God Says: “We Need to Talk.”
Before I invited Jesus into my life at age eighteen, I had very little understanding of church, religion, the Bible, God . . . .
But somehow I knew that since I had recently invited Jesus to come into and take up permanent residence in my life, I should attend a church service the following Sunday. No one told me; I just knew it.
I chose a little neighborhood church I had spotted while driving around town near the U.S. Air Force base where I was stationed at the time. I had no clue what “brand” of church it was, only that it was a building with a cross displayed on a steeple.
Because I had very little awareness of what people did in churches and didn’t know what to expect that Sunday morning, I decided to slip in quietly, sit in the back, observe what the people were doing . . . and then imitate what they did.
They began with some music and singing. Next, the leader up front said, “Let spray.” I had heard that some brands of churches sprinkled people with “holy water,” so I wondered if perhaps at this church they sprayed people with holy water.
I noticed everyone bowed their heads and closed their eyes. I assumed they did so because they didn’t want the holy water to get in their eyes. I felt that spraying people was a little strange, but up until that time I felt most of what I mistakenly believed happened in churches was strange.
Then the leader began speaking to someone (I couldn’t see who it was, but felt it might have been someone named “Art” because he kept saying “thou Art . . .”). Also, he was using strange words such as “thee,” “thou,” “whithersoever,” “thy,” “whosoever,” and “thine” while talking to the person named Art I couldn’t see.
It took me a few minutes to determine what was happening. He was praying! He hadn’t said, “Let spray”; he had said, “Let’s pray.” Now I knew what we were doing, but I still couldn’t understand why he was using such strange words; maybe it was some sort of “prayer code” people used when praying to God.
That was my first meaningful introduction to prayer many years ago.
I Don’t Know How To Pray
I hope this doesn’t come as a shock to you, but like Paul, one of the writers of the Bible, I admit to you that often I don’t know how or what to pray! (Romans 8: 26) I’ve been a born2 (born again) believer in Jesus for many years, but I still have difficulty praying effectively. Honestly.
That’s why I’m writing this teaching—to continually remind myself how to pray more effectively . . . and possibly help you, too, if you have difficulty praying effectively.
Prayer is never a one-way activity! It is always two-way . . . or should be. Prayer is visiting with God. It is having a dialogue with God, not a monologue. It is God and a person conversing with one another. It is listening as well as speaking; Let’s learn to practice the discipline of “listening prayer!”
God is pleased to dialogue with us. He longs to share Himself with us. He yearns for a deep, abiding relationship with us; such a relationship comes mostly through prayer. He loves us dearly and deeply and wants to have a loving relationship with every human being. He wants to share with us both his daily and future plans and purposes for our lives . . . if we will listen.
Consider some brief thoughts. From the Bible, we know God—Who inhabits eternity—is allwhere allwhen; from the “center” of eternity everything is absolutely simultaneous to God. Being God, He is completely focused on every human at the same time. Each of us is always in the precise center of his vision and the sharp focus of his thoughts. He doesn’t go back in time or forward in time. He is always in everyone’s present—in the “Now” of our lives . . . concurrently. That’s why He is referred to in the Bible as “I am,” not “I was,” nor “I will be.”
Many people mistakenly believe God is always extremely busy with quadrillions of tasks and has to “slow down” and focus in order to make time to hear the prayers of any individual. People erroneously believe God must scramble around and somehow find time in his busy schedule to hear our prayers.
Or, many mistakenly believe something like this: “God is far away somewhere beyond the universe and can’t bother coming near this tiny planet to listen to my sad stories.”
Such erroneous ideas are not true; at any given moment in time God can precisely focus on everyone, everywhere, and everywhen. He can completely devote his time to any individual while at the same time focusing his loving and full attention on everyone else . . . simultaneously.
Many times I have heard people mistakenly make statements such as these: “I don’t pray because God is too busy with all his other tasks. God doesn’t have time to listen to my poorly worded, feeble prayers; other matters are far more important to Him. “After all, He operates the entire universe, causing Him always to be busy with far more important matters than to listen to my prayers. I don’t want to bother God; He has better things to do than take time to listen to me.”
I hope those few thoughts have helped you understand God is always fully attentive and carefully listening to you and to every other human on planet earth “24/7,” 365 days a year. No one is “bothering” God when they communicate with Him by means of prayer. Some ask, “Does God really communicate with us?”
On four occasions in the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel in the Bible, Jesus stated that those of us who are his “sheep” (his followers) hear his voice. God does, indeed, speak to us; He is speaking to us all the time, far more clearly and distinctly than we imagine. We “hear” his voice within the spirit component of our three-part beings (body, soul, spirit) by means of our inner “faith-sense.” He generally speaks to us in a quiet, soft whisper within our spirits.
The question is not, “Does God speak to me?” Rather, the real question should be, “When is God not speaking to me?” Do not be surprised at the Good Shepherd’s tender voice constantly whispering into your thoughts . . . from within you where He abides permanently in your spirit. Keep in mind, however, it’s difficult for us to hear God if we’re doing all the talking!
But God is not limited to communicating with us only in a quiet, soft whisper; He can communicate with us in any manner He chooses.
However, He generally speaks to us from within in five distinct and clear ways:
- From the Bible, God’s written, LIFEgiving, transforming Word for all humanity.
- By inserting and imbedding his thoughts and creative ideas into our thoughts.
- By means of visions, images, pictures, and dreams “broadcast” to the “viewing screen” of our spirits.
- By means of strong, inner impressions and urgings that won’t diminish or go away.
- By means of speaking in tongues with interpretation.
Again, I don’t want to limit God speaking to us in only those five ways; He cannot be limited to our finite comprehension; we cannot “put Him in a box” and limit Him in any manner, but He does Self-limit his means of communication in order for us mortal humans to understand Him.
A prime biblical example of listening to God is found in the life of Samuel, an Old Testament prophet, when he was a boy. In the night, Samuel heard a voice calling his name. Thinking it was the priest calling him, Samuel ran to the priest’s bedroom to ask what the priest wanted. The priest informed Samuel that it was God who had called Samuel’s name. When Samuel heard the voice next time, he responded: “Speak, God, for I’m listening.” That was the beginning of a long lifetime relationship with God in which Samuel heard God speak to him many times. The simple lesson to be learned from Samuel’s experience is: God speaks. Are we listening?
Beginnings of Prayer
Archaeological and other historical research informs us that since time immemorial, humans have prayed either to the one, invisible, true and living God as revealed in the Bible . . . or to human-devised, visible idols and gods that can’t see, hear, speak, or move.
Prayer to someone or something perceived as greater than ourselves seems to be almost instinctual among the vast majority of humans. Even those who claim to be atheists refer (and sometimes pray) to a God they claim they don’t believe in.
From the Bible we learn, of course, that our first human ancestors—Adam and Eve—enjoyed unbroken fellowship and communication with God until that relationship was broken and communication diminished by the entrance of self-centered, self-absorbed sin into the human condition.
After the “fall” of Adam and Eve, prayer seems to have declined somewhat until their grandson, Enosh, was born. At that time (for some unknown reason not stated in the Bible), humanity once again began “praying and worshiping in the name of GOD.” (Genesis 4: 26)
With rare exception, all humanity has prayed in some fashion ever since that time—to God or to gods and idols of their own making.
What Is Prayer!
In its distilled essence, the basic definition and purpose of prayer is to maintain open and free, two-way, ongoing conversations with God, bringing us more into alignment with his plans and purposes for our lives and his plans and purposes in the lives of others for whom we pray . . . and enhancing, enriching, and building our growing, eternal relationship with Him.
Effective prayer (James 5: 16) is a highly skilled, focused, transcendent endeavor involving much learning and practice by trial-and-error. Effective prayer doesn’t come easily. There’s a price to pay—a price of much time and much effort . . . and more time and more effort . . . and more time and more effort.
In my own limited experience, I have never met an effective pray-er who told me it’s easy to pray or that prayer comes naturally. The only Person I know to Whom prayer likely came naturally (but not necessarily easily) was Jesus while He was here on earth in his full humanity.
Prayer can bring us great peace, joy, and satisfaction, but it does take our commitment, persistence, dedication, time, and hard work.
Prayer transcends all finite limitations of time and space, always winging its way to God’s throne of grace in eternity; Note clearly: God’s throne is a throne of grace (the foundations of which are righteousness and justice), not a throne of judgment! By the way, in the Bible the word “justice” always means “to make all things right.”
In responding to prayer God has absolutely no bounds and no limits in scope, magnitude, place, and direction. Nothing—absolutely nothing!—is beyond the reach of our prayers . . . and God’s responses to our prayers. He always responds out of love and grace for the ultimate good of all humanity.
Since all God’s judgment against humanity’s sin was poured out and completely dissipated on Jesus on the cross, God never responds in judgment to our prayers. We must never fear God’s judgment. If we humans must fear anything, it should be ourselves. We humans are our own worst enemies—not God, not Satan (a fully defeated and disarmed foe) . . . but ourselves.
“Stop fretting and worrying; worry is simply a misuse of your creative imagination. Instead of worrying, pray! Let praise and thanksgiving shape your worries into prayers. Let God know your requests—make them clear and definite. Then you will have God’s unspeakable peace, transcending all human understanding. That peace will surround and guard your hearts and minds through Jesus.” — Philippians 4: 7 and 8, modified
To Think About:
“I don’t beat around the bush with God. I am specific when talking with Him. God is not impressed by a flurry of fanciful words. When praying, I’m talking with a real Person who loves me and knows me intimately.”
“Don’t become too impressed with yourself. One wrapped up in oneself makes a very small bundle. When scientists finally discover the center of the universe, you may be very disappointed you are not it!”
God Speaks. God Hears.
Humans cannot “construct” any barriers that keep out, limit, or “block” prayer . . . except sin in our lives. And sin does not block our prayers; rather, sin in our lives causes us not to want to pray, and to attempt to avoid God.
No jails, no prisons, no dungeons, no forgotten places, no hospitals, no distance can obstruct God responding to prayer. God is always “on call,” always listening, always ready to respond . . . according to his will. He is never “on break” or away on vacation. God always responds to prayer in his own way according to his own plans and purposes, but his responses are always far more and greater than we can ask, think, or imagine.
Prayer is a path where there is no path. With prayer, we can enter situations where there is no other way in—where every other way into a situation is blocked. Prayer is the original “wireless connection,” faster than the speed of thought.
Prayer is the means we use to reach Him Who is larger than and Beyond-The-Universe, yet “small” enough to live within our spirits in his unbodied form of the Holy Spirit.
God chooses to shape and transform the lives of other people—in part—by our prayers. Our prayers are deathless. Every prayer we ever pray in and through Jesus will be answered according to God’s eternal plans and purposes. Our prayers far “outlive” us, well beyond this all-too-brief mortal life.
For example, who knows what prayers prayed in Jesus’ Name by those who lived long ago are being answered even now. Some of our prayers are remembered in Heaven long after we’ve prayed them. When our prayers in Jesus’ Name reach God’s throne room, they linger until He answers them. Jesus’ prayer 2,000 years ago asking the Father that all his followers be one (John 17) has not yet been fully answered; what believer in God can honestly doubt that it will be fully answered at some future time?
It doesn’t matter that other people don’t know we are praying for them. God always knows . . . and hears . . . and responds according to his plans and purposes for those for whom we pray . . . here, there, everywhere, everywhen, pastward, futureward.
Postures and Positions For Prayer
There are no standard or normal positions, forms, or postures necessary or required for effective prayer: Sitting. Standing. Eyes open. Eyes closed. Kneeling. Hands folded. Hands open. Arms outstretched. Gazing upward. Looking down. Peering around. Walking. Running. Prostrate. Using written prayers. Praying spontaneously and extemporaneously. Lengthy prayers or short prayers. All—and more—are acceptable, and neither hinder nor enhance effective prayer.
Prayer can be engaged in by one who is extremely poor, by one in a condition of vast wealth . . . and by anyone in between those extremes.
In most instances, when someone requests, “Let us pray,” many people bow their heads, close their eyes, fold their hands, and kneel in prayer. Such behavior is usually traditional and learned, but it is not necessary when praying . . . nor is it a biblical mandate to pray using such postures and positions. All too often the emphasis on using certain postures and positions to engage in prayer distract one from praying because of the felt need to “perform” prayer properly. It can be very distracting focusing on whether or not one is using “correct” postures, positions, and words.
God Hears And Speaks All Languages
Please, please understand God does not restrict Himself to hearing prayer only in 400-year-old King James English with its archaic, outmoded, and outdated wordings and phrases. He hears everyone in their native language and in the innumerable “tongues of angels” all humans have at their disposal for worship, praise, and prayer. God hears and speaks in over 7,000 human languages and in countless languages of heaven, including those spoken by angels, which we humans may use, too, during our mortal lives.
All 7,000 human languages have been corrupted and polluted by foul words, curse words, “dirty” words, and swear words. Anyone can pray in one’s native language, in any other learned human language, and in “tongues,” one of heaven’s many languages. Notable about tongues is they are languages that have not been corrupted, dirtied, fouled, or polluted, thus making them “cleaner” languages in which to pray. God hears and understands them all . . . human or heavenly.
Jesus Believers And Prayer
Concerning believers in Jesus who pray, ponder this. Before Jesus was here as the God-man 2,000 years ago, there was no entity called the church. While He was here, He promised He would begin to build his church when He left. Were it not for his church—his body on earth—the fact that Jesus was here would have faded into near nothingness. Now, 2,000 years later, He would have been simply another, almost forgotten religious leader of the past.
Jesus birthed his church in an atmosphere of prayer. (Acts 1: 13 and 14). And his church has continued to pray for 2,000+ years. The church on earth Jesus is growing and building with “living building stones” (1 Peter 2: 5) has continued to do and teach what Jesus first began to do and teach . . . including prayer. The church was launched with prayer; it continues to grow and thrive by means of God’s response to its prayer.
Of course, any student of the Bible knows about the occasion when Jesus’ disciples came to Him asking Him to teach them how to pray. He responded by teaching them the so-called “Lord’s Prayer” (actually the “disciples’ prayer”). That prayer is only a model prayer, only a prayer outline, never intended to be used as a rote, memorized prayer. By using that prayer as an outline or “guide” for prayer, any believer in Jesus can readily and easily pray an hour or more on any occasion! (Matthew 26: 38 – 41)
Note, too, God is not necessarily moved by those who pray repetitious prayers over and over—what the Bible terms “vain (empty or meaningless) repetitions.” Such repetitious prayer in and of itself is not necessarily meaningless, but it certainly can be—if the emphasis of repetitious prayer is on the “correct” wording rather than upon the meaning of what one is repeating.
How To Intercede
A major task of the Holy Spirit living within our spirits is that He intercedes for us. (Romans 8: 26 and 27) In addition, while the Holy Spirit is interceding for us here on earth through other people, the Bible teaches that Jesus is also in heaven interceding for us. (Romans 8: 34 and Hebrews 7: 25) What a power-full combination to have both of them praying for us! I don’t understand that, but I believe it. We are invited to stride boldly into God’s throne room by means of prayer. (Hebrews 4: 16) God’s throne is a magnificent throne of grace, the foundations of which are righteousness and justice; it is NOT a throne from which He dispenses judgment!
What does it mean that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are interceding for us? On the viewing screen of my spirit in my creative imagination, I envision it in this manner.
Jesus is in God’s throne room at God’s right hand interceding for us. That takes place in heaven. Meanwhile, here on earth the Holy Spirit is simultaneously interceding for each of us . . . through one another. He self-limits his prayer activity here on earth to praying through those who “let” Him pray in and through them. How does the Holy Spirit “handle” all those people—millions of them, perhaps billions—all praying at once? The Holy Spirit is God; He is the quintessential, ultimate “Multi-Tasker,” totally focused on—and vitally involved in—every prayer being prayed everywhere and everywhen through Jesus.
Intercession by means of prayer is best defined as requisitioning God’s unlimited, inexhaustible, abundant resources to meet the overwhelming needs of people for whom we pray. Another way of viewing intercession is a principle found in 1 Kings 10: 13 where we ask God the King (after meeting our needs) to give even more from his royal generosity and bounty! Please understand that intercessory prayer is both the most and best we can do for others, not the least (as people often mistakenly say with such statements as: “Well, the least I can do is pray for . . .”).
One fascinating thought about intercession is that you and I can join Jesus and the Holy Spirit in interceding for the needs of other people. That means we are joining them in perfect intercession. True, the fact that we are imperfect humans means we don’t intercede perfectly, but at least “tapping into” and joining Jesus and the Holy Spirit in their perfect intercession means that our imperfect intercession for others is in many respects more “effective” than it would be by not joining them.
In regard to intercession, recently I was privileged to see this vision: “I had just begun my daily, early morning time of prayer and intercession. When doing so, I often picture myself and the people I pray for that day striding up to massive, golden double doors opening into God’s throne room.
“Huge angelic beings often open the doors for us so that I and the group of people with me can stride right on through them into the room. As we humbly bowed in front of God, I swept my arm around behind me to indicate to God the people I had brought with me for whom I would be interceding.
“As I did, Jesus simply glanced over to his right; I followed his glance and noticed he was glancing at a door labeled ‘Supply Room.’ Another angelic being opened that door so I could peer inside.
“It was a huge room, appearing much like a Sam’s Club with rows and rows of shelves that reached higher than I could see and stretched into the distance farther than the eye could see. It seemed to be an infinite storehouse full of unlimited items. I knew inside me that as I prayed for various people that morning, other angelic beings would come from that supply room to give people what I was praying about for them.”
For a number of years I have been joining Jesus and the Holy Spirit in interceding for others. One thing joining them does for me is that I don’t feel quite so “alone” while praying for others. It places me in a position where I am “agreeing” with them as the three of us are praying in harmony and unity about matters for which we pray together. It’s difficult for me to explain, but now I experience much more effectiveness in interceding for others by joining Jesus and the Holy Spirit in their limitless, boundless intercession transcending all time and space.
I do not enter God’s throne room presumptuously, arrogantly, or proudly. In fact, when I join Jesus and the Holy Spirit in intercession, in my creative imagination I picture myself striding boldly and confidently—yet humbly—into God’s throne room (again, it is a throne of grace!), bringing with me those for whom I am interceding. I see myself and those for whom I pray humbly bowing our knees to the King before whose throne we have approached, receiving from Him only that which is good and in our best interests . . . from God’s viewpoint. I encourage you, too, to take this approach to joining Jesus and the Holy Spirit in intercession. I think you will find you, too, will be able to intercede much more effectively for others.
Prayer Lists or Guides
Like many Jesus believers through the centuries, I, too, often use a written prayer list or guide in praying for others. But while praying using my prayer list, I attempt to stay “open” to Jesus and the Holy Spirit inviting me to pray for people and events not written on my prayer list.
By joining them in intercession from their universal, eternal “prayer list”—subsuming my own list into theirs’—I am able to pray much more effectively for others.
Here are two simple illustrations of how this “works.” I might be praying for missions using my own prayer list when I begin to “see” on the viewing screen of my spirit a family in—let’s say Yunnan Province, China—who are being persecuted because of their faith in Jesus; that’s the Holy Spirit asking me to join Him in praying for that family . . . even though I don’t know their names or specific details (unless He chooses to disclose such details to me).
Or, perhaps I’m praying for someone on my prayer list when the Holy Spirit “tells” me that person is in some sort of imminent danger. I immediately pray for God’s protection for that person. Those are only two simple examples of how this type of prayer works. I could cite innumerable other examples, but I hope those two give you a “feel” for what it’s like to join Jesus and the Holy Spirit in interceding for others. It’s an amazing, creative, effective, and more power-full way to pray and intercede for others—with much better “results.” In my creative imagination, I “see” the three of us holding hands in a majestic prayer circle while we unitedly and harmoniously agree in praying together to God the Father for others.
Again, I admit to you that for many years I simply was not an effective pray-er until I learned this method of interceding and praying for others. For many years, prayer and intercession were actually pretty much of a chore I felt I was required to engage in simply because I was a Jesus believer. Prayer was not meaningful, exciting, or fulfilling . . . nor effective. But now, well, I can’t even begin to describe to you how exciting it is to join Jesus and the Holy Spirit as we three pray and intercede together for the needs of other people.
Study those references again in Romans 8 and Hebrews 4 and 7 in their contexts; ask the Holy Spirit to make them “come alive” for you as you begin to join Him and Jesus—and me!—in praying and interceding for other people in an eternal “prayer circle” unlimited by time and space.
There are numerous biblical references admonishing believers in Jesus to pray. Ephesians 6: 18 encapsulates and summarizes those references: “Pray always.” The question is never: “When should I pray?” Instead, the question should be: “When is there any time or situation when I should not pray?”
God loves every person very deeply with eternal, ever-giving love, and yearns for us to maintain an abiding, eternal relationship with Him. Such a relationship grows and is strengthened and deepened as we spend time together with God in praying regularly and consistently.
Here are some closing thoughts about prayer . . . perhaps the most important words I’ve written for this teaching. For centuries, many people who believe the Bible have used the very words of the Bible to pray. What better way to pray than to use God’s own words! For example, here’s what I’m praying for you—using words from the Bible—this very minute just before I press the “Send” key:
“Now I’m turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose grace-filled words can change you into what He wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need within your local community of believers.” –Dr Luke in Acts 20: 32
“I ask God to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength. And I ask Him that with both feet planted firmly on his love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Jesus’ love. Reach out wide with both arms outspread and experience the breadth! See its unending length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives. Live in the fullness of God!” -the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3
“And now to Him who alone can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all Time. Yes! Amen!” — Jude 24 and 25
To Think About:
“Hallelujah! The Master reigns—our God, the Sovereign, the Strong One. Let us celebrate, let us rejoice, let us give Him the glory! –The Book of Revelation
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Revised and Updated October 2020