by Julia Bruce
CEO and Keynote Speaker
In any prayer group at any given moment, 95% of the people will not be paying attention to your prayer. 55% will be daydreaming, 20% will be thinking about what they’re going to say when it’s their turn to pray, 14% will be wishing you wouldn’t blab so long, 5% will have their eyes open, and 1% will be wondering why you have your shirt on inside out. (Chances are you just looked to see if your shirt is on inside out.)
Why are People afraid to Pray?
Prayer. At times it seems that if you ask someone to pray, you might as well have asked them to jump off a high-rise building. Why is praying (especially out loud) something so many people are afraid of doing? Is there some big, secret, unforgiven sin that makes them afraid of talking to God? Are they so worried about what others might think about how they pray? Is there a right way to pray?
I can pray silently or out loud. I can pray at the dinner table or in my closet (actually my prayer closet is my bathroom because its the one place no one bothers me). Or, I can pray on my knees or standing on a mountain top. I can pray with my eyes closed or open (which I do when I pray while driving). I can pray out loud or silently in my heart and mind. Or I can pray with my hands folded or with them raised toward heaven. It’s a good thing we can pray anywhere and in many ways because 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says we are to pray without ceasing. The only thing we have to be sure of is praying with a right attitude.
What exactly is prayer?
Prayer is about communicating with our heavenly Father. It’s simply talking to Him and listening when He talks to us. If we all went around afraid to talk to one another because of what other people think about how we talk, we’d never say anything. So why, then, are we so worried about what people think about how we pray? We don’t have to use our “deep spiritual holy” voice and say big fancy religious words. We only just need to bring our hearts to God and tell Him what’s on our mind.
As the opening statistics show, most of the time when we pray, the people around us don’t have a clue what we are saying. So when it’s your turn to pray, don’t worry about anyone else in the room. It’s just you and God and you’re having a conversation.
Attitude says a lot
In most conversations, attitude says a lot – sometimes more than the words do. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Paul was providing his young “apprentice” with some instructions and in Chapter 2, those instructions have to do with prayer. Here we find that Paul instructs Timothy on who to pray for, where to pray, and how to pray.
Who should be included in our prayers?
Paul told him to make supplications, prayers intercession, and thanksgiving for everyone, everywhere. This included kings and all who are in authority. For us, that would be our president, congress, senate, mayors, governors, city officials, police, judges, etc. And during an election year, we should be praying even harder. In Matthew 5:44 Jesus said we are to even pray for those who persecute us – those people you would consider your enemy. Does your attitude towards certain people effect how or if you pray for them? The reason we are to pray for everyone is because God desires that everyone find salvation and our prayers should reflect the heart of God.
After Paul tells Timothy who he should pray for, then then begins explaining effective prayer. Paul said that men should “pray everywhere, lifting holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”
Where to pray
Everywhere. Seems simple enough. Everywhere means – everywhere. At home, church, school, office, in the car, on a plane, while your snorkeling, in the checkout line, while at the gym. Pray everywhere regardless of who is watching or who is listening. Pray everywhere regardless of what others think. Simple. It’s everywhere.
But….if I am to pray everywhere, then I need to be living my faith with integrity before everyone. It’s kind of like riding around in your car with that Jesus fish sticker and blowing through the red light as you have one hand on the horn and the other hand sticking out the window with an unkind finger gesture because they obediently stopped for the red light. As you speed past them and they see that sticker, what do they think of you? What do they think of Christ?
If you pray at the office, but everyone sees your open hostility towards your boss or someone else, what does that do to your testimony? We are to pray everywhere, which means we need to live Christ-like lives everywhere. Maybe “everywhere” is not as simple as it first looked.
How to Pray
1) Lifting holy hands.
Does this mean we are required to have our hands raised towards heaven when we pray? And just what are holy hands?
We do not have to have our hands raise towards heaven for God to hear us. However, there is some meaning that is expressed when people lift their hands while praying or singing or worshiping God. Lifting our hands to God can also be a sign of surrender. Sort of like when a police office on TV says, “put your hands up!” When the suspect raises their hands, its a sign of surrendering to the police’s authority. So as we lift our hands, we are saying to God, “I surrender all into your authority.”
Literally speaking, there is no such thing as “holy hands” because we humans are not holy – not even in our little toe. Certainly not in our hands. The word “holy” is the Greek word hosios, which means consecrated or dedicated to God. So by saying that Paul desired men to lift holy hands, he was saying that they should present themselves as consecrated and dedicated to God. This means that every part of who we are and every part of our lives is being presented to God. This includes presenting our spouses, children and other family to God. It is presenting our work, hopes, plans, and dreams to God. It’s presenting our money (or lack of) to God. It’s presenting our fears and failures to God. We present our worries and anxieties to God. It’s presenting everything to Him.
Everywhere. Everything. All
So far, we are to pray everywhere, present everything, and surrender all. Everywhere. Everything. All. God doesn’t settle for anything less. So what have you not surrendered? What in your life is not consecrated and dedicated to Him? Are there sins or compromises you are holding on to? What are you not willing to sacrifice for Him? What promises have you made, but not kept? Everyone. Everywhere. Everything. All.
2) Pray without wrath.
Here we find the complete opposite of everywhere, everything, all. Here God expects none. Paul didn’t say, “without wrath except for….” he simply said “without wrath. He didn’t leave any door open for even just a little bit of mad. If we have already surrendered everything, then that would include any anger. Whether you have anger towards a spouse, child, parent, coworker, another church member, or that crazy driver that almost hit you on the way to church, if you bring that anger with you into prayer, you will not have effective prayers. Psalm 133:1 says that it is good and pleasant for us to dwell together in unity. Wherever there is anger, there is division – not unity.
When Jesus taught about prayer, he said that if we realize someone has something against us we are to leave our sacrifice and go make things right before we come to worship and pray. In His model prayer that he gave the disciples as an example of how to pray, He said, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” And in Matthew 6:15, He said, “But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.” If we are not able to forgive others, and we insist on holding on to wrath, anger, and bitterness, our prayers will not be effective.
3) Pray without doubting.
Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it’s impossible to please God. Faith and doubt cannot reside in the same place. Faith cancels out doubt. Like wrath, we are to have no doubts in God. In Luke 1:37, we find that nothing is impossible with God. If we come to God in prayer with doubt, then our focus is not on God, but on ourselves. Just as God is God of the Heavens and the Universe, He is also God of the impossible. The word impossible isn’t even in His vocabulary. I’m mean, if He can just speak and suddenly there is light, fish, birds, trees, flowers, fruit, animals, creepy crawling icky things, oceans, land, and people, then why do we think anything is impossible for Him.
We allow our human finite minds to form our thought about an infinite, omnipotent, omniscience God. We want to put God in box that fits our belief criteria. Because we are looking at God through the lenses of our own weaknesses, mistakes, hurts, and failures, we doubt His power on sovereignty. Our life experiences try to determine how we define God and what He’s capable of. For example, if you had an expected repair bill for your home and no way to get the money needed for the repair and prayed about it and God answers that prayer in some way, your faith in Him just grew. But if you prayed and prayed and are still praying and there seems to be no answer coming, it becomes harder to pray without doubts.
Help my unbelief!
James 1:6 says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” In Mark 9, a man has a son who has a demon and the father brings the son to Jesus’ disciples seeking help and healing, but the disciples are not able to cast the demon out. In verse 22, the father says, “If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” In my mind, I see Jesus look at the father with one eyebrow raised as he says to the father, “If you can? Everything is possible to the one who believes.” The father’s response is one we can all follow. He cries out and says, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.”
So if you’re praying in doubt, start by asking God to help your unbelief. James 1:5 says “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.” So ask for the wisdom you need to trust and believe that He is who He says is and that He will do what He says He will do. Then turn your focus on the God of the impossibles and trust Him to meet your every need in the best way.
The Right attitude for Effective Prayers:
This then sums up the right attitude for effective prayers:
- Pray for everyone because our prayers should reflect the heart of God and God desires everyone to be saved
- Living with integrity and faith so that we are able to pray everywhere
- Presenting everything of who we are to God, we are to live consecrated and dedicated lives fully surrendering all to God
- Bring no wrath, anger, bitterness and division as we forgive others so that we can live in unity
- Focusing on the God of the impossible so that our faith cancels out our doubt so that no doubts invade our prayers and asking God to help our unbelief with doubt does creep in.
Remember that God doesn’t settle for less than praying for everyone, praying everywhere, presenting everything, surrendering all, and having no wrath and no doubts. This is what leads to an attitude for effective prayers.
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