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How to Pray
/ Part
January 23, 2022
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Challenge Follow up

If you discovered a favorite psalm share it with your group and tell them why it speaks to you.

Two Stories of Faith

In 1982 I was 17. During our Sunday evening prayer service my Dad felt led to pray for the sick. We did this every couple of weeks at our small Pentecostal church. He asked me to join him in the prayer line. Together we laid hands on folks and prayed for their various physical needs.

You do not have because you do not ask God.
James 4:2

I was praying for a lady who had been in our church for many years. She was deaf in one ear – the result of a childhood disease. She had never, to her memory, heard anything out of that ear. She was in line for some other ailment that I cannot now recall. As I anointed her with oil and laid hands on her I felt her shudder. I had just begun my prayer when she fell to the floor. This too was not uncommon in our church. We called it being “slain in the Spirit” or “falling under the power”. In 10 or 15 minutes she rose exclaiming that her ear was healed and she could hear from it for the first time.

Sometime later my father was praying for a man who had a possible brain tumor. He was going in for a scan the following day. In his sonorous voice my father prayed,  “Lord, when the doctors examine his head I pray they find nothing there!” The man laughed and of course that started everyone laughing – including my father. Still, the report a few days later was positive – no tumor!

Of the two stories the first one inspires faith. The second inspires laughter but doesn’t really do any heavy lifting regarding faith. Yet I have no doubt that God was at work in each case. We love those awe-inspiring stories where God is moving in a specific way and bending the rules of nature to heal or provide for us. Yet God’s undramatic prevention of a tumor is also a demonstration of His power and love. Our job is to ask – He’ll decide how to move.

Asking is a part of prayer. In fact, it is an important and essential part of prayer. The Bible is full of stories of Godly men and women pleading with God, and God answering their prayers.

Daily Bread - Why Ask?

God already knows what you need, right? Isn’t it more spiritual to just trust and wait placidly? In fact, asking is important because of what it does for us!

1. Asking is relational in a way that wishing is not. When we ask, we are reminded of the relationship we have with him.

2. Asking is vulnerable – our Father, who knows our hearts, will cause us to grow as he helps us align our desires with His desires for us.

3. Asking is Intentional – We activate our will and respond to God. We seek in order to find. We knock so the door will be opened. Our will is a part of our asking. Asking God is an extension of our free will. Our fate is not set. We ask because we can ask. We activate and advance God’s will and blessing through the act of petition.

Authority by Proxy

We ask, but not on our own authority. We have the authority given to us by our relationship with Jesus. We are sons and daughters, and that carries with it the responsibility to ask in the name of Jesus. In other words, we ask what is in keeping with His name. We align with His purpose and will. Jesus told us in John 15:16 that the Father will give us whatever we ask in His name. That is the part of the verse we remember, and we are fond of quoting. But the first part of the verse qualifies our asking. It says,  you did not choose me, but I chose and appointed you that you might go and bear fruit that will last.

We are not simply asking willy-nilly for things that please us (Although sometimes God chooses to do  those things and it’s splendid when He does!). We are asking in order to bear good fruit that lasts. As we grow in Christ our will becomes aligned with His will. That’s often when we move from asking for ourselves (petition),  to asking for God to be glorified in others and in circumstances around us (intercession).

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
John 15:16

We can see this clearly on display in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prays “Take this cup from me”, but then, “not my will but yours be done!”. He was willing to sacrifice for the larger plan of His Father even when His body and mind wanted to be delivered from the cross.

Finding Faith in the Person of Jesus

We know that faith is essential in asking. James tells us that it is the prayer of faith that moves God to heal. If you lack faith you cannot conjure it up. You cannot screw up your courage and will yourself to have more faith. You must trust in Jesus. The belief that miracles can happen is not faith. The belief that God is powerful is not faith. Faith grows in us when we yield and trust in Jesus. The more you know Him the more you will trust Him and you will see faith grow in your life.

• Trust in His faithfulness

• Remember His kindness

• Celebrate the small and large things He has done

• Record answers to prayer

• Absorb His word

• Invest time in those who are full of faith and the Holy Spirit.

Finally note that it’s impossible to grow in faith without growing in your relationship with Jesus. Answered prayer isn’t just a party, it’s a steppingstone to deeper knowledge of God.


This aspect of asking is often what we think of when we consider a life of prayer. For example, I have a prayer list. Today I added my friend Susan to the list who is recovering from covid. Also on the covid list are Robert and Amy. I have a couple of financial items listed there, a missionary to Israel, and an employee who is struggling and needs God. I pray for the president and congress. I pray for each pastor – especially the younger ones. Finally, each member of my Lifegroup is on the list with a short paragraph of the things going on in their life that I can lift up to God. The list is on my phone, and I call it up each day as I walk and pray.

If this is not your habit, I encourage you to make a prayer list on your own. God is moved by prayer. We don’t always understand it, but it is clear in scripture and in our experiences each day. The more you pray for others the more your heart is open to them and you see them as God sees them.

Here are some tips that Greig gives us on intercession:

1. Get informed – Find out the facts about the problem you are praying about.

2. Get Inspired – Pray specifically. Pray His promises. Try asking God how He wants you to pray.

3. Get indignant - When we see His intended future, we begin to be indignant about the way it is thwarted.  This is what moves us to spiritual contention. Every verb in the Lord’s prayer appears to be imperative (a forceful, assertive, even commanding tone of entreaty).

4. Get in Sync – Agree with others. There is power invested in united intercession. This is why the church matters – it is a place to gather and agree!

Note that praying through a list of needs is a part of an active and vibrant prayer life. It can quickly become the bulk of your prayer life if you allow it to happen. Pause, rejoice, then ask.

Unanswered Prayer

Finally, we need to deal with the reality of unanswered prayer. It’s true that God does not always answer prayer in the way we think He should. There are many explanations that come to mind, but “the way we think He should” is a good place to start. We would like to control how God chooses to work His will. But he has His own plan and His ways are higher than ours ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). Still, there is often mourning – a letting go – that needs to take place when God’s answer is no.

There are times when the only response is that of Jesus, “Not my will but yours Lord”. Greig calls this the “prayer of relinquishment” – when we give up control and rest in His will even when our understanding is dark – as in this beautiful prayer by F. Fenelon:

Lord  I do not know what I ought to be asking of you. You are the only one who knows what I need... all I can do is present myself to you. Lord, I open my heart to you... I no longer have any desire other than to accomplish your will. Teach me to pray.

Discussion Questions

1. What does your prayer list look like? Do you have a list of answered prayers as well? Talk about what asking looks like for you.

2. Do you struggle with unanswered prayer? Is there something you are seeking God for where He remains silent? Share your heart and bear each other’s burdens. Remember that agreeing together for what God can do is an important part of asking!


If you do not have a prayer list this is the week to create one! Make a prayer list and see how God revises it as He answers prayer and reveals new needs to you. God wants to use us in prayer – it changes things and it changes us.