More Answers on Prayer: Why, To Whom and When?

Continue exploring common questions about prayer.

3. Why Are You to Pray?

You pray because God commands you to pray. The New Testament commands to pray are many. Here are a few; Pray continually.

Watch and pray. Pray with thanksgiving. Pray in the Spirit. Always pray and not give up. Pray for those in authority. Pray for utterance. Pray for boldness.

You pray because of our Lord's example. Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, was obedient in prayer. Although His day was filled from morning to night with many pressures and responsibilities -- addressing crowds, healing the sick, granting private interviews, traveling and training His disciples -- He made prayer a priority. If Jesus was so dependent upon this fellowship in prayer alone with His Father, how much more should you and I spend time alone with God!

You pray because of the examples of the disciples and others. The lives of the disciples and the biographies of Christians who have been mightily used of God through the centuries all testify to the necessity of prayer. They, too, are examples of obedience to His command to pray.

I'm not suggesting that you need to spend long hours each day in prayer, though some are called to this high privilege. But you can "pray continually," bringing everything to God in prayer. Those who obey God's command to pray are mightily blessed and used of God.

You pray to have fellowship with God. God waits anxiously for you to come to Him in prayer. Proverbs records, "The prayer of the upright is His delight." This should motivate you to spend more time with our Lord because you wish to please and delight Him.

My own sons help me to realize the importance of this fact. No matter how busy I am, when Zachary or Bradley want to talk with me, I gladly put aside everything else just to have fellowship with them. I long and love to be with them, and I am always grateful when they want to be with me.

One day, many years ago as I was studying in our home, Zachary appeared with a stack of books and sat down across from me at the table. Although neither of us spoke, I sensed the warmth of His love.

I finally broke the silence by saying, "Zac, I want you to know how much it means to me that you have come to sit with me." He replied, "Daddy, that's the reason I came. I just want to be near you.

For the first time in my life, I really understood how the great heart of our loving God delights in us and longs for our fellowship.

You pray to communicate with God. He said, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." Prayer is not just an "escape hatch" for you to get out of trouble, please yourself or gain your selfish ends. It is your line of communication with God. As His child, you have direct access to His throne. He loves you so much that He has made Himself available to you at all times. Through prayer you talk to God and He responds to you.

You pray to receive spiritual nurture. Just as a child needs food to grow physically, so you need food to grow spiritually. You can miss a meal and not feel any ill effects, but if you go without food for a week, you begin to weaken and run out of energy. So it is with your spiritual life. You can go through one day without any apparent ill effects, but if you continue this practice, you will become undernourished, losing the strength to live a victorious life and to maintain the boldness necessary for a vital witness for Christ.

You pray to obtain results. Genuine, biblically-based prayer does change things. It so changes those who pray that God is free to reveal His will to them. Prayer also releases God's great power to change the course of nature and people and nations. The faithful prayers of Spirit-filled, believing Christians have proven this many times over.

Urgent Situation Leads to Effective Prayer

Many buildings on the grounds of Arrowhead Springs, our international headquarters, including the bungalow where Vonette and I live, came extremely close to being engulfed in flames during a terrible brush fire several years ago. Seven of the buildings were destroyed.

After evacuating the grounds, a group of people who remained to fight the fire prayed earnestly at about two-thirty in the afternoon that God would turn the ninety mile-per-hour winds away from the buildings. Precisely while they were praying, one of the firefighters observed the flag snapping violently in the wind. Suddenly, the flag began to turn and within moments was flapping in the opposite direction. They all were awestruck at what God had done before their very eyes.

Urgent word also came to Vonette and me at about two-thirty that the flames had enveloped the campus of our headquarters including our bungalow. We, too, got on our knees and began to pray that God would turn the winds.

Those who were fighting the fire reported that the heat and smoke became so intense, they were forced to lie on the ground in order to breathe as they sprayed water on the buildings. At about two-thirty they were at the point of abandoning our bungalow to the flames surrounding it on three sides -- when suddenly the winds miraculously shifted and swept the flames in another direction. Many similar, dramatic answers to prayer could be shared. Yes, prayer truly changes.

You pray to become a fruitful witness for Christ. The divine order is first to talk to God about men and then to talk to men about God. Witnessing is simply gathering the results of prayer, both the prayer of the one who is sharing Christ and the prayers of others. I am convinced that the single most important factor in my becoming a Christian was the prayers of my godly mother.

4. To Whom Do You Pray?

You pray to the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says:

When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Your prayers are validated by Jesus Christ and are interpreted to God the Father by the Holy Spirit. But since God is one God, manifested in three persons, it is perfectly acceptable to pray to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit. There is no jealousy between the three persons of the Trinity. But the scriptural pattern which Jesus taught addressed the Father.

It is meaningful and encouraging to realize that as you are praying, both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are interceding. Paul tells us in Romans 8:34, "Christ Jesus, who died -- more than that, who was raised to life -- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."

Earlier in Romans 8 Paul wrote, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."

5. When Should You Pray?

There is a sense in which I pray without ceasing, talking to God hundreds of times a day about everything. I begin my day on my knees in prayer, worshipping, praising and adoring our great and gracious Creator, God and Father. I acknowledge Jesus Christ as my Lord and Master. By faith, as an act of my will, I appropriate the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

I pray for wisdom about the numerous decisions I must make that day. I pray for the salvation of friends and strangers, the healing of the sick, and the spiritual and material needs of the Campus Crusade for Christ ministry, as well as the needs of various members of the staff and leaders of other Christian organizations and their ministries. I pray for our leaders and for those in authority over us. I even pray about small personal matters that are of concern to me alone. And God answers!

I then like to spend whatever time is appropriate reading and meditating on God's Word. I often kneel quietly before the open Bible and talk with God. I ask the Holy Spirit, who inspired its writings, to make my reading meaningful and edifying to me.

As I read, I pause to thank God for His loving salvation and provision, to confess any sins in my life that the Scriptures may reveal, to ask Him for the boldness and faith His apostles displayed, and to thank Him for new insights into His divine strategy for reaching the world with the good news of His love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Lord. I often pause to pray about some special truth or claim a promise.

In the evening I kneel once again to worship my Lord, to read His Word and to ask of Him, "Lord, is there anything in me that is displeasing to You, anything I need to confess?" If the Holy Spirit reveals any sins and weaknesses, I confess them and claim by faith God's victory for my life. Then I can know that since my last conscious thoughts are of Him, my subconscious thoughts will continue to worship Him all night long. Thus when I awaken, my first thoughts will be of our dear Lord.

Benefits of Group Prayer

Group prayer also is vital to the Christian's prayer life and yet few meetings are more dull, unattractive and boring than the average group prayer meeting. The reason is simple. The majority of Christians involved in the group have not spent time with God in private worship and prayer; consequently, they have nothing to say to Him in public except memorized prayers patterned after older Christians who have learned their way of praying from still others.

How much more exciting it is to teach the group to talk to God as though He were actually present, as indeed He is. This permits spontaneous, Spirit-directed prayer in which one area of praise or petition at a time is brought to Him as the Spirit brings subjects to mind. One very rewarding way to pray in small groups is to pray through favorite passages of Scripture verse by verse with each person limited to a 30-second-or-less prayer. But there are special times of Spirit-directed and anointed prayer which may last for hours but seem like only minutes.


Adapted from the Transferable Concept: How You Can Love By Faith How You Can Pray with Confidence, by Dr. Bill Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. © Cru. All rights reserved.

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