times when I get to know Him in a much better, more intimate way.
The Bible Teaches Man to Declare War in Prayer
This was true with Jacob when he encountered an angel and wrestled with him in prayer all night. As daylight approached, the angel said, “Let Me go.” But he [Jacob] said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” (Gen. 32:26).
The angel blessed him. He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel [a prince of God]; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed” (Gen. 32:28). Such biblical events can teach you to pray. Such accounts will also show you that prayer is not always easy. Sometimes prayer is difficult because you are fighting, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of the demonic world. It was against these forces that Daniel fought and prevailed in prayer for twenty-one days (see Dan. 10:1-14).
Elijah fought spiritual warfare in prayer.
Jesus fought spiritual battles in prayer.
Scores of others in the Bible held out against evil forces in prayer. All of them are examples that prove to us that we can fight, and win, spiritual battles in prayer. Sometimes the fight is difficult, grueling, grinding. But when you hold on—when you fight the good fight of faith, when you pray without ceasing—and win the victory, how sweet that victory is! You, like Jacob, have become a prince because you have learned something of inestimable value—you now possess power with God.
Then it is that your friends (and enemies, too) will see the shine of victory upon your face. Praise God! You have fought a good fight and you have won it!