The Art of Effective Prayer
About the Guest
Christians often toss prayers up with little regard for the nature of their intended recipient. But when we rightly pray, it is our righteous Father in Heaven who hears us--a Father who loves us, and who intends good toward us.
Christians often toss prayers up with little regard for the nature of their intended recipient. But when we rightly pray, it is our righteous Father in Heaven who hears us–a Father who loves us, and who intends good toward us.
The Art of Effective Prayer
Bob: How is your prayer life? Does that question make you uncomfortable, just to hear me ask it? Dr. Crawford Loritts says one reason many of us struggle with prayer is because of pride.
Crawford: Proud people struggle with prayer, and the reason is quite obvious when you think about it because prayer is an expression of our neediness. You cannot pray authentically until you embrace your own need. Prayer is a statement that: “I am desperate.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, September 4th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife® Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. The reality is we are desperate, and prayer is one of the ways we remind ourselves of that reality. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. Today is Day Four of our 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge. We have a lot of you who are joining us. You should have already received either your email or your text message today that prompts you on how you can pray together, as husband and wife. Today is Day Four—it’s all about trust today. We are encouraging husbands: “You take the lead in asking God to build trust in your marriage.” We are suggesting to wives that “You ask God to first strengthen your allegiance to Him and then to one another, as husband and wife.”
If you are not signed up yet for the 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” Look for information on the Oneness Prayer Challenge. You can sign up and we will send you the prayer prompts each day, either via text message or by email. We hope you’ll join us through the month of September as we pray together, as husband and wife, each day.
We are going to hear a message on prayer. In fact, I’ll tell you what—we are going to get—
Dennis: We are going to have a preacher today.
Bob: Well, we are going to have a one-/two-punch because—at least, when it comes to the subject that we are going to hear addressed—the subject of prayer. That is one of those subjects where I need to be punched from time to time. You know?
Bob: The guy who is going to be doing the punching—
Bob: —he is a guy—that, if he was preaching—
Dennis: I was going to say heavy-weight, but he might not appreciate that. [Laughter]
Bob: If he was preaching 100 miles away, I’d drive to hear him preach because he is just a great pastor and preacher.
Dennis: Crawford Loritts is a long-term friend; in fact, we go all the way back to the early ‘80s. We both share the same birth date, and he is the pastor of Fellowship Bible Church.
Bob: It is the same birth date, but one of you is older.
Dennis: I am more mature. [Laughter]
Bob: That is what I wanted to get at.
Dennis: I am a couple of years older than Crawford. [Laughter]
Bob: He is the pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia; right?
Bob: For a number of years was on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ.
Dennis: That’s right. He and his wife Karen still speak at our Weekend to Remember® getaways all around the United States.
Bob: I’m glad you brought up the Weekend to Remember because, of course, this week, we have the special offer going on for FamilyLife Today listeners, who might want to attend a Weekend to Remember this fall. If you sign up this week—let us know the event you’d like to attend—you pay the regular rate for yourself / your spouse comes free. So, it’s the best offer we make available all year on the Weekend to Remember. We do it at the beginning of the fall season and then, again, at the beginning of the spring season so that you will decide to join us at one of these upcoming events.
You can find out where and when we are hosting Weekend to Remember getaways or you can register now and take advantage of the buy one/get one free offer that is going on. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” Look for the information about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway; or if you have any questions, you can call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. We can get you registered over the phone as well—
—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, back to our friend, Dr. Crawford Loritts—the message we are going to hear from him today is a message that he shared, originally, with other couples who speak at the Weekend to Remember getaway. He talked to us about the power and the priority of prayer. Here is Crawford Loritts.
[Previously Recorded Message]
Crawford: Every year at our church—we have started a tradition there—the first full week in January is a week of extraordinary prayer. I preach the first Sunday and the second Sunday on prayer. We have just come through that at our church. I am more convinced than ever before that what E. M. Bounds said in his classic book, Power Through Prayer, is absolutely, categorically, infinitely correct and right—and that is:
“The greatest thing a Christian can do is to pray.”
This past week, I had two marvelous reminders of the power of prayer. I had the wonderful privilege on Wednesday of flying up and meeting with Dr. Graham. I walked in with two other friends. I had a list of questions to ask him; but then, when I sat down and we started talking, I just didn’t want to ask him anything—I just wanted to listen, but I did ask him this question—I said: “Dr. Graham, what is the most significant thing that has ever happened in your life and ministry. What is core?” Before I could finish the question, he said: “Prayer. Prayer has been everything.”
Then on Friday, I got a letter from a 90-year-old woman, Hazel Quackenbush. We have known Hazel for years.
I went to college with her daughter. Her daughter dated and subsequently married one of my best friends—his name is Joe Douglas. Joe and I were prayer partners all the way through college. Joe’s room was right next to mine.
I hadn’t contacted Hazel in a long time. You know, every time I get a letter, I feel guilty about not contacting her. It had been years since I talked with her. We exchange Christmas cards and this kind of thing. I saw in her letter that she had turned 90, and they had a big birthday for her. There was a phone number—so I called her Friday. I said: “Mrs. Quackenbush, do you know who this is? This is Crawford Loritts. Do you remember me?” She said, “Of course I remember you.” She said, “Why wouldn’t I remember you?” [Laughter] Then she said these words, “Your picture is on my prayer board,”—that woman has been praying for me all these years. The greatest thing we can do is pray.
Why do we pray? I think there are two reasons why we pray. I am going to give you the lesser of them, and then I want to dive into the main reason why we pray. Then I want to talk about—this might be impossible—but I want to talk about the loving involvement of the Trinity in our prayer lives. It is going to be more relational than it sounds. There are two great reasons why we pray. The lesser of the two is to get our needs met.
Sometimes we don’t pray. The reason we don’t pray is because of a pride issue. I have discovered, in my life—that proud people can’t pray. Proud people struggle with prayer. The reason is quite obvious, when you think about it, because prayer is an expression of our neediness. You cannot pray authentically until you embrace your own need. Prayer is a statement that “I am desperate.” Prayer is a statement that “I don’t have it all together.”
I am forever indebted to Bob Lepine for sending me one of the top five books that I have read in the last five to ten years. It is a book by a guy by the name of Paul Miller. The name of the book is A Praying Life. The first chapter and his chapter on the relationship between cynicism and prayer are worth the price of the book itself. Miller says that: “One of the subtlest hindrances to prayer is probably the most pervasive. In the broader culture and in our churches, we prize intellect, competency, and wealth. Because we can do life without God, praying seems nice but unnecessary. Money can do what prayer does. It is quicker and less time-consuming. Our trust in ourselves and in our talents makes us”—listen to this line—“structurally independent of God. As a result, exhortations to pray don’t stick.”
It is a little bit of a bind; isn’t it? You aren’t going to pray until you are in touch with your need. As a pastor, I have learned that I can cajole, and preach, and guilt people, and tell them how to do stuff—particularly in the prayer area—but they are not going to pray until, somewhere along the line, there is this avalanche of need that grips them. That is the tipping point. That is when we really, really pray.
That is not what I am going to talk about today. I am going to talk about the second reason—which is the primary reason, biblically—I’m convinced of this from Genesis to Revelation. The real reason why we pray is because God wants us to experience His love and care for us. Meeting our needs is a backstroke issue with God.
The real reason why we pray is because of the loving heart of God that pursues us and wants us to experience—wants us to experience His love and care for us. This takes legalism out of prayer. This really motivates us to pray because, quite frankly, prayer is the means through which we hang out with God. There is no intimacy with God apart from interaction with His heart. The way that we interact with His heart is by seeking Him, talking to Him, experiencing Him. Prayer is massive. It is the gateway into the very presence of God.
That is the reason why Hazel Quackenbush and Billy Graham will answer: “Prayer is everything.” They weren’t saying that they—like going to the grocery store—God just checked off what they were asking for. They were talking about the intimate relationship that they had with a loving Father.
It is a way through which we hang out with God. God loves us and desires to have an intimate relationship with us.
That is why, in the Bible—the Bible itself—it is really profound—I am just going to water ski today, and I want to encourage you to do a deeper study of this. That’s why, in the Bible, the Trinity is pictured as a loving resource. Have you ever thought about it? The three persons of the Godhead major in prayer on our behalf. It is this picture of a sovereign, loving, pursuant God—through God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit—chasing us down and drawing us to Himself.
So, let’s just take a snapshot of these three portraits. The first portrait is a caring God. The second portrait is a powerful representative.
The third portrait is a passionate interceder. Our caring God—I want you to turn to a text—Luke, Chapter 11. Just leave it open there for a while.
The story is told of Lyndon Johnson. During his administration, his press secretary was a believer. They were having a staff luncheon one day. Down the table from President Johnson was his press secretary. His press secretary was saying grace before his meal. Johnson glanced at him and saw his lips moving and just shouted at him—he said: “Speak up! I can’t hear a word you are saying!” His press secretary said, “With all due respect, Mr. President, I wasn’t addressing you.”
When we pray, we are going to the God of the universe; but the God of the universe / the sovereign God of the universe wants to be addressed as, “Father.” Look at what He says here in Luke, Chapter 11. I really want to look at verses 11-13—but I do want to just drill down to the opening word when Jesus’ disciples came to Him and asked Him, “Would You teach us how to pray?” He says: “Yes. Here’s the first thing that you say: ‘Father.’” We sometimes skip over that and look at all the other things that He says in the Lord’s Prayer or the model prayer that the Lord prayed.
But it begins with, “Father.” Then Jesus picks up the explanation and the application of that down in verse 11: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children”—
—mm, mm—“how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
I don’t want to get caught in the weeds of the text here and analyze the analogy that He is talking about—this kind of thing—but I do want to make a few applications or inferences/implications from what He is saying. One is that God wants to give us what is good for us. I don’t want to play with words. Notice that I said what is good for us, not necessarily what is good to us. That will change the way we pray.
God gives us what is good for us and not necessarily what is good to us. Those of us who are pastors and whatever—we know that our people go through a bunch of crap. I just sat with a couple who lost both of their sons—
—one of them to full-blown AIDS—that is because—they are both hemophiliacs, and he got a bad batch of blood back in the ‘80s—and just lost their second son. As I sat there—I have learned to look them in the eye—and it’s not unspiritual to say / as I said to them, with tears coming down their cheeks: “Death stinks! It’s a thief. It’s a robber. It’s awful!” Don’t be unduly spiritual—the Bible says it is awful/horrible—I have, categorically, nothing to say. It wasn’t good to them—not at all! We have to be careful about how Pollyannaish we are about these things.
So, as we read this text here, don’t get superficial. He is not saying that God always does stuff that is good to us—dissolve into this dastardly/hellacious theology of name-it-and-claim-it and prosperity crap.
God doesn’t do things that are good to us; he does things that are good for us. The implications are right there. God does want the best for us, but not by our definition.
Secondly, God—what we think is good could be harmful / could be harmful—but God always wants what is good. The third implication is: “What might be a blessing to you could be a curse to me.” You got to get past this comparison/jealousy stuff. Simply because God said, “Yes,” to someone else about how their—that their prodigal came home when they were 18—don’t be prescriptive when it comes to God because what could be a blessing to you, from a timing perspective, could be a dastardly curse to me.
The other observation I want to make about this text here is a perplexing statement in verse 13. I have often wondered, “What in the world is He talking about?” It seems as if He is talking about a father’s relationship—and then, all of a sudden—He flips the script when He says, in verse 13: “’If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?’”
I just—“Why is the Holy Spirit in here now? It seems like You are mixing Your metaphors or You are changing the analogy here—why the Holy Spirit?” I have to tell you—I don’t exactly know why, but I do have a clue. I really think that what He is saying is that God is giving us supernatural perspective and power if we want it, as we pray. Yes, God knows everything; but we also have the Spirit of God, who comes alongside, and He gives us spiritual insight.
Can I suggest to you—whenever you are going through deep troubled waters—
—whenever you are going through a tremendous challenge, it is tremendously important to immerse yourself in the control of the Spirit of God. You need to see where you are going and what you are doing through supernatural eyes. We have got to do it counterintuitive—run to the Father. I love what Warren Wiersbe says along these lines. He makes the observation: “Because God knows us and loves us, we never need to be afraid of the answer He gives us.”
When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I was swimming up at the Boys Club there in Newark, New Jersey, which wasn’t too far from our house. A bunch of us were just jumping off the side of the pool and just turning in the air as we jumped and went in the water. When I jumped off, I was a little too close to the side of the pool. I turned around and hit my chin on the side of the pool—I busted my chin.
My dad worked nights so he happened to be home when they called my father. He came and got me and took me to the hospital. Back in those days, they didn’t have the anesthesia that they have now—this kind of thing. So, when you got stitches, you got stitches and everything that went with it. So, I’ll never forget this—I can remember it to this day. I’m lying there on the table and the doctor says to my dad: “Hold his arms down. Hold his arms down.” He stitched me up.
My dad would not hurt me for anything; but sometimes, you have to be held down before you are fixed. Do you hear what I am saying to you? Somebody here needs to hear that.
Bob: We’ve been listening to Dr. Crawford Loritts talking about prayer and about the Father who chastens the ones whom He loves. That is an important reminder when we are in the midst of trial to know that all discipline seems unpleasant at the time, but it does yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
Dennis: There are two things in that message that really just stood out to me, personally. One is—prayerlessness generally can be associated with arrogance or pride. I have just found, in my own life, when I am most dependent upon God, I am not typically as full of myself. The reason I say it that way—the closer I get to Christ, I am constantly being convicted how self-absorbed I really can be.
The second thing Crawford said around the love of God. It is the love of God that compels us to turn our hearts back to God.
Even in the midst of discipline, God’s love invites us back into a relationship with Him. I am thinking of Romans 8—the final verses that talk about neither height nor depth nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. I don’t know what you, as a listener, right now, are experiencing; but I want you to know there really is a God in heaven who is passionately in love with you, and is pursuing you, and wants a relationship with you. Yes, He loves you enough to get your attention.
Bob: You and Barbara wrote a book—we’ve talked about it this week—a book called Two Hearts Praying as One—that is designed to help husbands and wives with the challenge we have going on all this month—to help them pray together, as a couple. If our listeners are interested, they can find out more about the book by going to FamilyLifeToday.com.
Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You can order a copy of the book, Two Hearts Praying as One.
You can also sign up for the Oneness Prayer Challenge—I mentioned that earlier—it’s our 30-day prayer challenge. We will send you prayer prompts via text message or email each day so that you can be prompted to pray together, as a couple, each day. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER,” to order a copy of Dennis’s book or to sign up for the Oneness Prayer Challenge.
We mentioned, earlier, Dennis, that Crawford Loritts—whom we heard from today—along with his wife Karen—they are one of the couples who speak at our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. We host these in cities all across the country, throughout the spring and fall. We’re just about ready to kick off our fall season. We’ll have more than 30 events taking place in cities all across the country. In fact, I’m going to be in San Antonio later this fall for a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
If you are interested in attending one of the upcoming Weekend to Remember getaways, this is a great week to sign up because our team is making the Weekend to Remember getaway available with a special offer. When you pay the regular rate for yourself, your spouse comes free. It’s a buy one/get one free—save half—offer on the registration fee for the Weekend to Remember. This offer expires soon.
So, if you are interested, you need to go to our website—FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” and look for information about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. Get the details, online / sign up for an upcoming getaway, online—when you do, you will be able to take advantage of this buy one/get one free offer. If you have any questions about it, call us, toll-free, at 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY,”—1-800-358-6329—again, that’s 1-800--“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
With that, we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. And I hope you can join us back on Monday. We are going to talk to David Delk. He has some ideas about a specific prayer you could pray every day in your marriage that would give you kind of a foundation for marriage. We’ll talk about his marriage prayer on Monday. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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