Prayer is seriously powerful business. So often, though, we treat it as a perfunctory task to be checked off our daily to-do list. How can we shift our attitudes from boredom and obligation to joy and expectation?
The Lord always inclines His ear to His children. Dr. Stanley shares the foundational principles of effective prayer, and encourages us to confidently approach God with our petitions and requests.
start your day off. Right with the free in touch devotional subscribe today. Mm hmm. In touch with Dr. Charles Stanley celebrating 45 years of God’s faithfulness and sharing the gospel worldwide. Next on in touch. Prayer that moves God. Do you often wonder why your prayers are unanswered? You know some scriptures and you talk to God. But somehow so many of your prayers go unanswered, There must be some reason. Have you thought about why have you looked at your life to ask the question, is there anything in my life it would cause God not to answer my prayers? one of you thought about this, have you thought about the God to whom you are making your prayers? You say well everybody believes in God. Well Everybody doesn’t believe in the one true God. And many people pray to a God and they expect God to answer their prayers and somehow they don’t get answered. And so you give up on praying and you think you say, well the bible is not really true. The bible is very true from very beginning to the very end. So I want you to listen carefully to this message because it just may be that you will discover one of those reasons your prayers are unanswered. Listen carefully, So turn if you will to acts chapter 12 this is a familiar passage and I want us to read a few verses but we’ll take probably most of this chapter Beginning in verse one the scripture says now about that time. Herod. The king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James, the brother of john put to death with the sword and when he saw that it pleased the jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of the unleavened bread after the passover and when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers. Now four squads would be 16, they were there to guard him and to bring him out before the people. So Peter was kept in the prison. But prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God. Remember that it was made fervently by the church to God. Would you say that you pray fervently or do you just say, well, I don’t know whether it’s fervent or not, but I just pray. Well let’s look at what’s going on right here and maybe discover something about your own prayer life. So this Herod, he had James killed and that seemed to satisfy the jews who hated the christians and so then he thought that worked. So he had Peter arrested and put in prison. So Peter is now in prison and his death is imminent, very evident that he intends to kill him, that he intends to bring him out before the people and kill him with the sword as he did James and he figured that that would satisfy the jews by killing christians and so the result is that the christians gathered together, the scripture says in mary’s house. And uh they are, they gather together to pray for Peter remember probably James was killed without any warning. And so here’s Peter, their leader who is going to be killed. They know he’s going to be killed and so they’re praying. But they have to be struggling to some degree with that because James already died and they know how a prisoner is imprisoned by the romans. And so they’re praying and praying for God to release him. And so I want us to just read a few verses here if you will and look if you will verse six on the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward. Peter was sleeping between two soldiers bound with two chains and guards in front of the door. We’re watching over the prison. And uh Behold an Angel of the Lord appeared in a light shone in the cell and he struck Peters side woke him up saying, get up quickly and his chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, gird yourself, put on your sandals and he did so and he said to him, wrap your cloak around you and follow me. And he went out and continued to follow and he did not know what was being done, but by the angel was real but he thought he was seeing something having a vision when they had passed the 1st and 2nd guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city which opened for them by itself and they went out and went along one street and immediately the angel departed from him. So so what happens when Peter came to himself? He said. Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the jewish people were expecting. Now I want you to think about something, the two words here that really got my attention when I read this and I read it many times if you go back to the 5th first notice what it says. So Peter was kept in the prison. But prayer for him was being made fervently listen fervently by the church to God. And those two words just jumped off the page to me to God. If I should ask you who is the God you’re praying to? More than likely most of you seated here and most of you who are believers could say well I’m praying to the one true god, that when I pray he’s the one I think about. But I want you to think about the people who pray, Who don’t necessarily pray to the one true God. And what I’ve discovered is this when I talked to somebody who does not know the Lord jesus christ as their savior and they talk about praying, I would say well who do you pray to? Well I just pray to God. Well like like who who is this God? Well he’s the God I pray to. And the more you talk to them, the more you listen, here’s what you discover. Many people have mentally created their own god and this God agrees with them about what they want to do, where they wanna go, how they want to address what they want to drink, what kind of sexual relationships they’ll have. There was this guy just fits them perfectly. And so they say that I believe in God. Yes, I do. You pray to him? Yes I do. What do you say to him? Well now you’re getting personal, I’m not gonna tell you what I pray to him. They can’t because he’s not God, he’s a god that they’ve created in their minds. But listen, they will never tell you, he’s holy, he’s righteous, he’s a god of judgment, he hates sin. They’re not gonna say that. They’re gonna talk about the god who has patterned his desires after their desire the way they live. And so many people when they’re praying, they’re not praying to God. So somebody says, well what kind of God does the christian pray to? I’ll tell you, he’s listening carefully in case you have one of those homemade gods, this is a real guy. He is, he is the God who created this world. He’s the God who destroyed this world by flood. He’s the God who gave us the 10 commandments. He’s the God who broke down the walls of Jericho. He’s the god who gave to David the psalms. He’s the god who has given to us the prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, He is the God who has given to us the Lord, jesus christ, the son of God and our savior. Now, if that’s not the God, you’re praying to you got a homemade god and it doesn’t work. He’s a holy God. He’s a righteous god. He’s a perfect god. He’s a God who hears and answers prayers. He’s a god who loves us unconditionally. He’s a God who forgives us of our sin. But he’s a god who does not tolerate sin because he knows that sin is a destroyer of the very people he loves. If you don’t have that God, you don’t have God. You have a homemade god. You have one that suits you. Listen to this who has no power to promise you anything. Nothing we can say because of the scripture absent from the body. Present with the Lord. What can you say about your God? I can tell you what you say. Well, I guess I just everything just goes to nothing. I just disappear. No, you don’t. Well, I guess God is the God of love. He treats everybody the same. No, he doesn’t. You can come up with all kinds of excuses about your God. But you do not talk about judgment. You do not talk about righteousness. You do not talk about a day of judgment. You do not talk about standing before a holy God and give an account for your life. And I noticed you don’t talk about hell. You may talk a little bit about heaven because you believe that everybody’s going there. Is that really true? No, it’s not. And so your God is God to you, but your God can’t do anything for you. He has no power whatsoever because it is the god of your imagination. The God who is the one true eternal God is the God we just described a few moments ago. He’s the God Who gave us the 10 commandments and the beatitudes and all the awesome scriptures we have in the Bible. Now, the reason I ask you what God you’re praying to is because if you’re not praying to the one true God, it’s not making any difference in your life. Now, these christians hearing about Peter’s imprisonment, they got together and they began to pray and to intercede for him. And it’s interesting when you look at this passage and think about what was getting ready to happen that even in their prayers, they had to be struggling a little bit. I think I would have been, it might have been one of them. And so from all human perspectives, every human perspective Peter was going to be killed tomorrow, that is tomorrow is d day for Peter death for Peter. And so they got together at mary’s house and began to pray and they were crying out for God to do something unusual to do something awesome for them because he meant so much to them and and for him to be killed would have been a total disaster in their thinking and especially in what was happening in the church. So we saw a few moments ago what happened? So Peters in prison, God sends his angel, takes him out and then he goes to mary’s house. He knew that’s where they were all praying, knocks on the door and uh this young lady comes to the door. The scripture says when he knocked at the door at the gate, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer when she recognized Peter’s voice, you think she would have run? She would have opened the door and run run back and say, well here’s Peter, you know what she did, She heard him and she she didn’t even open the door. She just ran back and said uh it’s Peter and what did they say? Can’t be Peter, it may maybe an angel, but it can’t be if he’s still standing, I can knock him trying to get in and they’re in the deciding it can’t be him. I mean they’ve been praying fervently for God to set him free and he sets him free and they’re still back there saying no it can’t happen. So that will give you some wandering faith. And so and they said to her, you’re out of your mind now look at this, they’ve been praying and crying out to God. She says he’s at the door. They say you’re at the you’re out of your mind. And so she kept insisting and so but Peter continued knocking and I wonder what he was thinking. And when they had opened the door they saw him and were amazed. So God answered their prayer. What I want us to look at here and I want us to say this again and again because I don’t want you to um I don’t want you to miss this. The bible says they were praying to God. Let me ask you how many of you pray to God. How many times have you gotten on your knees? And he began to talk to God about what you were concerned about. And then you went from praying about your husband, your wife and Children or your finance or whatever it is. Next thing you know, you’re praying about something else. Next thing you know you’re praying about something else. In fact in fact you you prayed all over the world and then you get up and walk away about two hours later somebody says when you pray Yeah, would you pray about? Well I’m afraid about a lot of things. When you pray to God, you’re gonna know what you prayed about. Now listen carefully. What happens is in our mind, we fix our mind upon God to pray to him and we called him over us, God, you said if I ask anything in your name, that you did this in jesus name, praying to you. And so we started praying and next thing you know, we’re off to something else and God gets lost in the whole issue. And finally the way we put a period to it, we say in jesus name, amen. We don’t even know what that means in jesus name. Amen. So so much of our praying is not profitable because we don’t pray to God. I’m praying to God about my finances, I’m praying to God about my husband and wife, I’m praying to God about my Children. I’m praying the words he must be uppermost in their praying and are thinking otherwise we drift off into all kinds of things as we said before and sometimes I can’t even remember what it was, but God is uppermost foremost. I’m praying to the heavenly father about this and I’m not gonna go praying along and get off on something else and forget to whom I am praying and what he’s like. God is honored when we come to him. He’s honored when we talk to him and he’s willing to hear and answer our prayer. He says, calling to me, I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not know. If he can part the Red sea knock down the walls of Jericho and if he can give us the 10 commandments, he can answer any prayer we pray that fits his will and his plan for our life. And so so I want you to notice something else here about them. It says the scripture says so for him, prayer was being made fervently by the church fervently. You know what that means? There’s some enthusiasm, there’s some feeling. There is some belief fervently. Let me ask you a question. Do you love your Children fervently? Sure you do fervently means my heart is in it when I’m talking to God fervently. It means I want to quote him of scripture and we quote scripture in our prayer not to remind God of anything, but to do what to remind us of what he’s promised us when we come to him praying to him. And so to pray fervently. For example, when jesus was facing the cross, The scripture says he was praying in Luke 22nd chapter. He was praying fervently. That is he was agonizing and I wonder when was the last time you could honestly say I prayed fervently for him? That means you put your whole heart into it. It means you probably maybe were weeping in their behalf that you were saying God, I’ll do whatever you say, do whatever it takes to help them through this situation. They’re going through God in jesus name. And so fervently it means you it’s wholeheartedly and oftentimes we say to somebody, I will pray for you. We don’t we shouldn’t say that. If we don’t mean it. Now, if I tell somebody I’m gonna pray for him, I’m gonna pray for them. I want to do something to remind me that I told them I’d pray for them. And so sometimes I say make a list now watch this if you want God to do something, many things coming to him one time is not gonna cut. It is not because some issues and situations, God has to have time to arrange the situations in order to answer your prayers. So if you just pray once and say, well God didn’t answer my prayer, you didn’t give him an opportunity to answer your prayer the way he wants to answer it in the way that he gets the most credit and that you’re blessed and you’re reminded next time you have a request, that’s the way you come to him, he says calling to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not I know about. You don’t even understand. And so if I said to you do, you have a list, let’s put it this way, if you are dead serious about your prayer life and about the people you’re praying for. You’re gonna do something that reminds you to keep praying until God changes the circumstance and that’s why I have a list. You said what kind of list you just put at the top of that prayer list and right then that you can put that name down. And the good thing that I found out a long time ago was to put a date down by this is the day I started it, maybe three days when I can put another date down an answered prayer, it maybe three months, six months and I’ve prayed for people longer than that. And some people I’ve prayed for and prayed for and prayed for, I still can’t put a date down by it, but watch this, but at least I’m reminded, at least I can still pray for that person for God to change them in some way or provide something in their life. The issue is, am I praying with fervency because I love this person because I care not gonna pray for everybody the same, You’re not going to the closer people are to you, the more you’re gonna probably pray for, the more sincere your prayers are gonna be, the more intense, intensely. You’re gonna pray for somebody that you genuinely love or somebody that you see heading in the wrong, the wrong direction. And there have been people I’ve said, don’t do that, don’t do what I’m telling you don’t do it. They and they headed in that direction. I pray God, let them stumble, let them fall, let them hurt, whatever’s necessary, block them, just block them from running their life? It’s not gonna be in a profit to me to pray for God, to block something for them. I want to see God work in their life. And so he says, we have to pray fervently. And then the third thing I wanted you to notice his simplest and that is a prayer that moves God maybe made by those in agreement with each other, in agreement with each other And in the will of God. For example, if if I have a big burden on my heart about something, I’m going to talk to somebody sitting right here for example, and I’m going to say to that person, here’s the thing I’m really concerned about and let you let you and I pray about this together. There’s something, watch that. There’s something about agreeing if any two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything of the father’s will, he gets involved. And so there’s something about praying together and let’s put it this way, the deeper you’re hurt, the more your pain, the more likely you’re gonna ask somebody to pray with you, not just pray for you, but to pray with you. And if I should ask you today, how many of you have a prayer partner, but still I don’t need anybody praying for me. Yes, you do. We all need somebody to pray for us. We need somebody to pray for us to warn us if we’re heading in the wrong direction. And I’ve had people come up to me over the years and say, well, are you sure about this? And so and uh God, if a Godly person says to me, are you sure that that’s the right thing to do? Here’s what I’m gonna say. I’m not gonna, I’m not going to be prideful and egotistical to say, well, absolutely, I’m sure no. If you question that, I’m gonna say God, I want you to clarify this in my mind to be sure I’m heading the right direction, asking the right thing for the right purpose, the right motive and so forth. God is so willing to grant us the needs, the desires of our heart when we come to him with a clean heart. An open man willing to listen to him, willing to be obedient to him. So the most powerful thing you and I do is to pray. We’re to pray to God. We need to pray with fervency with heart. We have prayed in his will, what he wants and what he desires for our life. And one of the best things we can do. Watch this. It helps us, it helps somebody else is to have someone, we pray with watch this because we all need to be held accountable. A person who wants no accountability is into something they shouldn’t be into. That’s why they don’t want to have to give an account accountability is a safety zone for us For what I say where I go, who I go with. What I spent the words I want to be accountable. That’s that’s safe. Somebody that says I want freedom. You want freedom to destroy your life, freedom to get in debt. Freedom to have relationships with people who have no business having relationships with accountability is a safety net for every single one of us. And God knows we all need to be safe, safe walking in his will and in his way. So the church in these days they were smart. They all got together and prayed for peter’s release and much much to their surprise he was released and what happens. He lived a long time after that. Now I just want to ask you this if you had to describe your prayer life, what would it be like? Well I say my prayers at night. Well let’s let’s get this. What do you mean to say your prayers at night? I understand what you’re saying. But if you just pray at night before you go to sleep I can tell you right now you’re gonna get in trouble Because first of all you maybe about 2\/3 sleep before you start praying. So you don’t even know what you’re saying no words. You might as well say the prayer that I remember my mother taught me Berlin like before I knew what was going on. Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep if I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take, that’s better than nothing. But uh yeah, it isn’t the best kind of praying now. We laugh about him in prayer is serious business praying to almighty God through his son, jesus christ who died on the cross and shed his blood for your sins, praying to be saved to almighty God through his son, jesus serious business, praying for a needs serious business, praying for one another, serious business, praying for the nation, serious business, prayer is serious business, listen, not only serious, it’s powerful business, praying with fervency makes change in people’s lives and it can make change in a nation and God’s people need to be praying Amen and father, we thank you that you’re pleased when we pray, willing to hear us, willing to answer us, willing to strengthen us, willing to build our faith up, willing to teach us how to love you and we pray today in jesus name right now any person seated here, any person listening wherever they might be if their prayers or to count, help them to understand. First of all, they must make a personal commitment of their life to jesus christ for the forgiveness of their sins, which opens the door to prayer and makes it possible and before that happens there’s no end void, there’s only talk and so we prayed that somebody today would be saved. Maybe maybe many people would be saved. But Lord God that you’d have your way in their lives. And in each one of us who calls ourselves christians who names the name of jesus, that you would God us, that all of us would be praying people is my prayer in jesus name. Amen.