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Prayer can change our attitude, our mindset, and even our circumstances.
What are the areas of your life in which you feel powerless? It may be a family dynamic, broken friendships, your future, or even something in your character that feels unchangeable. You may feel like you have done everything humanly possible to change these things, but nothing seems to work. That’s where prayer comes in.
Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.”
Matthew 21:21-22 NLT
In this Scripture, Jesus tells us that prayer moves mountains. Praying with faith unlocks the power it takes to do the impossible. Do you have any “mountains” in your life that feel impossible to move? When I feel powerless in overcoming or achieving something, I often quit or settle into complacency, convinced that nothing will work.
But what seems hopeless for us is possible for God (Matthew 19:26), and we miss out on what he is capable of accomplishing in our lives when we don’t pray.
- What are the “mountains” in your life?
- Do you believe that you can overcome them, or have you given up trying?
- How often do you pray about your mountains?
What are you unwilling to pray about?
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”Luke 18:9-14 NIV
Have you ever felt like you do pray but nothing comes from it? The Pharisee prayed and knew all the right words to say – he knew what was right and wrong; he knew all the rules he was supposed to follow. But he didn’t acknowledge and deal with the truth about himself. So he didn’t leave his prayer justified before God.
The tax collector, on the other hand, didn’t necessarily say all the right words or follow all the right rules, but had the humility to admit and deal with guilt and truth in his life. He was right with God not because he didn’t have guilt or weaknesses, but because he was willing to pray about and work through them with God.
- Which of these two people are you most like when you pray?
- The truths that the Pharisee was unwilling to pray about were the very truths that the tax collector admitted and so had the power to change.
There are a few areas that we can often be reluctant to explore in prayer:
- Guilt of sin – don’t want to face it
- Emotions/desires – don’t want to feel it (or only want to feel it)
- Weakness – don’t want to admit it
Though our emotions and weaknesses can be difficult to admit or deal with, they are actually not the reason we stop or avoid praying. Ultimately, the Scriptures teach us that sin is what causes distance between us and God (Isaiah 59:1-2).
We must first address these sins – especially pride, selfishness, and deceit – if we are going to unlock the power prayer can give us to change.
Pride ignores prayer
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.Psalm 10:4 NIV
What consumes your thoughts and heart? Pride makes us lose our focus on God. We think that we know better and that God is not worth making room for. We treat the things our mind is focused on as more important than God.
- What do you let yourself get distracted by? (emails, emotions, social media, getting work done, etc.)
- What do you need to clear out to make room for God?
Selfishness blocks prayer
What is the cause of your conflicts and quarrels with each other? Doesn’t the battle begin inside of you as you fight to have your own way and fulfill your own desires? You jealously want what others have so you begin to see yourself as better than others. You scheme with envy and harm others to selfishly obtain what you crave—that’s why you quarrel and fight. And all the time you don’t obtain what you want because you won’t ask God for it! And if you ask, you won’t receive it for you’re asking with corrupt motives, seeking only to fulfill your own selfish desires.James 4:1-3 TPT
When we get jealous and envious, it can be easy to focus on and blame other people. How often have you had thoughts like these?
- If she didn’t flaunt her new job so much I wouldn’t be envious!
- Well he’s just really greedy and that’s why he has a better car than me.
- I’m not jealous, they just talk about their boyfriend/girlfriend too much.
Even though we like blaming other people for why we get jealous, James 4 has a much simpler reason why we envy other people: selfishness!
Comparing and competing makes us so consumed with ourselves that we don’t think about what other people are feeling or going through. And when we don’t pray about what we really want and ask God for it, we will try to find other ways to satisfy our cravings, which (spoiler alert) always falls short.
- What do you crave? (better job, sensuality/feeling good, attention, praise, etc.)
- How has your jealousy and selfishness stopped you from loving people?
- Do you pray for other people? How much of your thoughts and prayers are consumed with yourself versus others?
Deceit distances us
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.Psalm 32:1-5 NIV
Refusing to admit our guilt makes us feel weak and helpless. If we really want God’s power on our side, we need to be honest about the guilt that has been weighing us down. This passage talks about having “no deceit” in our spirit – that means letting go of any half- or partial-truths we may have told in addition to any lies.
- What guilt has been weighing you down? (sensuality, pride, bitterness, evil thoughts, jealousy, greed, etc. – Galatians 5:19-21)
- What half-truths have you told? Half-truths might include mentioning a sin but not being honest about the extent to which you’ve done it.
3 decisions we need to make to pray powerfully
1. Free your heart from sin – be honest AND decide to change
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.James 5:16-18 NLT
Our prayers become powerful when we not only tell God our guilt, but tell each other. We need each other to produce lasting change.
- Who are three friends you can be honest with about your sin this week? Pick people who you know will hold you accountable to change.
2. Hold nothing back
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7 NLT
When was the last time you held nothing back? No guilt or sin, no emotion, weakness, doubt, or fear was hidden from God or people, and everything was out in the open? When we aren’t willing to pray about everything, we miss out on the power and peace God can give us. With prayer, we have access to God moving in our lives in ways we couldn’t even imagine. But we throw those opportunities away when we hold back.
- What have you been holding back?
- What powerful things could happen when you let go and let God move? What impossible prayers could be answered?
3. Discover God’s purpose
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”Mark 1:35-38 NIV
When we pray and don’t hold back with God, he gives us clarity of purpose. Jesus had a lot going on around him – people wanted him to show them miracles, to be king, and even to be dead – but none of this distracted him from the purpose for which God called him. Jesus had to constantly go back in prayer to get him focused on that purpose. He was powerful and changed the world because he knew why he was here. Do you?
- Do you ask God what he wants you to do?
- What purpose has God called you toward?
- Who in your life needs you to pray powerful prayers and embrace your purpose?
Choose to fight in prayer for your friends every day until you see your prayers answered.