In this article, we will give some clues that would help both mature and immature Christians on how they can be effective in their life of prayer. Many young Christians do not know how to pray. What most people know is to “say” prayers and not to “pray.” They have prayers that have been written out by someone else, and daily they go through the same words month after month and year in and year out. It does not matter for them even if circumstances change, they still pray the same prayers.

My hope is that through this article, the Lord will help you to become effective both in your public and private prayers. Out of the many ideas and examples that we could learn from in the Scriptures about effectiveness in prayer, a few have been considered in this article. These include; the definition of prayer, dependence on God in prayer, and confession and persistence in prayer. So, let us begin with the definition of prayer.

Definition of prayer

David Macintyre says, “Prayer is the most sublime energy of which the spirit of man is capable.”[1] It is in one, an aspect of glory and blessedness, and in another, it is toil and travail, battle and agony, for one to engage in prayer. Prayer is the uplifting of the earth-bound soul into heaven, the entrance of the purified spirit into the holiest. When one is engaged in it, he is blessed with a vision of unseen things—unseen things that only the Holy Father in heaven is able to bring down to his children on earth.

A life of prayer is one of the surest marks of a true and effective Christian. Every growing Christian knows and embraces prayer. Derek Prime said, “Prayer is not simply a most important activity—it is the most important” (Derek 1986:11). The Christian life depends on prayer because this is the only proper way for all the children of God to talk back to their Father who hears the groaning of his children on earth. E. M. Bounds said, “Prayer is no fitful, short-lived thing. It is no voice crying unheard and unheeded in the silence. It is a voice that goes into God’s ear, and it lives as long as God’s ear is open to holy prayers, as loving as God’s heart is alive to holy things.”[2]

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17–18, the apostle Paul says, “Pray without ceasing, in all things give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” According to this text, prayer is the expression of the mind to the Lord. We can have numerous definitions of prayer, but they all point to one meaning, which is talking to our heavenly Father. This could be by audible words or in silence. Let us focus on some of the facts that would help us to be effective in our prayers. The first one is the need to depend on God in heaven when we pray.

 Depending on God in prayer

 Any Christian who would be effective in prayer would not be so because of his or her style of prayer or the place and time where he or she prays. The explanation of our effectiveness in prayer is based on our dependence on God. It is important that we base our prayers on our Father who is in heaven because he is the “Father of mercies” (2 Cor. 1:3), “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:3), “the Father of glory” (Eph. 1:17). In these texts, we see how the apostles addressed God as the Father of all the graces. Even when the disciples requested Jesus to teach them how to pray, they said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come’” (Luke 11:1, 2). He also taught them by means of example as we notice when we read John 17. Both Christ’s example and instruction have been recorded for our learning today so that a person should know how to conduct himself in prayer.

Someone may ask, “Why should we depend on God in our prayers?” It is because the best of our deeds are defective in God’s sight, just as the purest light is dimmed by the cloud or dusty lampshade through which it shines. A W Pink wrote, “Yet though our works be defective, they are acceptable to God when done in the name of His Son.”[3] What we think to be our best performance is faulty and falls short of the excellence that God’s holiness demands from all of us. When we base our works on God, all our defects are covered by the merits from his Son Jesus Christ. Our prayers too, are acceptable as we base them on God. And when God accepts our prayers and grants our requests, our effectiveness has been in God and not in us. So, why don’t you quit relying on your methods, styles, and self-righteousness and just base your requests on God the Father who is able to make you effective in prayers? Base your requests on God because our great high priest adds to them “much incense” and then offers them on the golden altar before the throne (Revelation 8:3). This brings us to a second fact that would help us to be effective in our prayers.

Confessing our sins in prayer

 God is holy and in him there is no sin. “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet. 1:15). So, as we come to him in prayer and service, we must be holy before him. We must not allow sin to be a hindrance to our prayers. The apostle Paul writes, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:11–13).

The grand purpose of the everlasting covenant, the focus of all Christ’s divine works was the glory of God and the good of his people Israel. This was the way God was securing and promoting the claims of divine holiness. Christ did not just die to take away sin from his people but to make sin hateful and heinous (dreadful) to his saints. A W Pink wrote, “Before the world began, Christ undertook not only to satisfy the claims of divine justice, but to sanctify his seed by sending forth his spirit into their souls to conform them to his image and to incline them to follow the example that he would leave them.”[4] So, you cannot claim to be effective in your prayers while embracing sin in your life.

You cannot approach the Almighty God with your sinful mind and expect any good results from him. “If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my rules, if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes, but I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me” (Psa. 89:30–36). Confess your sins and he will surely receive and hear you. We must confess our sins and give glory to God, which is his due. We must humble ourselves before him because of our sinfulness and vileness. Effectiveness in our prayer is not about our strength, power, styles, or methods, but it is about God making us acceptable in his sight as we openly confess our sins. If we justify ourselves, our own mouths shall condemn us! This brings us to the third and final fact that would help us to be effective in our prayers. It is persistence in prayers.

 Persistence in prayer

 What is to persevere in prayer? It is the mighty move of the soul toward God. It is a stirring of the deepest forces of the soul toward the throne of heavenly grace. Persevering is the ability to hold on, press on, and wait. E M Bounds regards it as, “An inward force or ability planted and aroused by the Holy Spirit.”[5] It is the “effectual fervent prayer that availeth much” (KJV). It is continuing in spite of anything.

Perseverance in prayer implies that a Christian prays in spite of difficulties and discouragements. Being effective in prayer is praying even when it is not convenient to do so. Remember that the people discouraged blind Bartimaeus to meet the Lord but he cried and called even the more. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me,” he shouted (Mark 10:47). And his cry was heard. According to his desire, he had his sight restored. The woman of Canaan, who came to Christ that her daughter might be delivered from the demon, faced a lot of discouragements but managed to overcome them all (Matt. 15:21–29). When she first uttered her request, Christ kept quiet, but she did not give up and the disciples joined in and interceded for her. Even when Christ responded that he was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, she insisted until Christ attended to her need. She was successful and finally she was granted the help. He who perseveres in prayer will not be discouraged. Keep on praying to him whose grace is endless, and he will attend to your prayers.

 Conclusion

 Effective prayer happens when we are fully dependent on God. We will be effective in prayer when we learn to confess our sins and commit to not give up until our requests are granted. The life of prayer that is focused on self will not see the working of God. God has promised us great things, but we must come to him on his terms and not ours.

Bibliography

Bounds, E M. 1997. On Prayer. New York: Whitaker House.

Henry, Matthew. 1994. A Method For Prayer Public. Ross-Shire: Christian Focus Publication.

Macintyre, David. 2011. The Hidden Life Of Prayer. Tigard: Monergism Books.

Pink, A W. 1981. A Guide to Fervent Prayer. Grand Rapids: Baker House.

[1] Macintyre, David, The Hidden Life Of Prayer (Tigard: Monergism Books, 2011), 3–5.

[2] Bounds, E M, On Prayer, (New York: Whitaker House, 1997), 11.

[3] Pink, A W, A Guide to Fervent Prayer (Grand Rapids: Baker House, 1981), 73–75.

[4] Pink, A W, A Guide to Fervent Prayer (Grand Rapids: Baker House, 1981), 34–35.

[5] Bounds, E M, On Prayer, (New York: Whitaker House, 1997), 138.