The Power of Prayer

(Psalm 62:11) “Power belongs to God.”

Everything that belongs to God and that He desires for us to receive can be ours for the asking. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10). In its context Jesus was saying that receive the gift of the Holy Spirit we need to be consistent in our asking. The Greek text says, “Ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking.” In other words never give up in prayer!

Never give up!

The same emphasis on prevailing prayer is seen in the account Jesus mentioned of the persistent widow. He told this parable to encourage us as believers and to show that we should always pray and never give up. He said that there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. There was a widow who kept coming to this judge persistently and without letting up pleading with him for justice against her adversary. For some time he refused her request but because of her persistence he gave her what she requested. Jesus went on to say that God the Great Eternal Judge, who is just and right would bring about justice for His chosen ones who cry out to Him day and night. Jesus said that they would get justice quickly. He concluded His parable by saying, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith (faithfulness) on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8).

Praying with the right motives

As believers we have a spiritual adversary and outlaw Satan who is called “the accuser of the brethren, who accuses them day and night before God.” Satan is working around the clock to discourage us from coming to God in prayer. Not only does he bring accusations about us before God, but also accuses us and tries to discourage us with fear with doubt and unbelief. He wants to shake our confidence in the goodness and faithfulness of God especially when our prayers and petitions go unanswered. Jesus tells us plainly in this parable of the persistent widow never to give up in prayer but to remain faithful in prayer until we see the results. The reason we often make little or no progress in our Christian lives is because we neglect to pray or we ask out of wrong motives or ask for things that are not God’s will for us to have or we ask for things only to fulfill the selfish appetites and desires of our fallen nature. James put it this way when he said, “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 1:2b-3).

The Reservoir of God’s Power

God Himself has made the great reservoir of His power available to us and our prayers are the means through which He releases His power in and through our lives. Prayer needs to become as familiar to us as breathing. We need to be able to use prayer as skillfully as a mechanic uses a wrench. Of course this takes time but also persistence and faithfulness as well. Our physical bodies need to be fed regularly with nutritious food to give us physical strength likewise in the same way our spiritual life needs to be regularly fed not only with the nutritious grain of God’s Word but also the spiritual fuel of prayer. An airplane needs constant refueling to stay in the air. Likewise we need to “pray without ceasing” if we want to maintain spiritual power in our lives.

Prayers that shake heaven!

The believers in the book of Acts had wonderful success in prayer even though they were experiencing fierce opposition. We read what happened on one occasion when they prayed under extremely difficult circumstances, “After they had prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31). On another occasion Peter was in prison but through the persistent believing prayer of the local Church he was miraculously delivered out of the prison (Acts 12:1-19). They may have been a persecuted Church but they were certainly a powerful Church! The true Church in the last days will be this kind of Church. The apostles knew the secret to effective leadership, ministry and spiritual power when they said, “But we will give ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word”(Acts 6:4). Notice that “they gave themselves,” indicating their willingness to persist in prayer and the study of God’s Word. Persistent in regular prayer and the study of God’s Word will give us spiritual power in our Christian’s ministry and service and especially in our daily lives. There is no other way to receive God’s power.

With God all things are possible!

God delights in the prayers of His children and wants them to come to Him at any hour of the day or night because His ears are always open to their petitions and requests (Psalm 34:15, 17) (Proverbs 15:8). When we learn to pray in the way that the Bible teaches us to pray we will have power to move God and men. All of God’s unlimited resources are available to us through prayer if only we will believe that “With God all things are possible” also keeping in mind that, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” When we read about the lives of those in the past whom God used mightily in His service we find that they were all faithful and persistent in prayer and not only believed that God would answer their prayers but counted on Him to do what He had promised to do for them. Through out the history of the Church men and women have come from all walks of life that believed with simple, childlike faith, what the Bible teaches about prayer. They asked and received on the basis of God’s Word and because they believed God did what they asked Him to do. What then are some definite things that prayer has power to do?

1. Prayer has power to show us what we are really like on the inside and how much we need God’s power.

(Isaiah 6:5) “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

It was when Isaiah was praying that he saw him self as he really was in God’s presence, destitute and totally deficient in spiritual virtue and power. If we really want to know God’s power in our lives and service for the Lord Jesus Christ then we need to know ourselves as God knows us. It is only in prayer that we will come face to face with our own inability to do anything for the Lord apart from His enabling power. Isaiah made this discovery and only after God had dealt with him was he empowered to do what God wanted him to do. In fact his ministry would not be appreciated and Isaiah would end his life at the hands of that evil king Manasseh who had Isaiah pushed into a hollow log of a tree and then sawn in two. Isaiah’s life and ministry not only reflected the Messiah to come but Isaiah’s writings have set him apart as the greatest Old Testament evangelist under the Old Covenant. He may not have been successful by the world’s standards but by God’s standards he was extremely successful even though the people of his time rejected the Word of God he preached to them.

“Search me O God”

Before we can really experience God’s power in our lives we must firstly see our own spiritual insufficiency to serve the Lord and our inability to even pray appropriately. We need to see that without prayer our best efforts to serve God will fall short of His standards. When we see the lives of spiritual power reflected in men like John Wesley, William Booth and many others we see lives of consistent and persistent prayer. Whenever we come into God’s presence to talk to Him we need to pray as David did, “Search me O God and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). As God’s children we need to learn the secret of abiding with Him and living in His presence continuously. It has been said, “We must not only pray in the context of life but live in the context of prayer.”

2. Prayer has power to keep our hearts from secret and willful sins.

(Psalm 19:12-13) “Forgive my hidden faults (secret sins). Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.”

When we come into God’s presence to pray and lay His Word before our eyes the Holy Spirit will show us anything that is displeasing to God. The Holy Spirit will not condemn us but convict us. He will point out the un-confessed sin and the situation that caused us to stumble and show us how to put things right with God and with others if necessary. A secret sin is something that we can bury deep in our subconscious mind and it virtually lays undetected in that corner of darkness in our soul however when the searchlight of God’s Word through the Holy Spirit exposes that sin it needs to be confessed there and then and forsaken through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.

Keeping us from willful sin

We can pray to the Lord that He will not only reveal our secret sins but also keep us from willful sin. Sinning in ignorance is one thing but sinning against the Light is something else. There is a vast between spiritual blindness due to ignorance concerning the things of God and willful blindness that refuses to acknowledge the truth even when it is clearly seen. The Pharisees were guilty of this sin. Moses said, “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence” (Psalm 90:8). If the Holy Spirit revels to us secret sins and through Him the Lord sets our sins before us then we need to confess and forsake them otherwise we will be sinning against light. To refuse to confess and forsake secret sins is to begin to backslide. As the Rev. George Lazenby once said, ”When a Christian begins to backslide everything seems greased for the occasion.”

Go to the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ

If we are conscious of sin then we need to come to God and not run away from Him. Through the blood of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ God has provided a way for us to be forgiven and to be set free from the power of that sin tripping us up and keeping us from walking in all of God’s will (1 John 1:9). God does not show us our secret sins to condemn us but to set us free from them. Everyday we need to wash our physical bodies to keep them clean because they can become dirty likewise we need to confess any sin that the Holy Spirit reveals to us and go to the blood of Jesus Christ to not only make us clean but to keep us clean. The apostle John tells us that if we walk in the Light as God is in the light then we have fellowship with God and with our fellow believers and the blood of Jesus Christ continually cleanses us and keeps us from all and every sin (1 John 1:7).

Secret sins

Secret sins are discovered in prayer and through the study of God’s Word and can be dealt with through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:12-14). The only way any of us as believers can overcome the power of temptation and sin is to draw near to God and He will draw near to us and as we resist the devil by faith he will run away and leave us alone (James 4:7). Remember that we are not only to put on the whole armor of God and take our stand against the devil but to also gird ourselves with the mighty weapon of prayer. How much needless agitation and affliction we could avoid if only we learned to live in the context of prayer!

3. Prayer has power to prevent us from falling into temptation.

(Luke 22:40) “On reaching the place, He said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

The Lord Jesus Christ spoke these words when He was facing the greatest crisis of His life and while he was praying his disciples fell asleep. Many of us who know the Lord Jesus do not know the power of the Holy Spirit as fully as we should because we are sleeping when we should be praying. No wonder we often walk right into temptation and sin because we do not “watch” and “pray.” This will be the great danger for the true followers of the Lord Jesus in these last days especially with the “night” of the Great Tribulation soon to engulf the world. As this time rapidly approaches and the forces of spiritual darkness gather the body of Christ will face its greatest hour of crucifixion and betrayal by false brethren. We need to keep in mind that what happened to Jesus in His last days will happen to the true Church, His Body in the last days (John 15:18-21) (2 Timothy 2:12) (Hebrews 13:13).

4. Prayer has power to control our tongues.

a. The Problem: “But no man can tame the tongue, it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).

b. The Solution: “Set a guard over my mouth O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).

Every one of us as believers needs to constantly watch what we say. James tells us that it is a restless evil that spews forth words that can damage others spiritually and emotionally. Proverbs says, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21a). Our words carry power and can affect others. Many people today in our society are emotionally and in some cases spiritually crippled because of the words spoken to them. Some were criticized from childhood while others have suffered verbal abuse from the Church in some way. Words can affect the course of our lives. James also tells us that the tongue is a small member of our bodies but can change the whole course of our lives in the same way a small rudder can turn the whole course of a big ship (James 3:4-6). We can never tame our tongue apart from the help of the Holy Spirit and the way to receive His help is through prayer. We can pray to the Lord to help us control our tongues especially where anger is concerned. The Bible says, “The anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.” When we are unjustly angry we hinder and frustrate the work of the Holy Spirit in us and in others. God’s righteous purposes for our lives and often for others as well are hindered.

Be angry but do not sin

Through inappropriate anger we grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:29-31). Now anger is a normal emotion but needs to be appropriately expressed but how often we fail to control our anger. How often do we bless as well as curse others? How often do we use our tongues inappropriately? The Bible tells us that when we do get angry that we must be careful not to sin neither should we let the sun set on our anger because the next morning that anger may have turned to bitterness and eventually into hate (Ephesians 4:29-32). A lot more could be said about our tongues and the right use of our words however only the Holy Spirit can control what we say and the way we enable Him to do this is to pray what David prayed, “Set a guard over my mouth O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips.” In other words, “Please Lord shut my mouth and keep a tight reign on my tongue.” When we come into God’s presence everyday we need to pray, “O Lord, do not let any unwholesome talk come out of my mouth today but only that which will be helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Submitting our tongues to the Holy Spirit

Whatever we say whether it is encouragement, warning, rebuke, correction or comfort, every word must be under the direct control of the Holy Spirit otherwise the results will be disastrous! If we offer to God our bodies as a living sacrifice than He gets the contents as well as this includes the tongue. How much strife, aggravation and personal agony we could avoid as believers if only we learnt to submit our tongues to the Holy Spirit of God! Proverbs also says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).

5. Prayer has power to bring us wisdom.

(James 1:5-6) “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks he must believe and not doubt.”

There are numerous accounts in the Bible where men and women sought God’s wisdom in a crisis. God does not intend us as His children to grope around in darkness and confusion but to have His wisdom invade every area of our life and service for the Lord Jesus. Today we need His wisdom more than ever especially with the spiritual seduction at work in the Church today. We need God’s wisdom where our families are concerned and where our business life is concerned and especially where the Church is concerned. There are many false prophets and teachers and so-called Christian psychologists who are telling us that they have God’s wisdom and many are going in for what they say yet when we examine their doctrines they do not line up with scripture. Of course much more could be said about these kinds of people and we have spoken about them in other studies on this website.

How do we receive God’s wisdom?

James tells us several things, Firstly, we need to recognize our need of God’s wisdom and ask Him for it. While we do not lay aside our wisdom we must submit our wisdom to the control of the Holy Spirit. In some cases we will need to lay our wisdom aside completely and just rely upon God alone to help us.

Secondly, when we ask we must believe we are receiving it as we ask and not doubt.

Thirdly, we need to act as if we have it and the wisdom will reveal itself. God’s wisdom is revealed in His Word the Bible and if we knew our Bibles better we would have a lot more wisdom where our daily lives are concerned. No matter what situation we face in life God’s Word has the answer. Sometimes His wisdom will be clear but at other times we will have to dig into His Word to find His wisdom for a certain situation. There is more wisdom in the Bible than in any other book because it is a revelation of God’s mind and heart and a revelation of the Lord Jesus Himself “the Living Word of God made flesh.” It is the only means to receiving faith (Romans 10:17). God will impart His wisdom to us through prayer if we ask and believe Him for it.

6. Prayer has power to enable us to see wonderful things in God’s Word.

 (Psalm 119:18) “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”

Every time we open God’s Word to read and study it we should pray two things. Firstly, we need to pray that God would open and “enlighten the eyes of our heart” to understand His Word. Secondly, we need to pray that God would reveal to us wonderful things from His Word. If we approach God’s Word in a casual manner or just read it in a superficial way then we will not receive all that the lord wants us to receive from Him. Our natural intellect cannot understand spiritual truth apart from the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

Paul tells us this when he wrote…

“We have not received the Spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:12-16).

Submitting the intellect

Every time we come to study God’s Word we need to submit our intellect to the Spirit of God realizing that we have within us the mind of Christ Himself. Now if the Spirit of God searches all things including the deep things of God then He is more than able to reveal to us the things He discovers. So often our intellect gets in the way because we often approach the Bible with preconceived ideas and doctrinal suppositions that we have learned from others. Unfortunately many Bible colleges can foster this when teaching the Bible through emphasizing their own particular doctrines. Doctrine is important because if we do not have right doctrine then we will not have right conduct however we must always be open to a deeper understanding of the truths of God’s Word. Now the Lord does not expect us to lay aside our intellect when studying His Word but we must be willing to have our thinking changed by the Spirit of God.

Becoming teachable

It is a fact that people who are highly intellectual find it harder to get saved while those who are not highly intellectual find it much easier to get saved. Whether we are highly intelligent or not the only way we can enter into God’s kingdom and receive the knowledge of the truth is to become as teachable as a little child where the things of God are concerned. The Lord Jesus said, “I tell you the truth. Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

The anointing from the Holy One

Theological study, Bible commentaries and devotional books have their value but in themselves will not give us real spiritual sight and understanding unless we firstly pray for illumination and for the Holy Spirit to teach us through these things. We need to read and study what others have written because God can teach us through them but the truth that really changes us is that which the Holy Spirit writes upon our hearts as well as on our minds. The apostle John said, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth” (1 John 2:20). It is only as we approach God’s Word through prayer that the Holy Spirit can teach us those deep and wonderful things we need to know from God’s Law.

7. Prayer has power to enable us to be filled with the Holy Spirit for witnessing and service for Christ.

(Acts 4:31) “After they had prayed the place where they were meeting was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”

In most cases recorded in the New Testament the power of the Holy Spirit was released through prayer. For example the Lord Jesus Himself was praying when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him to empower Him for His earthly ministry. The 120 on the Day of Pentecost had been praying before they were filled with the Holy Spirit. The believers in Samaria received the Holy Spirit in power through the laying on of hands by Peter and John. Cornelius had been praying and was filled with the Holy Spirit along with everyone else gathered in his house while Peter was preaching to them. Paul the apostle had been praying when he was filled with the Holy Spirit when Ananias laid hands upon him. When we look at the lives of R.A.Torrey, D.L. Moody, C.T. Stud, Charles Finney and William booth and many others used by God they were all filled with the Holy Spirit while they were praying. Down through Church history in most other cases God anointed men and women with His Spirit when they had been praying. In fact if we do not give ourselves to regular prayer we will never be filled with the Holy Spirit.

No prayer, no power!

We know from the Old Testament that the Spirit sometimes fell upon the Old Testament believers for specific tasks where there had been no specific prayer offered but in the New Testament prayer was the prerequisite for spiritual power from on high. Where there in no prayer there will be no power. In the second and third centuries Church leaders continued the practice of praying for new converts to be filled with the Holy Spirit after they had been baptized in water just like they did in Bible times. If we want to be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit we must be continuously in a prayerful attitude before the Lord. Just because we were filled with the Spirit in the past does not mean that we will automatically stay filled. We need to be filled with the Spirit for every new situation we face or for every opportunity of witnessing and service for Christ that presents itself to us.

Remaining spiritually alert

When we fail to pray in all circumstances and fail to remain spiritually alert we can become presumptuous like Sampson was. Sampson was a man filled with the Spirit on more than one occasion but he never completely dealt with sin in his life and in the end it cost him his life. Just before he fell into the hands of God’s enemies he was asleep in the lap of that deceiver Delilah and when he awoke to tackle the Philistines he didn’t even realize that his power had gone. As we have said in other studies when we see Satan the dragon we see him as the persecutor but when we see him as the serpent we see him as the deceiver. If he cannot destroy the Church by persecution he will try spiritual seduction. Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light and so do his servants. In these last days we must be constantly aware of spiritual seduction. Through prayer the Holy Spirit will show us anything that can hinder His power from flowing through us. We must never presume that we will have power because we had it in the past. Every new situation requires that we be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Be continuously filled with the Spirit!

According to Ephesians 5:18 God commands us to be filled with the Holy Spirit and this isn’t optional. God’s will for us as believers is that we are always filled with the Holy Spirit. According to 1 John 1:14-15 when we pray for anything that is in line with God’s will He hears and grants our petitions. When we pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit we must believe that He is filling us whether we feel something or not. The Bible says we walk by faith and not by sight. If there is no un-confessed sin that we are aware of in our life and if our only desire is to do God’s will and walk in His Spirit then we can confidently ask Him to fill us with the Spirit and believe that He has. This is praying in faith (Mark 11:24). John tells us in 1 John 3:22 that we receive from Him anything we ask because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

8. Prayer has power to change the life and service of others.

(James 5:16) “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

Sometimes prayer prevails where preaching fails. When we have exhausted all of our efforts to reach someone else spiritually we have an infinitely more powerful weapon available to us in prayer. Prayer will bring blessing to the Church, settle disputes, rectify misunderstandings, root out false teaching and spiritual deception and bring down revivals from God. Through prayer we gain our first love and if we rediscover that then we will have a revival! Prayer will bring wisdom and spiritual power to ministers and Church leaders. Instead of criticizing our pastor we should pray for him. Before criticizing others we should make sure that our attitude is right before the Lord and once we have removed the log from our own eye we will see clearly how to remove the splinter from our brothers eye.

Praying Hyde

There was a famous man of God called praying Hyde who had a powerful ministry in intercessory prayer. He would pray about a situation on the other side of the world and see the Lord answer his prayers. One time he began to talk to the Lord and began to criticize a preacher in India who was not an effective evangelist. However as Mr. Hyde was speaking the Lord butted in on him and said pray for this evangelist. Mr. Hyde began to pray and the Lord transformed that preacher’s ministry and he became a mighty evangelist in India.

Transcending all human boundaries

If we pray for others and don’t give up we will see great blessing in the lives of those for whom we have been praying. Prayer transcends all human boundaries, for example we can pray in Australia for a situation on the other side of the world and see God answer our prayers. We can pray in Australia and see a revival in Africa or in any other part of the world for that matter. Prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit come to us through faith and through the diligent study of God’s Word. If we would only wait on the Lord in prayer we would see His power renewed in our lives everyday. Isaiah the prophet said, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings of eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Prayer takes time and perseverance but in the end it saves time! Praying in faith isn’t easy and we need to persevere especially when we are in the middle of a spiritual battle.

Overcoming the enemy

When the Israelites were in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land they were attacked by the Amalekites and engaged them in a fierce battle. As they were fighting Moses stood on top of a hill with his arms uplifted in prayer to God. As long as Moses held up his hands the Israelites were winning but when he lowered his hands the Amalekites were winning. When Moses hands grew tired Aaron and Hur took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up Moses hands one on one side, one on the other-so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword (Exodus 17:8-13).

Persevering and prevailing in prayer

All of us as believers are engaged in a constant and fierce spiritual wrestling match with the devil and his forces (Ephesians 6:12). Sometimes the only way to victory is through persevering and prevailing in prayer. Sometimes we will become tired and need the “Aaron” of persistence and the “Hur” of faith to support us until the victory is won. But our efforts will be in vain unless we rest the whole of our weight on the rock of Jesus and His Word. Only in this way can we be sure of victory. Only in this way will be able to wield the Sword of the Spirit. Likewise, Daniel was a great man of faith because he was a great man of prayer. At one time when he was praying the Lord heard his prayer but the answer took 21 days to reach him because of the spiritual battle raging in the heavenly realms. Paul the apostle spoke about Epaphras. “He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” In every area of our lives and in every activity of our church work and service for the Lord Jesus we must be men and women of prayer if we are to know spiritual power from on high!

Adapted from the book “Power from on High” by R.A.Torrey.