Lesson 7: devotion to prayer

Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

Acts 2:41–42

Have you ever had a strong relationship with someone you never talked to? Of course not. It’s impossible, right? Communication is essential in any relationship that is going to grow and endure. Think of two people who recently fell in love. In today’s society, they would be constantly texting and FaceTiming. Despite the fact that they might sometimes look silly, all their communication would strengthen their friendship and love. For the lovers’ relationship to remain strong fifty years down the road, their commitment to communication must continue.

Consider the relationship between a dad and his son. A son daily craves the attention and affirmation of his father, and as a young boy, he’s completely dependent on his dad. When he’s hungry, he asks for something to eat, and his dad whips up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When he can’t tie his shoes, he asks for help, and his dad bends down to help. The son literally cannot survive without communicating to his dad and his dad responding.

Since prayer is the way you communicate with God, the lover of your soul and your Father, you must devote time to talk with Him and learn how to listen as He speaks through His written Word and the Holy Spirit’s leading. By cultivating a devotion to prayer, you will build a relationship with the very source of life and truth—that is, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Prayer helps you grow in your knowledge of Him, and just like with the young lovers, it is also a way of showing Him your love and commitment. You don’t have to pray—you get to pray! As you spend time with Him, you are filled with His presence, as well as strengthened and encouraged to live a life that pleases Him. Prayer helps you receive direction from the Father and involves Him in the affairs of your life. Like the little boy who asks for his dad’s help, you can ask for wisdom and strength in difficult times. Prayer teaches you dependence on the Father and refocuses your attention on Him.

Finally, since others need the Father’s help too, prayer is a way to talk to God about them; this is called intercession. The goal of intercession is to establish the kingdom of God in every place where the enemy has a foothold. Paul instructed Timothy to “pray for all people, asking God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them” (1 Timothy 2:1). When you allow yourself to be led by the Holy Spirit, God will use you to establish His will on earth, and as you pray for others, you can know that Jesus, the great intercessor, is praying for you (Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34).

Prayer consists of a general process that includes three things: (1) reading, (2) listening, and (3) talking. Prayer can start with reading the written Word of God. As you read and study the Bible, you will come across many different types of prayers and gain insight into how to pray. You can pray Scripture as a way of agreeing with God about your circumstances.

Prayer is also listening to God. He wants to give you a revelation of His Word, so approach reading Scripture with expectation. As you listen for God to respond, you can trust that you have heard Him speak if what you hear meets these four criteria: (1) It lines up with Scripture. (2) It lines up with God’s nature. (3) It produces the fruit of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians 5. (4) It sets you free from a circumstance or the power of that circumstance in your life.

Finally, prayer is talking to God. After you have read the Word and waited on Him to speak, it’s your turn to talk to your Father. In time, talking to Him will become a natural habit rather than a religious duty.

As an example of how the three parts of prayer work together, let’s say you are nervous and a bit afraid about starting a new job. You sit down to read the Word, and you come across Joshua 1:9: “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” This verse jumps out at you. You feel like God is saying these very words to you regarding your new job. Now you can acknowledge your fear and anxiety before God and then state back to Him His Word: “I will be strong and courageous. I will not be afraid or discouraged, for You, the Lord my God, are with me as I go into this new job.” In addition to the above process of prayer, we also have a perfect model for praying. Our prayers bring God so much joy that Jesus gave us a model to follow in Matthew 6:9–13. It’s often called the Lord’s Prayer. When you pray, begin with fellowship and companionship with your Father (“Our Father in heaven,” verse 9). Ask Him, “Do you have anything You want to tell me about who I am as Your child?” Then listen. Because He’s in heaven, His thoughts are higher than yours, so tuning in to His thoughts will give you the right perspective for your situation.

Next, declare the greatness of God (“May your name be kept holy,” verse 9). You can do this by acknowledging His many names, each of which reveals a particular characteristic about Him (Jehovah-Jireh, our provider; Jehovah-Rapha, our healer, etc.). Ask Him, “Do you want to reveal any of Your attributes to me in a deeper way?” Then listen.

Now declare God’s Word over your family, church, city, state, and nation, and surrender your will to Him, giving Him full access to your life (“May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done,” verse 10). Ask God, “What does it look like for Your kingdom to come in my life today?” Then listen.

Next, ask your Father to meet your needs, confess any sin in your life, and receive His forgiveness (“Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins,” verses 1112). Along with confessing your sins, release those who have sinned against you. If your will resists this, remember what Jesus taught: when we forgive others, He forgives us (Matthew 6:1415).

Now ask God to help you overcome the temptations in your life, and pray for protection from the enemy’s schemes (“Don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one,” verse 13). Put on the whole armor of God, and resist the devil.

Finally, end your time of prayer with worship and giving God glory for all He’s done (“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” [verse 13, NKJV]). Thank Him for the answers He will bring, and trust that He hears your prayer.

Prayer cannot be something we just talk about—we have to do it! Right now, why not spend some time in prayer? First, pray through the Lord’s Prayer. Then ask God to give you the name of one person for whom you can pray. Spend a moment praying for that person.

Recommended Reading

  • Matthew 6:1–13
  • Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets
  • 21 Seconds to Change Your World by Dr. Mark Rutland and Mark Batterson

Recommended Viewing

  • War Room (Note: Pay attention to how Elizabeth’s situation changes as she puts her focus on praying rather than trying to fix the problem herself.)

Recommended Listening

  • “Ask” by Anthony Evans