QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:

Prayer

How can I know that God is hearing me when I pray, that I am not just "praying into the air"?

This is where faith comes into play. “Faith is the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). I John 5:14 says, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.” From this promise of God we can know that, if we are praying subject to the will of God, then regardless of how we feel or what the devil may say, God is hearing our prayer.

Does God always answer prayer?

Yes, but not always in the manner we anticipate. He has three ways of answering our prayers: sometimes He gives an immediate “yes” (Isa. 65:24); sometimes in His wisdom He says, “No” (Matt. 26:42); and at other times He says, “Wait awhile” (Luke 18:7-8).

You say we should have a systematic devotional life. When is the best time to do this?

Most people will say the best time for private devotions is early in the morning before beginning the day’s activities. This will solve a lot of problems.
1. It takes care of the time element. If you wait until later in the day to “find time,” you may get busy and not “find” it. First things first; give it priority.
2. It gives strength when needed, to begin with. “You must meet God in the morning if you want Him though the day.”

After a person has prayed once, why does he have to keep on praying for the same thing? Didn't God hear the first time?

In Luke 18, Jesus spoke a parable to this end, “that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” The parable concerns the widow who kept troubling the unjust judge until he said, “I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.” And then Jesus added, “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily” (Luke 18:7-8). Read also Heb. 10:35-37.

You talk about becoming desperate when we pray. Why does one have to be desperate? Isn't God willing to answer?

Yes, God is more willing to give than we are to receive. We become desperate in prayer, not to overcome God’s reluctance, but to “break though” the powers of darkness. The Bible tells us, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” And at no time are these evil forces against us more than when we are praying. This enemy power hindered Daniel’s prayer thee full weeks, but he persevered until the answer finally came through (Dan. 10:12).

Can we pray for sinners, or do they have to pray for themselves?

I John 5:16 says “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he [the Christian] shall ask, and he [God] shall give him life for them [the sinners] that sin not unto death.” Moses prayed and a whole nation was spared (Deut. 9:18-19). Paul says in I Tim. 2:14, “I exhort therefore, that . . . supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men . . . For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God. . . who will have all men to be saved.” The Christian is to be an intercessor (go-between) for the sinner, and must not sin against the sinner by failing to pray for him (I Sam. 12:23).

Is fasting important?

Suffice it is to say that (1) Jesus fasted (Luke 4:2), the leaders of the Early Church fasted (Acts 13:2), and other great spiritual leaders have fasted (Moses, Exod. 34:28; Elijah, I Kings 19:8; Daniel, Dan. 10:3; and Paul, Acts 9:9). (2) We are commanded to fast (Joel 1:14; Matt. 17:21). (3) Fasting brings great spiritual results.

Is it a lack of faith to pray for a person to be healed "if it be the Lord's will"?

To pray for God’s will to be done is never a lack of faith, but an act of humble submission to Him. This attitude is absolutely essential if we are to receive from God that which is best for all concerned. There is never a higher form of prayer than saying, “Thy will be done.” In this kind of prayer the Lord may leave our circumstances as they are, but change us. An example of this is the Apostle Paul, who sought the Lord three times that a “thorn in the flesh” would depart. God didn’t see fit to remove the thorn, but did say, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Paul’s whole attitude was then changed, for he said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (II Cor. 12:7-10). After all, we can get to heaven with sick bodies, but we can’t with wrong attitudes toward God.

Does prayer actually change things, or does it just produce a good psychological effect on the person who prays?

Not only in Bible times but ever since, prayer has been effectual in changing the course of events and in producing miracles. And prayer has been answered in bringing the unsaved to repentance through the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. God does answer prayer.
Someone has said, “Prayer moves the hand that moves the world.” God purposed to destroy the children of Israel, but Moses’ prayer of intercession changed the course of history and a whole nation was spared (Deut. 9:18-19). Elijah, the man of God, prayed and rain was withheld for three years and a half. He “prayed again, and the heaven gave rain” (Jas. 5:18). Yes, prayer changes things. In II Chron. 7:14, God’s promise is recorded that “if my people . . . shall humble themselves, and pray . . . then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

How much time should a person spend in private devotions each day?

In other words you would be asking, How long does it take to keep spiritually on top? The amount of time that a person spends in his private devotions each day is somewhat indicative of his love for God, and his relish for holy things. Spend enough time in prayer and Bible study each day so that there will be a “touch of God” on your life throughout the day. Remember that you don’t find time for devotions; you take time.

How can a person obey the command to "pray without ceasing"?

To “pray without ceasing” does not mean that we stay on our knees all the time, for this would be humanly impossible. But we can stay in an attitude of prayer at all times. It used to be termed staying on “praying grounds” and “pleading terms” with the Lord.

When a person has prayed earnestly for his loved ones for a long time and they are still not saved, what should he do?

Most of us have prayers that are still on the waiting list.” George Muller said that, when he had a matter to pray about, the first thing he did was search the Word of God for a promise, and when he knew it was in God’s will he would not let go until the answer came. The Amplified New Testament translates Luke 11:9, “Ask and keep on asking, and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking, and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door shall be opened unto you.” There’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing. Just do more of it. “Keep holding on; just one more hour may bring to you the promised power.”

What is meant by the term "praying through"?

This term implies two things: (1) You pray until you are through praying. You feel that the answer is on the way, so you have no reason to pray farther about it. (2) To get to the answer, we must pray through the powers of darkness that oppose us. We “pray through” when we reach a point of assurance.

Is the fact that one's mind is distracted when he is praying a sign that he is not saved, and therefore not really interested?

There are very few people who pray who do not at some time have a battle with wandering thoughts. This is not a sign of sin but part of our human frailty. It is the devil’s business, too, to divert our attention.

Should a person fast regularly, or should he wait for the Lord to "lay it on his heart" before he fasts?

The early Methodists under the leadership of John Wesley fasted each Wednesday and Friday until 3 p.m. They did not wait for a special burden but did this as a matter of regular religious practice. The great spiritual awakening of that day testifies to the results of their faithfulness. I think that every Christian would greatly profit by a regular time of fasting. In addition to this, of course, we should fast whenever led by God to do it.