The Power of Prayer
“Since our Nation's founding, Americans have turned to prayer for inspiration, strength and guidance. In times of trial, we ask God for wisdom, courage, direction and comfort. We offer thanks for the countless blessings God has provided. And we thank God for sanctifying every human life by creating each of us in His image. As we observe this National Day of Prayer, we call upon the Almighty to continue to bless America and her people.” ~George W. Bush
The first day of prayer was declared by the Continental Congress in 1775. President Truman supported a joint declaration by Congress in 1952 declaring an annual prayer event. But it wasn’t until 1988 that a bill enacting a permanent National Day of Prayer passed both houses of Congress for the first time in U.S. history. It was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. The National Day of Prayer encourages Americans to pray for our nation, its people and leaders.
President Reagan proclaimed, "On our National Day of Prayer, then, we join together as people of many faiths to petition God to show us His mercy and His love, to heal our weariness and uphold our hope, that we might live ever mindful of His justice and thankful for His blessing." Reagan urged the citizens of this great nation to gather together on that day in homes and places of worship to pray, each after his or her own manner, for unity of hearts of all mankind.
The National Day of Prayer is annually celebrated on the first Thursday in May. On this day, “we will again lift our prayers across the nation and its territories for God to be the Lord of the United States of America. What an opportunity for each of us to leave behind a legacy of thriving faith and prayer.” (Quote from "Prayer Lines," the National Day of Prayer’s official newsletter.)
It has been said that “nothing else can move the hand of God” like prayer. Does prayer really make things happen? The Bible shows that prayers to God please Him (Proverbs 15:8), and that God answers prayers when you trust in Him (1 Chronicles 5:20). “If ye have faith, and doubt not…whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” (Matthew 21:21-22)
A prayer can be a simple, straightforward request or an eloquent, reverent petition intoned in Latin or Hebrew. But it is important to note whether the prayer a passionate plea from the heart, or just a rote series of words repeated with no thought given to the meaning behind it. While memorizing Bible verses as a basis for prayer and worship is a wonderful habit, God is moved by prayers offered with heartfelt feeling. This is suggested in the Bible when God speaks through the prophet Hosea, saying “…they have not cried out to me with their heart.” (Hosea 7:14)
Prayer is meant to be a personal conversation with the Creator of the universe, not just an empty ritual. Prayers are a way of talking to God, in hopes that He will listen and respond. This direct contact with God is not served by an approach that is unfeeling or indifferent. For example, have you ever talked to someone on the phone while simultaneously watching TV or playing a computer game at the same time? The person on the other end can sense that you don’t really care about the conversation. It’s the same way with God. He demands your full attention.
So how should we pray? One of Jesus’ disciples came to Him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus then gave the following perfect example: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, as we forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Luke 11:1-4; see also Matthew 6: 9-13) “The Lord’s Prayer” is the most widely used model prayer from the Bible.
Furthermore, Jesus instructed, “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men…But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father in secret; and …when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.” (Matthew 6:5-8)
God wants to hear that we need Him, so God listens to us when we make an effort to speak to him. If you want God to consider your requests, however, it helps to be right with God; that is, with a clean conscience and not involved in sinful activities that are disobedient to God. For example, Psalm 66:18 tells us that "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." Here’s how the apostle John explained this principle: “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” (I John 3:21-22) Likewise, the apostle James said “effective, fervent prayer of a righteous person avails much.” (James 5:16)
The miraculous power of God that came from the prayers of Moses, David, Elijah and Paul (men used by God to liberate His people, slay giants, restore life to a dead boy, and bring sight to the blind) occurred, not because of the words they uttered, but because they chose to seek and do God’s will with all their heart and without compromise. Therefore, the prayers in their hearts expressed God’s will. God says of the person who obeys Him, “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him.” (Psalm 91:14-15) Because Moses and these other men took time to know His Word and will, God "spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend." (Exodus 33:11)
What if God doesn’t answer your prayer? God is not a magic genie that grants your every wish. Many have testified to miraculous answers which demonstrate God's love, mercy and intervention on behalf of those who seek Him. Yet these amazing interventions and anecdotal stories don't prove that God always answers specific prayers. While in some cases God has acted on just one short prayer, sometimes it becomes evident that God’s answer is a definite “No” or “Not yet.” God knows what is best for us, and it may be simply that what we are praying for is not what God wants for us at this time.
Are you placing too much emphasis on your own wants and desires instead of saying “Thy will be done?” Jesus always prayed and served according to His Father's will and purpose on each and every occasion. Also, Jesus demonstrated an important principle concerning effective prayer in Luke 18: perseverance reflected in repeated petitions. This does not mean that God wants us to nag Him, but don’t be afraid to keep asking with a sincere purpose in mind. Also, don’t forget to pray for others as well as yourself. Proverbs 21:13 warns, "Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he will also cry himself and not be heard."
Are you too distracted by life's pressures and "the pleasures of the world" to pray regularly? Many people in their busy, hectic lives tend to take the time to pray only when there’s a crisis. But we also need to seek His help, peace and blessings in our everyday lives. Jesus prayed constantly, and we can all learn to faithfully pray to God always in everything that we do. The Lord delights in all the daily thanks, praises and petitions that turn our hearts to Him in faith, worship and surrender. In the morning, prayer opens us up to God’s wisdom. At mealtimes, prayer gives thanks for God’s blessings. At bedtime, prayer closes our day and reminds us of God’s care. If you want to have a relationship with God or improve your existing relationship with Him, spend some quiet time alone with God. Praying is easy to do - just talk to Him!
When you are praying, don’t forget to tell God how much you appreciate all that He has already done for you. Prayers of thanks aren’t just for Thanksgiving. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
God wants to bless every life. God wants us to succeed and increase His sphere of influence. It is important to have God on our side when we want to meet our goals and accomplishments. But we must first choose to invite God into our life and ask for His blessings. Further, it is important to stay close to God and rely on His continued support and guidance throughout life. God is faithful to those who seek Him. "God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me!" (Psalm 66:19-20)
Did You Know…?
In the days of Jesus, rabbis would often use prayer outlines, which provided a pattern for longer prayers. Many students of Biblical history believe that "The Lord's Prayer" was a prayer outline. It serves to remind us to include certain points in our prayers that would be pleasing to God. For example: Praise God and give thanks for what you have. Confess and repent of your sins. Ask God for help and wisdom. Show faith and trust that He will provide for your needs.
However, the prayer outline is not to be confused with a formula prayer, in which you mindlessly repeat certain words. While it can be easier to simply memorize and recite a formula prayer, God wants you to seek Him with all of your heart. Throughout the Bible, God shows us that the state of a believer's heart is more important than the particular words used. Besides, if you believe that repetitions or certain words will add strength to a prayer, then you may be putting more trust in mere words rather than in God himself.
ACTS: This acrostic gives a simple outline for prayer. A = Adoration (worship), C = Confession (admit guilt), T = Thanksgiving (give thanks), S = Supplication (humble request).
Five Fingers of Prayer (You can use your five fingers as a prayer memory aid.)
1. Begin with your thumb, which is nearest to you. It’s easy to remember to pray for family members and loved ones closest to you. C.S. Lewis said that praying for those we love is a "sweet duty." 2. Second, the index or pointing finger. Pray for those who teach, instruct, and heal. This includes teachers, doctors, and ministers. They need support and wisdom to point others in the right direction. 3. Third, the middle finger which is the tallest. It reminds us of our leaders. Pray for the president, government officials, school administrators, leaders in business and industry. These people shape our nation and guide public opinion. They need God's guidance. 4. Fourth, the ring finger. This is our weakest finger, and was once thought to have a nerve or vein leading straight to the heart. It reminds us to pray for those who are weak, discouraged, in trouble or pain. 5. Fifth, the pinkie finger, which is the smallest finger of all. This reminds you to pray for yourself last. By the time you have prayed for all of the others, your own needs will be put into proper perspective and you will be able to pray for yourself more effectively.
Prayer of Jabez
Jabez is a good example of how God wants everyone to come to Him through passionate prayer. In 1 Chronicles 4:10, we read: "And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that Thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that Thine hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested." The prayer consists of four parts: 1. Jabez asks God to bless him. 2. Jabez asks God to enlarge his territory or increase his responsibility. 3. Jabez prays that God will be with him and stay close. 4. Jabez asks that God keep him from evil so that he will be free from harm.
National Day of Prayer Activity Ideas
1. Create a prayer calendar with your children that builds up to the National Day of Prayer.
2. Have a family devotional time to talk about stories from the Bible where prayer changed people's lives.
3. Memorize 1 Timothy 2:1-3 with your children and discuss the importance of praying for “all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
4. Teach older children the names of their elected officials and the offices they hold. Emphasize the vast responsibilities these officials carry and their special need for prayer.
5. Younger children can draw pictures of Bible characters or patriotic themes. Write favorite scriptures on the pictures to help children memorize them.
6. Find out if your community is having a National Day of Prayer observance and organize a family outing around the event. Or invite another family to join you for a picnic or potluck, and lead the group in prayer after dinner.
THE PRESIDENTIAL PRAYER TEAM
This national non-profit organization was established in 2001 to encourage millions of Americans to pray for the President, our nation's leaders, and our nation. The Presidential Prayer Team is a spiritual movement of the American people which is not affiliated with any political party. It gains no direction or support, official or unofficial, from the current administration, so that it may be free and unencumbered to equally serve the prayer needs of all future leaders of our nation.
Some of the prestigious people who have put their names and reputations behind The Presidential Prayer Team by serving on the PPT Honorary Committee include: Franklin Graham, Michael W. Smith, Joni Eareckson Tada, Kay Arthur, Lisa Beamer, Dr. Bill Bright, Dr. Larry Burkett, Ron DiCianni, A.C. Green, Lee Greenwood, Dean Jones, Thomas Kinkade, Bill McCartney, Stormie Omartian, Dr. Luis Palau, Ricky Skaggs, Rebecca St. James, John Tesh, and the following from Arizona: Jon Kyl, John Shadegg, Len Munsil, Dr. Kevin Leman, and Jerry Colangelo!
You, too, can join The Presidential Prayer Team (www.presidentialprayerteam.org) and show your commitment to pray for the President and America's leaders. Members receive regular email updates listing the President's prayer needs. Members can also learn about our nation’s Godly heritage, see stories of prayer and faith in the news, read inspiring quotes for the week, and more.
Kids can sign up for the Presidential Prayer Team for Kids (http://pptkids.org). Kids will receive an exclusive kids-only presidential prayer update weekly by e-mail, cool stories of Christians in American history, ways that kids can help America and our President, trivia contests and games with awesome prizes, special places and dates in America, downloadable stickers, posters, and more. It’s free! (Sorry, the Presidential Prayer Team for Kids has been discontinued. I pray that some day they will bring it back!)
Recommended Books & Websites
The Power of a Praying Nation, by Stormie Omartian. (During these uncertain times, this book will help you understand why innocent people suffer, how to cope with fear and grief, and how to see good come from tragedy. Her message of hope, comfort and direction shows how powerful prayer can have a positive impact for our country.)
Pray for our Nation, by Harrison House. (A compact guide to praying for our country, featuring inspirational quotes and scriptural prayers for the President, Congress, the Supreme Court, educators, schools, the military, law enforcement officers, the media, and more.)
Prayers, Praises, and Thanksgivings, compiled by Sandol Stoddard. (An enlightening collection of prayers, praises, and thanksgivings from a variety of cultures, faiths, and time periods.)
www.nationaldayofprayer.org (National Day of Prayer official website.)
http://members.tripod.com/~robertwells/howtopray.html (The right way to pray.)
http://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/How.to.Pray.html (How to Pray, by R.A. Torrey. The complete text of this classic book – first published in 1900 – can be read online.)
http://www.prayerinamerica.org (The American Prayer project, committed to highlighting the impact of prayer in America.)
www.annieshomepage.com/ndop.html (Annie’s National Day of Prayer page.)
www.cptryon.org/prayer (Lord, Teach Us How to Pray: Learning about prayer, prayers for every day, prayers for holidays, prayers for special circumstances, prayers for children to say, and prayer books online.)
http://aconstantprayer.com (Encouraging verses, praises, and sample prayers from the Bible.)
www.pray-today.com (Click here for encouragement to pray.)
http://www.navpress.com/pray (Informative website from the publishers of Pray! Magazine and PrayKids! Adventures with Jesus.)
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