TUTP-1 - Introduction to Prayer
Please feel free to download audio and video for personal listening or teaching. Please do not alter any content. All material is copyrighted and intended to be used in its entirety and is free for distribution under these terms. To save, simply click the button and the download will begin.
TEACH US TO PRAY
“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man overcomes much,” James
We welcome to our study of prayer. The disciples said to Jesus, ‘Lord
teach us to pray.’ We're going to be thinking about in this series of lessons,
the beautiful subject of prayer. We encourage you to get your Bible, and
stay tuned as we study this wonderful subject together.
As we think about prayer we begin by asking, what is prayer? Is
prayer just wishful thinking? Is prayer just some hopeful idea? Is it a
maybe? Is it a guess? Is there doubt involved in that? What exactly is
prayer to the child of God?
When you think about prayer, there are some interesting ideas that
go along with that. Prayer gives the child of God great strength. Jesus said
in Luke 18:1, “Men ought to pray always and never lose heart.” In fact it
was Leonard Ravenhill who once said, ‘If weak in prayer, we are weak
everywhere.’ Prayer has a certain amount of strength that it gives to the
child of God. How true it is that we need prayer in our life.
Prayer is also a necessity. It's something that the child of God cannot
go day-to-day without having in his life. Like breathing, like eating and
drinking, prayer ought to be second nature to the child of God. Francois
Fenelon said this, "Of all the duties enjoined by Christianity, none is more
essential and yet more neglected than prayer." We all talk about prayer; we
think about it; we sing about prayer; we know that the Scripture says, ‘We
can come boldly to the throne of grace that we might find grace and mercy
to help in time of need.’ But, do we really make prayer an active part of our
life, or is prayer something we just kind of neglect at times?
I believe it was Corrie ten Boom who once said, “Is prayer your
steering wheel or your spare tire?” Do we really utilize the power of prayer
as found in Scripture, or is it something we just lean up on when bad times
We can use prayer at any time. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says we ought
to, ‘Pray without ceasing.’ Prayer needs to be more than just a last resort
for the child of God.
Let's let the Bible and the language of the New Testament define
what prayer is. If we were to look up the word prayer in the dictionary,
Webster would define it this way: prayer is to address God with adoration,
confession, supplication, or thanksgiving. It is the communication between
God and His children to express their praise, to express their thanksgiving,
and no doubt to find help in time of need.
And while that's a textbook definition of prayer, the Greek language
does help us a little with this subject. The Greek word proseuchomai,
proseuchomai is the word that's most common used for prayer. And really
it's a combination of two words. The word 'pros' literally means to express
one's desire or longing toward in the direction of. When we talk about
prayer from the original language, it's the expressing of one's desire with a
direct purpose toward Almighty God. Our desire, our longing is expressed
through the avenue of prayer directly to God. It's our way of showing our
praise and thanksgiving to Him. Another Greek word that is used to
describe prayer is 'erotao.' This word is defined: to ask or to make one's
When we think about prayer in this aspect, we're making our request
toward God. We're asking Him for help. We're letting our cares fall upon
Him, as 1 Peter 5:7 teaches.
But then there's a third word that we emphasize from the Greek
language, and this is the word 'parakaleo.' This word paints a beautiful
picture of the idea of prayer. In fact the word means: to call to one's aid or
to entreat, to ask for help. A perfect example of this is found in Matthew
26:53. Notice what Jesus here said. Jesus used this word when He said,
“Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father and He will provide Me
with more than 12 legions of angels?” When you look at prayer from this
viewpoint, it's asking God to come to our side, to come to our aid. We know
Hebrews 2:16-18 says that we can find grace to help in time of need and
that Christ is able to aid those who are in need. This picture of prayer is
that we’re petitioning the throne of God, and God's forces are coming to the
aid of His children. What a beautiful picture these ideas paint of prayer.
As we give an introduction to the idea of prayer, let's also realize that
prayer is not just a figment of somebody's imagination. Prayer is not just
wishful thinking. It's not talking to the sky we might say. In prayer there is
real power, strength, and praise that is given to and received from Almighty
God. Christians believe prayer is real, because the Scripture says so.
Matthew 6:9 in the disciples' prayer, Jesus taught them ‘Pray our Father
who is in heaven.’ Jesus didn't think prayer was a figment of somebody's
imagination or a hoax or a trick. Jesus believed prayer was real
communication with Almighty God. James 5:16 tells us it's real, “For the
effective fervent prayer of a righteous man,” here's how it's real,
“overcomes much.” Prayer has real results. It has real power, and the child
of God can take true faith in that. Isaiah 38:5 God said, “I've heard your
prayer and your supplication.” 1 Kings 9:3 speaking to the king there God
said, “Your prayer and your supplication that you've made before Me,” in
essence “I have heard.”
We know God heareth not the prayer of the ungodly, implied from
that is He hears the prayer of the righteous, Acts 10:31 and John 9. And so,
when we think about prayer let's realize, prayer is real, that it's something
Christians can take comfort and encouragement in. Now someone says,
‘well how do we know prayer is real?’
Let me offer just a few ways that one can know from experience and
from the things that happen that prayer is real. For example the Bible
teaches us to pray for those who are sick. "If anyone's sick let them call for
the elders the church, let them pray over him,” James 5:13-16. We know
that prayer is real, because it helps those who are in need to get better, to
overcome sickness, and to overcome the struggles, and the diseases that
they may have. Prayer is real, because it has real power in evangelism.
Matthew 9:36-38 Jesus, He looked out upon the multitudes, and He said to
His disciples, “Truly the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few,” and
listen to this, “pray the Lord of hosts He'll send laborers into His vineyard or
Prayer has powerful results in reaching the lost. How many of us
have prayed for someone who was lost, who never obeyed the gospel,
whose heart was hardened, and God through the power of prayer and the
word and those who were working with it, began to work on their heart?
Prayer is also real because we know it helps us in overcoming our troubles.
Do you remember 1 Peter 5:7? Peter says, “Cast all your cares upon Him,
the Lord, He cares for you.” When we find ourselves in trouble and in
difficulty and in turmoil and difficulty of heart, how do we overcome that?
“Cast all your anxieties or cares upon Him, He cares for us.” A Christian
can pray and know that the burden and the weight that he is carrying, God
is more than able and willing to help with that. Remember again Luke 18:1,
Jesus said, “Men ought to pray always and never lose heart.”
When we get discouraged and we go down on her hands and knees
to the Father in prayer, there is strength, there is help, and there is power
to be attained through Almighty God. But you know we also know prayer is
real because we believe in our faith in Almighty God. “Trust in the Lord with
all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” One who truly has
faith in God's word, we're not talking about a leap into the dark, we’re
talking about faith in the inspiration of the Bible, faith in the evidence that
shouts to us there is a God, faith in that creates a faith in God's word and
faith in God, and prayer go hand-in-hand. This is why James would say, ‘If
anyone lacks wisdom let him ask of God who gives to all liberally without
reproach and it will be given to him, but let him ask in faith with no doubting
for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea tossed to and fro and driven by
When we ask in faith, we can have confidence; we can know God is
more than able and willing to help His people. And so in understanding
what prayer is, it also helps us to understand the reality of prayer. When a
man bows his head, when a person gets down on his hands and knees at
night, he's not just talking to the air. He's communicating with the creator of
the universe, who spoke and all things came into existence, who sent His
son to die for the sins of the world, and who ultimately wants to help His
people go to heaven.
Now as we think about prayer, let's also realize we’re not talking
about naturalism. And by that we mean this, we're not just saying that the
things that are naturally going to happen are going to happen anyway.
When we talk about prayer, we’re talking about God intervening and
helping in someone's life. The naturalist approach to life just simply says
that that we are completely governed by the laws of nature, which cannot
be changed. What's going to happen is going to happen, and there's
nothing we can do to change that. Friend, this is where prayer has power. If
things are going to happen no matter what, what's the purpose in praying?
Christians realize the Bible teaches that prayer has the ability to change the
outcome, to change the course, to supplicate the will of God, and as a
result intervene. God intervene on man's behalf. If such is the case that
whatever's going to happen is going to happen anyway, then when Dan
Barker said in "Losing Faith" that if the answer to prayers are merely what
God's will is all along, then why pray?
We believe that prayer has the ability to change things. Prayer has
the power to move the hand of God in the direction of and for the comfort
and help of His people. And while we don't live in the age of miracles, we
understand that we’re not living in a day and age where God's going to
raise the dead or put the lame person's arm back together, that happened
in the First century. We do believe God intercedes in human affairs.
Ambrose Pierce said it this way, ‘In the devil's dictionary he defines prayer
as to ask that the laws of the universe be annulled on behalf of a single
petitioner confessed unworthy.’ We're speaking on behalf of God. God
through His word speaks to us.
As we think about prayer, when we pray we’re asking God to
intercede, to do something on the behalf of His children. And to make sure
that as God's children, we are indeed striving to do His will and put first
things first. So when we pray for somebody to get well, what are we
asking? Are we asking God to just let things naturally work out the way the
going to? No, we're asking God to intervene through means, providential
means, through the means that He is more than able to use.
We’re asking God to help in this matter. It is different from miracles in
that miracles were designed to specifically confirm the word. That word has
been confirmed today. We know that God's word, the Bible, is true but
prayer and the working of God in Providence, is different in that God
through His own means and time whatever that may be. I don't have to
know, to realize, and understand and believe in the power of prayer
whatever that may be. I know that God is more than able to work and to
help in times like those.
As we think about the idea of prayer, let's also realize that God does
answer all prayers that are heard, and we say it this way for a purpose. The
Bible does teach that God does not hear certain prayers. I want you to; for
example, look with me in Psalm 66:18. The Bible teaches that someone
who's living in sin, God does not hear their prayer. The Scripture says, ‘if I
regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.’ Now watch verse 19, ‘but
certainly,’ David said ‘God has heard me, He has attended to the voice of
my prayer.’ Is it the case that everybody who prays God hears? Not
necessarily. The Bible teaches if ‘we regard iniquity in our heart,’ what's
that mean? If I know I've got sin in my life, I'm living in sin, and I'm blatantly
ignoring the will of God in doing what I want instead of what the will of God
wants me to do, the psalmist clearly said if ‘I regard iniquity in my heart, the
Lord will not hear.’
God does not acknowledge; God does not bless the prayer of
someone who's living in sin. But to those whom God does hear their
prayers David said Psalm 66:19, “I know He's heard my prayer.” To those
who are trying to walk in the light, 1 John 1:7, God answers their prayers.
God does not ignore the prayers He hears. The Bible pictures God as
attentive to our needs, as listening to our prayers, and as ready to help
those who are his children. Let me give an example 1 Peter 3 pictures God
beautifully listening to and ready to help those who pray to Him. Listen to 1
Peter 3:12 the Bible says, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,”
watch this now “His ears are open to their prayers, but the face of the Lord
is against those who do evil.” What's the picture of God? His eyes are
open. He's attentive. His ear’s, they’re ready to hear their prayers.
When we think of God, God's a God who's ready to hear, who's ready
to help in time of need. This is what we find again in 1 Peter 5:7. The Bible
word there is 'to hurl', literally took to the cast to throw, “cast all your cares
anxieties upon Him.” Why? Listen to this beautiful wordage, “He cares for
you.” What's the result of God caring for you? I can cast my cares upon
Him. He cares for me. The anxieties, the troubles, the difficulties we have,
we can know and have confidence in the fact that God hears and that He is
willing to answer those prayers and help His people who are in need.
When we think about prayer that God answers, you know there's
been a lot of damage done with the old country music song that Garth
Brooks sang: "Unanswered Prayers". ‘I thank God for unanswered prayers.’
You know for the child of God that's really not correct language. Here’s
what I mean by that, when we say ‘unanswered prayer’ likely what we
mean is, I prayed and the outcome was not what I wanted. But friend that
doesn't mean God didn't answer the prayer. If I asked, if I seek, if I pray to
God, and whatever it is I may be praying, just because the end result is not
what I thought it ought to be doesn't mean God didn't answer.
Let me illustrate. The answer to prayer can come in several forms.
Let's say that we're praying for somebody who's sick, and we’re asking God
to heal that person, and God hears our prayers. Friend whether we like it or
not the answer may at times be no. It may not be in that person's best
interest. It may not be for their spiritual outcome. It may not be best for the
longevity of their life for that person to get well. Although God heard our
prayer, God knew what was best in His infinite wisdom. His answer and He
did answer it, may be no. And you know that's the hard part. Sometimes
I've got to realize my will may not be God's will. This is why Jesus prayed,
“Not my will but thine be done.” Did God hear His prayer? Sure did! God
answer that prayer in the immediate sense which Jesus wanted it
answered. Then ‘if it's possible Father, let this cup pass from Me.’ What
was the answer? No, it's not possible. Jesus knew that in the moment that
he saw and felt the struggle and the difficulty and temptation. God heard
His prayer, but God's will interceded and overcame at that time.
And then there may be another answer, the answer may be ‘not right
now.’ Not just, ‘no’, but ‘not right now in my own time, in my own way.’ The
timing of working things out for the furtherment of His kingdom, for the
betterment of His children, and for the overall purpose of salvation is
dependent upon God's time not ours. And so we may pray, and God may
say the time's not right. ‘Not right now’ may at times be the answer.
Sometimes when we pray, it may be that things need to work out
differently than what we realize. Then sometimes, the answer maybe yes,
and we can positively identify certain times when that happens. That's why
we say God answered my prayer.
Friend if we're walking in the light and we’re a child of God, God
answers our prayer every time. But the answer may not always be what we
want it to be. When I look at my own life, when you look at yours, can't we
really see times when we're glad that God was in control of that? Let me
illustrate. Let's say that a man prays to take a different job, whatever that
job may be. He prays to God and the answer is no to that job. As life
passes, as years pass some other door opens up and it works out for his
betterment, the betterment of his family, the betterment of the kingdom, and
the end result that person looks at that scenario; and he looks back and
said how thankful to God I am that God knew better than I did. That other
job may not have really been what he needed, may not have helped him
develop spiritually, and may not have been best for his family, best for the
When we pray, let's have the attitude, ‘not my will but thine be done.’
Let's realize just because God doesn't say yes, doesn't mean He doesn't
answer. And thank God that God doesn't answer everything we want the
way we want, because sometimes we don't always see things God's way.
What do we know about prayer? Friend we know positively that
prayer is a very valuable asset for the child of God. Jesus used prayer
multiple times throughout His ministry to praise God, to ask for help, to
overcome the struggles in the garden, and to honor the Almighty plan that
God had set forth.
But then we also see prayer like in the lives of Paul and Peter when
they prayed in time of difficulty. We can to gain strength from prayer to
overcome and be victorious in this life. We’re not just praying that things
are going to naturally work out the way they are. We’re asking God to help,
and we’re prefacing that with the Lord's will.
Friend ultimately as 1 Peter 3:12 says, “The eyes of the Lord, they're
on the righteous. His ears are open to their prayers, but the face of the Lord
is against those who do evil.” One thing we've certainly seen today is that
God does not hear the prayer of those who are living in sin. His face is
against those doing evil. ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not
hear.’ Friend that alone ought to encourage and motivate one to make sure
he is in a right relationship with God, so that he can access and have the
power of prayer.
We ask you today, are you a child of God? Are you sure that you're
in a relationship with God knowing that God is able to hear your prayer?
Friend if you've never obeyed the gospel, more than anything God loves
you and wants you to become His child. And we do as well.
The Scripture says God wants all men to be saved and to come to a
knowledge of the truth, 1 Timothy 2:4. The Bible says that ‘the Lord's not
slow concerning His promises as some men count slowness, but He is
long-suffering toward us not willing that any should perish, but that all
should come to repentance.’ Friend, ‘God so loved you and He so loved me
that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him should
not perish but have everlasting life.’
Do you really believe that Jesus is God's son? Do you believe it
enough that you're willing to repent of things in your life that are not
according to the will of God, turn from sin, and turn to God? Jesus said,
“Unless you repent you will all likewise perish,” Luke 13:3. Would you
confess the beautiful name of Jesus as the son of God and Savior of the
world? The Bible says in Romans 10:10, “With the heart, with the mind one
believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto
salvation.” Having heard God's word, believed in Jesus, repented of your
sin, and confessed His beautiful name; would you be immersed in water for
the forgiveness of your sins? In Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, when they
realized they'd killed their Messiah they were lost in sin. They cried out,
‘Men and brethren what shall we do?’ Here is the answer, ‘Repent and be
baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of
Have you obeyed the gospel? If not friend, then God does not hear
your prayer, if one's regarding iniquity in his heart. But He can, and you can
become a child of God. You can have access to one of the greatest powers
all the world, the power of prayer that has the power to overcome. If you're
not a child of God, friend we urge you become one today. And if we are,
let's utilize prayer. It truly has powerful results.
Study Questions for: “Prayer: Lesson 1”
1. According to James 5:16, what overcomes much?
2. What does Jesus tell me to do in Luke 18:1?
3. How shall we pray according to 1 Thessalonians 5:17?
4. In Matthew 26:53, what did Jesus have the ability to do?
5. According to Hebrews 2:16-18, what can we find to help in time of need?
6. According to Matthew 6:9, who did Jesus teach them to pray to?
7. In Isaiah 38:5, who heard the prayer?
8. According to James 5:13, who should we pray for?
9. What shall we do with our trouble according to 1 Peter 5:7? Why?
10. According to Psalm 66:18, whose prayer does God not hear?