Prayer – The Whys, Hows, and Creative Opportunities
Why does the Bible say we should pray?
Christ himself prayed to the Father, seeking him before ministering to multitudes. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray.” – Luke 5:16.
We develop an intimate relationship with our Lord through prayer. “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” – James 4:8
We grow more like Christ as we consistently seek him through prayer. “Remain in me and I will remain in you.” – John 15:4a
God works through our prayers. “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” – Matthew 18:18
We are to expect a positive answer if we pray according to God’s will. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.” – 1 John 5:14-15
Christ himself prayed for the Father’s will to be done, not his own. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” – Luke 22:24
What has Jesus said about prayer power?
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I with them.” – Matthew 18:19-20
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will by yours.” – Mark 10:24
“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” – John 14:13-14
What do others say about prayer?
- “I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” – Martin Luther, father of the reformation in Germany
- “There is only one power available to change the course of history, and that is the power of prayer – the prayer of God-fearing, Christ-believing men and women.” – Billy Graham, evangelist
- “People are drawn to prayer because they know that God’s power flows primarily to people who pray.” – Bill Hybels, pastor and author of Too Busy Not To Pray
- “I have discovered that prayer is the secret weapon of the kingdom of God. It is like a missile that can be fired toward any spot on earth at the speed of thought, and hit its target every time.” – Ronald Dunn, author of Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something
Want a simple approach to personal prayer?
- Adoration: Praise God for who he is and what he has done;
- Confession: Confess to God your sins and mistakes;
- Thanksgiving: Offer thanks to God for his blessings in life; and
- Supplication (or requests): Bring before God personal needs and pray for others.
Like any activity, we gain confidence and skill in prayer the more we pray. The apostle Paul encourages us to make prayer part of our lifestyle: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
You will find an engaging, six-lesson video course on prayer at 24-7 International Prayer at https://www.prayercourse.org. It features Pete Greig who started an international prayer movement a few years ago described in his book Red Moon Rising. The course uses the Lord’s Prayer as a springboard to discussing six prayer topics: adoration, petition, intercession, perseverance, listening and warfare. The course is free.
Want ideas for praying in groups?
There are many ways of praying together in groups. Here are just two approaches:
- Conversational prayer: Rosalind Rinker popularized this approach in books such as Prayer: Conversing with God. Conversational Prayer involves group members each praying short prayers about different aspects of a single prayer item until they are ready to move on to another prayer item. Doing so can lead to a dynamic prayer time guided by the Holy Spirit.
- Praying from the scriptures: In his book, Praying the Bible, Donald S. Whitney suggests using scripture passages such as the Psalms and the New Testament epistles as a launching pad to group prayer. Take Psalm 23. You could begin with the opening words “The Lord is my shepherd” and ask him for his guidance in a difficult personal situation. Someone else could ask God to become his child’s shepherd, bringing him to Christ. Then, move on to the next phrase and so on.
Dennis Fuqua suggests many ideas for group prayer in his excellent book United and Ignited: Encountering God Through Dynamic Corporate Prayer. You can find other suggestions at Pete Greig’s 24-7 Prayer International website at https://www.24-7prayer.com/prayermeetings.
What about unanswered prayer?
Ultimately, we must remember God’s words in Isaiah 55:9: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
We may not see a good reason why some prayers go unanswered, particularly life-and-death issues. But it is in the midst of suffering that our faith in God’s goodness is tested and we grow more like Christ. The great men and women of the Bible longed for the Messiah but did not see him in their lifetimes, even giving their lives for God. (Hebrews 11:13)
You can find more on this important topic at Bibleinfo.com. Click on http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/questions/why-does-god-not-answer-my-prayer.
Ideas to Activate Your City-Focused Prayers
Ideas to get you started...
- Ask a local small-business owner how you can pray for them, or the manager of your preferred grocery store.
- Pack a mini-van full of pray-ers, drive through your area and pray for what you see. Stop at special spots like schools, recreation/sports centres, parks, high-density housing areas, historic sites, dangerous intersections (use basic precautions!)
- Invite your youth on a midnight prayer-drive (see above) to their schools and any other gathering places that are popular with their friends. If you take more than one vehicle, gather together at the end to share what was sensed and prayed, and cap off with pizza.
- Encourage others: Take a pic of what you’re praying for and share it to Facebook.com/PrayOttawa or on Twitter @PrayOttawa
- Pray for your City Councillor and their family by name
- Pray for other churches in your area of the city. Pray for their ministries into the community or other strengths that they carry.
- Put up a map in your prayer space and mark the places for which you prayed.
- Go with a couple of pray-ers to a local café. Pray quietly, with your eyes open, for the people there. Take your time and be open for whatever opportunities God brings across your path.
- Instead of holding your prayer meeting at your church, plan ahead to split into groups of 2-3, and pray at different cafes/McDonalds etc as above. Then meet together for a debrief to share your impressions and opportunities.
- If you have a Christian co-worker, ask them if they want to meet to pray for your workplace over a lunch-hour or before work starts.
- Combine your regular prayer meeting with another church’s meeting, praying together for each other and for the city. Let it be an occasion for mutual encouragement.
- Get your children involved by creating a special prayer box together. Decorate the box together and have everyone put in a couple of prayers, each on a separate card (also decorated). Then invite the kids to get the box out each suppertime and pull out a prayer to pray together.
- Offer to pray for your children’s teacher and/or principal. If you are a pastor, consider visiting the schools in your area to ask how you can pray for them.
- Ask your teen-aged kids how they think adults should be praying for the local community. Listen to their insights.
- Ask a senior how they think we should be praying for the local community. Listen to their insights.
- Gather a team to set up meditative Prayer Stations in your church. Google “Prayer Stations” for ideas. Give some stations a focus on local needs in your community or the city.
- Invite a neighbour out for breakfast and pray for them.
- If you have a Christian fellowship at your workplace, let them know about City on our Knees and offer to help plan a special prayer meeting that week.
- Collaborate with your worship team(s) to set up a “Ministry to Jesus” meeting, where the focus is not on asking but on giving Jesus worship and praise (as per the woman with the alabaster jar, Mark 14:3-9)
- Host a “Prayer Popup” in your home, inviting other believers in your neighbourhood who maybe don’t all go to the same church.
Dreaming of a Prayer-Saturated City
Dreams we have for a prayer-saturated city...
- A Prayer Leadership Team that would catalyze and support many other specific teams that would take on some of these projects.
- An Ottawa House of Prayer (for the city) maybe several across the city.
- A Missions Prayer Base
- Prayer Walking of every street in Ottawa
- Prayer Adoption of every street in Ottawa
- Measurable results in areas like crime reduction.
- A City Hall Prayer Team
- Connectedness through a well-developed Communications System which would include every congregation in the City.
- A Research group
- A Creative Arts Community that prays
- Situational Prayer using “Art Stations”
- Prayer Booths at every celebratory event throughout the year. Eg. Canada Day, Jazz Fest, Winterlude
- Prayer Help phone line
- Website offering prayer
- Prophetic “Listening and Seeing” team
- SWAT teams (Strategic Warfare for special sites)
- Prayer Assemblies
- Days of Prayer
- Week of Prayer
- Prayer Walls
- 24-7 weeks or weekends.
- The Burn in Ottawa
- Global Day of Prayer with huge buy-in from the Church
- Large Venue gatherings (like City-Wide)
- Regional Gatherings
- “Ushering In the Presence of the Lord” kind of prayer resulting in an anointing for HEALING throughout the city
- Healing Rooms around the city
- Greater and Greater Annual Civic Prayer Breakfasts
- Prayer conferences with major speakers for training, and inspiring.
- Prayer trainers sent out to other cities and nations.
- “Bridal Intercession” that incorporates Worship. (taught to every prayer congregation through training teams)
- Companies and Businesses with Intercessors
- Special Ops (teams that do deep research on major issues and can lead prayer into these issues.)
- Prayer for every school, college and university
- Prayer for Social Agencies
- Prayer for Families in Crisis
- Special “clean up” teams for crime sites.
- Prayer for every inner-city ministry
- Prayer for every EMS, Police officer, Firefighter
- Prayer team for every Police station.
- RCMP chaplains
- Prayer for our Prisons (awesome stuff is already happening)
- Special prayer for our juvenile incarceration facility
- City to City prayer missions
- An understanding and embracing of Ottawa’s “Gateway” calling
- Ottawa would be known as a “City of Prayer”
- Short term prayer missions to other nations
- Fully supported long-term prayer missionaries in the nations.
- A focus on raising up prayer in our Youth
- Mobilization of our children to prayer
- Evangelism and Prayer Synergy
- Evangelistic Praying door-to-door
- Neighbourhood “Lighthouses of Prayer”
- More Incarnational Ministry like “Move-In”
- Training Teams that move around the congregations.
- Prayer Curriculum for every class and cell
- A Prayer Point person in every congregation to facilitate communication and mobilization
- A city that prays for the world
- Pastor to pastor prayer everywhere
- Weekly Pastors’ prayer meetings in every sector of the city
- Pastors Prayer Days, and Retreats
- Prayer for every pastor
- A prayer team backing every church planter
- Twinning of established congregations to pray for new church plants
- Breakthrough anointing on our prayers for the tough situations
- Breakthrough prayer for the Muslim community
- Special Prayer for First Nations
- Special Prayer for Francophones
- Special Prayer for Chinese,
- Special Prayer for the Lebanese and other Arabic communities
- Prayer that releases and procures property for church planting and other kingdom purposes
- Special Prayer effort targeting New Immigrant neighbourhoods
- Prayer Pilgrimages
- Prayer Retreats in the Contemplative tradition
- Resources available on website
- An online centre for connection and identity and promotion of events and initiatives.
- A Newsletter that tells the stories and challenges congregations
- Salaried staff who can support all these initiatives.
And we have just started dreaming God’s dreams for our city!