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The Power of Prayer: Biblical and Theological Foundations

March 30, 2016

The power of prayer can help guide one’s Christian life and glorify God.

Prayer can be defined as talking to God, but it is much more than that. Prayer is an act of worship that glorifies God and reinforces our need for Him. Through living a life of prayer, we respond to Christ’s work of salvation and communicate with the very source of and purpose for our existence.

Prayer is a popular focus in sermons and Christian literature. A few important questions guide and clarify the power of prayer in each Christian’s life.

Why Should We Pray?

Several truths help illustrate why we need prayer in our lives.

  • We are commanded to pray. Multiple times we read that we are to be in continual prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Philippians 4:6-7, Ephesians 6:18-19). And in Luke, Jesus “spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1 NKJV).
  • It gives Him the glory. Prayer is a way to serve God (Luke 2:36-38). Through prayer, we have the opportunity to glorify and praise Him for all He is and has done (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
  • It helps us overcome. Jesus tells Peter to pray for strength in overcoming temptation (Matthew 26:41). Also, in Luke 6:12-13, Jesus demonstrates the importance of prayer in making major decisions. Prayer helps us face and overcome all types of struggles.
  • It brings our requests to Him. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you,” Jesus said in Matthew 7:7. This does not mean that we will be granted anything we ask, but when we ask for things that are in His will, He will give those things to us (1 John 5:14-15).
  • It helps us discern His will. Jesus prayed continually to the Father for guidance. We too can begin to understand His will for us when we stay in communion with Him.

“What is the goal of the Christian life?” asks theologian and pastor R.C. Sproul. “Godliness born of obedience to Christ. Obedience unlocks the riches of the Christian experience. Prayer is what prompts and nurtures obedience, putting the heart into the proper ‘frame of mind’ to desire obedience.”

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We need the power of prayer for understanding, spiritual growth and unity with God. “The prayer does not change God, but it changes the one who offers it,” writes philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard in his book Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing.

How Should We Pray?

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, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Paul encourages us to pray for everything with a thankful heart. When we are open and present all to Him, He will protect us with His peace. This passage captures the heart and mind we should strive to have when we pray. When combined with 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we see how we should be in continual prayer — that is, we should always connect with our Lord and Savior.

What if we can’t find the “right” words when we pray? “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses,” Paul writes in Romans 8:26-27. “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” As Christians, the Spirit intercedes on our behalf during prayer.

Some people tend to focus on less important aspects of prayer. Care should be taken for specifics such as whether or not we close our eyes, what time of day we pray, and the length and number of our prayers. These types of guidelines can be helpful or harmful.

A Life of Prayer

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Prayer should reflect the relationship we have with God. After all, it is beautiful to think that we have been given the ability to communicate with Him. In any moment and from any place, we can thank Him, ask for His strength, discern His will and become more like Christ. As James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Ministry leaders in all settings should model Christian servant leadership to serve others and point them to Christ. The power of prayer can help leaders grow spiritually and inspire other people to communicate with God.

Grace College’s online Master of Arts in Ministry Studies helps students enhance their ability to minister to others in a variety of vocational ministry careers. This fully online, accelerated program can be completed in just two years and offers optional concentrations in camp administration or women’s leadership studies.