Using prayer to overcome temptation

Why does Satan tempt us?  Temptation is Satan’s invitation to give in to his kind of life and give up on God’s kind of life.  We can use prayer to overcome Satan’s temptation.  Satan tempted Eve and succeeded in getting her to sin.  Ever since then, he’s been busy getting people to sin.  He even tempted Jesus.  But Jesus did not sin!

How could Eve have resisted temptation?  By following the same guidelines we can follow.  First, we must realize that being tempted is not a sin.  We have not sinned until we give in to the temptation.  Then, to resist temptation, we must (1) pray for strength to resist, (2) run, sometimes literally, and (3) say no when confronted with what we know is wrong.  James 1:12 tells of the blessings and rewards for those who don’t give in when tempted. (NLT)

Genesis 3:1-6 – Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the Lord God had made, “Really?” he asked the woman.  “Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?”

“Of course we may eat it,” the woman told him.  “It’s only the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden that we are not allowed to eat.  God says we must not eat it or even touch it, or we will die.”

“You won’t die!” the serpent hissed.  “God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it.  You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil.”

The woman was convinced.  The fruit looked so fresh and delicious, and it would make her so wise!  So she ate some of the fruit.  She also gave some to her husband, who was with her.  Then he ate it, too.

* Jesus used Peter’s drowsiness to warn him about the kinds of temptation he would soon face.  The way to overcome temptation is to keep alert and pray.  Keeping alert means being aware of the possibilities of temptation, sensitive to the subtleties, and spiritually equipped to fight it.  Because temptation strikes where we are most vulnerable, we can’t resist it alone.  Prayer is essential because God’s strength can shore up our defenses and defeat Satan’s power. (NLT)

Matthew 26:40-41 – Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep.  He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay awake and watch with me even one hour?  Keep alert and pray.  Otherwise temptation will overpower you.  For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak!”

* Does prayer change God’s mind?

Did Abraham change God’s mind?  Of course not.  The more likely answer is that God changed Abraham’s mind.  Abraham knew that God is just and that he punishes sin, but he may have wondered about God’s mercy.  Abraham seemed to be probing God’s mind to see how merciful he really was.  He left his conversation with God convinced that God was both kind and fair.  Our prayers won’t change God’s mind, but they may change ours just as Abraham’s prayer changed his.  Prayer helps us better understand the mind of God. (NLT)

* Ask God in prayer for anything but expect anything

God showed Abraham that asking for anything is allowed, with the understanding that God’s answers come from God’s perspective.  They are not always in harmony with our expectations, for only he knows the whole story.  Are you missing God’s answer to a prayer because you haven’t considered any possible answers other than the one you expect? (NLT) 

Genesis 18:20-33 – So the Lord told Abraham, “I have heard that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah are extremely evil, and that everything they do is wicked.  I am going down to see whether or not these reports are true.  Then I will know.”

The two other men went on toward Sodom, but the Lord remained with Abraham for a while.  Abraham approached him and said, “Will you destroy both innocent and guilty alike?  Suppose you find fifty innocent people there within the city–will you still destroy it, and not spare it for their sakes?  Surely you wouldn’t do such a thing, destroying the innocent with the guilty.  Why, you would be treating the innocent and the guilty exactly the same!  Surely you wouldn’t do that!  Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?”

And the Lord replied, “If I find fifty innocent people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake.”  Then Abraham spoke again.  “Since I have begun, let me go on and speak further to my Lord, even though I am but dust and ashes.  Suppose there are only forty-five?  Will you destroy the city for lack of five?”

And the Lord said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five.”  Then Abraham pressed his request further.  “Suppose there are only forty?”  And the Lord replied, “I will not destroy it if there are forty.”  “Please don’t be angry, my Lord,” Abraham pleaded.  “Let me speak–suppose only thirty are found?”  And the Lord replied, “I will not destroy it if there are thirty.”  Then Abraham said, “Since I have dared to speak to the Lord, let me continue–suppose there are only twenty?”  And the Lord said, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty.”  Finally, Abraham said, “Lord, please do not get angry; I will speak but once more!  Suppose only ten are found there?”  And the Lord said, “Then, for the sake of the ten, I will not destroy it.”  The Lord went on his way when he had finished his conversation with Abraham, and Abraham returned to his tent.

* Don’t be afraid to ask in prayer  & Why God may withhold an answer to prayer

As Isaac pleaded with God for children, so the Bible encourages us to ask and even plead for our most personal and important requests.  God wants to grant our requests, but he wants us to ask him.  Even then, as Isaac learned, God may decide to withhold his answer for a while in order to (1) deepen our insight into what we really need, (2) broaden our appreciation for his answers, or (3) allow us to mature so we can use his gifts more wisely. (NLT)

Genesis 25:21 – Isaac pleaded with the Lord to give Rebekah a child because she was childless.  So the Lord answered Isaac’s prayer, and his wife became pregnant with twins.

* Turn your worries into prayer

How would you feel if you knew you were about to meet the person you had cheated out of his most precious possession?  Jacob had taken Esau’s birthright and his blessing.  Now he was about to meet this brother for the first time in 2 years, and he was frantic with fear.  He collected his thoughts, however, and decided to pray.  When we face a difficult conflict, we can run about frantically or we can pause to pray.  Which approach will be more effective? (NLT)

Genesis 32:9-12 – Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my grandfather Abraham and my father, Isaac–O Lord, you told me to return to my land to my relatives, and you promised to treat me kindly.  I am not worthy of all the faithfulness and unfailing love you have shown to me, your servant.  When I left home, I owned nothing except a walking stick, and now my household fills two camps!  O Lord, please rescue me from my brother, Esau.  I am afraid that he is coming to kill me, along with my wives and children.  But you promised to treat me kindly and to multiply my descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore–too many to count.”

* Imagine never worrying about anything!  It seems like an impossibility; we all have worries on the job, in our homes, at school.  But Paul’s advice is to turn our worries into prayers.  Do you want to worry less?  Then pray more!  Whenever you start to worry, stop and pray. (NLT)

Philippians 4:6-7 – Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than human mind can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

* Balancing prayer with action

The Lord told Moses to stop praying and get moving!  Prayer must have a vital place in our lives, but there is also a place for action.  Sometimes we know what to do, but we pray for more guidance as an excuse to postpone doing it.  If we know what we should do, then it is time to get moving. (NLT)

Exodus 14:15 – Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?  Tell the people to get moving!”

* Prayer instead of complaining

Again the people complained about their problem instead of praying.  Some problems can be solved by careful thought or by rearranging our priorities.  Some can be solved by discussion and good counsel.  But some problems can be solved only by prayer.  We should make a determined effort to pray when we feel like complaining because complaining only raises our level of stress.  Prayer quiets our thoughts and emotions and prepares us to listen. (NLT)

Exodus 17:2 – So once more the people grumbled and complained to Moses.  “Give us water to drink! they demanded.  “Quiet!” Moses replied.  “Why are you arguing with me?  And why are you testing the Lord?”

* Prayer changes attitudes & events

God was ready to destroy the whole nation because of their sin.  But Moses pleaded for mercy, and God spared them.  This is one of the countless examples in the Bible of God’s mercy.  Although we deserve his anger, he is willing to forgive and restore us to himself.  We can receive God’s forgiveness from sin by asking him.  Like Moses, we can pray that he will forgive others and use us to bring them the message of his mercy. (NLT)

Exodus 32:9-14 – Then the Lord said, “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are.  Now leave me alone so my anger can blaze against them and destroy them all.  Then I will make you, Moses, into a great nation instead of them.”

But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God not to do it.  “O Lord!” he exclaimed.  “Why are you so angry with your own people whom you brought from the land of Egypt with such great power and mighty acts?  The Egyptians will say, ‘God tricked them into coming to the mountains so he could kill them and wipe them from the face of the earth.’  Turn away from your fierce anger.  Change your mind about this terrible disaster you are planning against your people!  Remember your covenant with your servants–Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  You swore by your own self, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven.  Yes, I will give them all of this land that I have promised to your descendants, and they will possess it forever.’”

So the Lord withdrew his threat and didn’t bring against his people the disaster he had threatened.

* – Herod’s plan undoubtedly was to execute Peter, but the believers were praying for Peter’s safety.  The earnest prayer of the church significantly affected the outcome of these events.  Prayer changes things, so pray often and with confidence. (NLT)

Acts 12:5 – But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.

* Make sure you really want what you ask for in prayer

Every morning the Israelites drew back their tent doors and witnessed a miracle.  Covering the ground was pale yellow, fluffy manna–food from heaven.  But soon that wasn’t enough.  Feeling it was their right to have more, they forgot what they already had.  They didn’t ask God to fill their need; instead, they demanded meat, and they stopped trusting God to care for them.  “Give us meat!” they complained to Moses as they reminisced about the good food they had in Egypt.  God gave them what they asked for, but they paid dearly for it when a plague struck the camp.  When you ask God for something, he may grant your request.  But if you approach him with a sinful attitude, getting what you want may prove costly. (NLT)

Numbers 11:4-9 – Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt, and the people of Israel also began to complain.  “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed.  “We remember all the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt.  And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic that we wanted.  But now our appetites are gone, and day after day we have nothing to eat but this manna!”

The manna looked like small coriander seeds, pale yellow in color.  The people gathered it from the ground and made flour by grinding it with hand mills or pounding it in mortars.  Then they boiled it in a pot and made it into flat cakes.  These cakes tasted like they had been cooked in olive oil.  The manna came down on the camp with the dew during the night.

* Prayer helps us remember God’s goodness

This verse is traditionally cited as the reason we say grace before or after meals.  Its purpose, however, was to warn the Israelites not to forget God when their needs and wants were satisfied.  Let your table prayers serve as a constant reminder of the Lord’s goodness to you and your duty to those who are less fortunate. (NLT)

Deuteronomy 8:10 – When you have eaten your fill, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

* Prayer of Joshua

Imagine praying this way to God. This is not a formal church prayer; it is the prayer of a man who is afraid and confused by what is happening around him. Joshua poured out his real thoughts to God. Hiding your needs from God is ignoring the only one who can really help. God welcomes your honest prayers and wants you to express your true feelings to him. Any believer can become more honest in prayer by remembering that God is all-knowing and all-powerful and that his love is everlasting. (NLT)

Joshua 7:7-9 – Then Joshua cried out, “Sovereign Lord, why did you bring us across the Jordan River if you are going to let the Amorites kill us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side! Lord, what am I to say, now that Israel has fled from its enemies? For when the Canaanites and all the other people living in the land hear about it, they will surround us and wipe us off the face of the earth. And then what will happen to the honor of your great name?”

* Why God may not be answering your prayers

Why did the angel keep his name a secret?  In those days people believed that if they knew someone’s name, they knew his character and how to control him.  By not giving his name, the angel was not allowing himself to be controlled by Manoah.  He was also saying that his name was a mystery beyond understanding and too wonderful to imagine.  Manoah asked the angel for an answer that he wouldn’t have understood.  Sometimes we ask God questions and then receive no answer.  This may not be because God is saying no.  We may have asked for knowledge beyond our ability to understand or accept. (NLT)

Judges 13:18 – “Why do you ask my name?” the angel of the Lord replied.  “You wouldn’t understand if I told you.”

* – God did not answer Saul’s appeals because Saul had not followed God’s previous directions.  Sometimes people wonder why their prayers are not answered.  But if they don’t fulfill the responsibilities God has already given them, they should not be surprised when he does not give further guidance. (NLT)

1 Samuel 28:15 – “Why have you disturbed me by calling me back?” Samuel asked.  “Because I am in deep trouble,” Saul replied.  “The Philistines are at war with us, and God has left me and won’t reply by prophets or dreams.  So I have called for you to tell me what to do.”

* – David’s request was good, but God said no.  This does not mean that God rejected David.  In fact, God was planning to do something even greater in David’s life than allowing him the prestige of building the Temple.  Although God turned down David’s request, he promised to continue the house (or dynasty) of David forever.  David’s earthly dynasty ended four centuries later, but Jesus Christ, a direct descendant of David, was the ultimate fulfillment of this promise.  Christ will reign for eternity–now in his spiritual kingdom and in heaven, and later, on earth, in the new Jerusalem.  Have you prayed with good intentions, only to have God say no?  This is God’s way of directing you to a greater purpose in your life.  Accepting God’s no requires as great a faith as carrying out his yes. (NLT)

2 Samuel 7:8-16 – “Now go and say to my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I chose you to lead my people Israel when you were just a shepherd boy, tending your sheep out in the pasture.  I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have destroyed all your enemies.  Now I will make your name famous throughout the earth!  And I have provided a permanent homeland for my people Israel, a secure place where they will never be disturbed.  It will be their own land where wicked nations won’t oppress them as they did in the past, from the time I appointed judges to rule my people.  And I will keep you safe from all your enemies.

“‘And now the Lord declares that he will build a house for you–a dynasty of kings!  For when you die, I will raise up one of your descendants, and I will make his kingdom strong.  He is the one who will build a house–a temple–for my name.  And I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be his father, and he will be my son.  If he sins, I will use other nations to punish him.  But my unfailing love will not be taken from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed before you.  Your dynasty and your kingdom will continue for all time before me, and your throne will be secure forever.’ ”

* Don’t let guilt feelings keep you from prayer

In spite of Samson’s past, God still answered his prayer and destroyed the pagan temple and worshipers.  God still loved him.  He was willing to hear Samson’s prayer of confession and repentance and use him this final time.  One of the effects of sin in our lives is to keep us from feeling like praying.  But perfect moral behavior is not a condition for prayer.  Don’t let guilt feelings over sin keep you from your only means of restoration.  No matter how long you have been away from God, he is ready to hear from you and restore you to a right relationship.  Every situation can be salvaged if you are willing to turn again to him.  If God could still work in Samson’s situation, he can certainly make something worthwhile out of yours. (NLT)

Judges 16:28-30 – Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again.  O God, please strengthen me one more time so that I may pay back the Philistines for the loss of my eyes.”  Then Samson put his hands on the center pillars of the temple and pushed against them with all his might.  “Let me die with the Philistines,” he prayed.  And the temple crashed down on the Philistine leaders and all the people.  So he killed more people when he died than he had during his entire lifetime.

* When discouraged, pray

Hannah had good reason to feel discouraged and bitter.  She was unable to bear children; she shared her husband with a woman who ridiculed her; her loving husband could not solve her problem; and even the high priest misunderstood her motives.  But instead of retaliating or giving up hope, Hannah prayed.  She brought her problem honestly before God.

Each of us may face times of barrenness when nothing “comes to birth” in our work, service, or relationships.  It is difficult to pray in faith when we feel so ineffective.  But, as Hannah discovered, prayer opens the way for God to work. (NLT)

1 Samuel 1:10 – Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.

* Be careful what you promise God in prayer

Be careful what you promise in prayer because God may take you up on it.  Hannah so desperately wanted a child that she was willing to strike a bargain with God.  God took her up on her promise, and to Hannah’s credit, she did her part, even though it was painful.

Although we are not in a position to barter with God, he may still choose to answer a prayer that has an attached promise.  When you pray, ask yourself, Will I follow through on any promises I make to God if he grants my request?  It is dishonest and dangerous to ignore a promise, especially to God.  God keeps his promises, and he expects you to keep yours. (NLT)

1 Samuel 1:11 – And she made this vow: “O Lord Almighty, if you will look down upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you.  He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.”

* Is failing to pray for others a sin?

Is failing to pray for others a sin?  Samuel’s words seem to indicate that it is.  His actions illustrate two of God’s people’s responsibilities: (1) They should pray consistently for others, and (2) they should teach others the right way to God.  Samuel disagreed with the Israelites’ demand for a king, but he assured them that he would continue to pray for them and teach them.  We may disagree with others, but we shouldn’t stop praying for them. (NLT)

1 Samuel 12:23 – “As for me, I will certainly not sin against the Lord by ending my prayers for you.  And I will continue to teach you what is good and right.”

* How David responded to God’s “no” answer to his prayer

God told David that Solomon would be given the honor of building the Temple. David responded with deep humility, not resentment. This king who had conquered his enemies and was loved by his people said, “Who am I . . . that you have brought me this far?” David recognized that God was the true king. God has done just as much for us, and he plans to do even more! Like David, we should humble ourselves and give glory to God, saying, “O Lord, there is no one like you.” When God chooses someone else to implement your ideas, will you respond with such humility? (NLT)

1 Chronicles 17:16-20 – Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, O God, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving me a lasting dynasty! You speak as though I were someone very great, O Lord God! What more can I say about the way you have honored me? You know what I am really like. For my sake, O Lord, and according to your will, you have done all these great things and have made them known.

“O Lord, there is no one like you—there is no other God. We have never even heard of another god like you!”

* God told David he would not be the one to build the Temple. Instead, the task would be left to his son Solomon. David graciously accepted this no from God. He was not jealous of the fact that his son would have the honor of building God’s Temple but instead made preparations for Solomon to carry out his task. Similarly, we should take steps now to prepare the way for our children to find and fulfill God’s purpose. Sooner or later our children will have to make their own decisions, but we can help by supplying them with the proper tools: showing them how to pray and study God’s Word, the difference between right and wrong, and the importance of church involvement. (NLT)

1 Chronicles 22:7-10 – “I wanted to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God,” David told him. “But the Lord said to me, ‘You have killed many men in the great battles you have fought. And since you have shed so much blood before me, you will not be the one to build a Temple to honor my name. But you will have a son who will experience peace and rest. I will give him peace with his enemies in all the surrounding lands. His name will be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel during his reign. He is the one who will build a Temple to honor my name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’”

* Lessons from Solomon’s dedication prayer

As Solomon led the people in prayer, he asked God to hear their prayers concerning a variety of situation: (1) crime; (2) enemy attacks; (3) drought; (4) famine; (5) the influx of foreigners; (6) war; (7) sin. God is concerned with whatever we face, even the difficult consequences we bring upon ourselves. He wants us to turn to him in prayer. When you pray, remember that God hears you. Don’t let the extremity of your situation cause you to doubt his care for you. (NLT)

2 Chronicles 6:19-42 – “Listen to my prayer and my request, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you. May you watch over this Temple both day and night, this place where you have said you would put your name. May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.

“If someone wrongs another person and is required to take an oath of innocence in front of the altar at this Temple, then hear from heaven and judge between your servants—the accuser and the accused. Punish the guilty party, and acquit the one who is innocent.

“If your people Israel are defeated by their enemies because they have sinned against you, and if they turn to you and call on your name and pray to you here in this Temple, then hear from heaven and forgive their sins and return them to this land you gave their ancestors.

“If the skies are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and then they pray toward this Temple and confess your name and turn from their sins because you have punished them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them to do what is right, and send rain on your land that you have given to your people as their special possession.

“If there is a famine in the land, or plagues, or crop disease, or attacks of locusts or caterpillars, or if your people’s enemies are in the land besieging their towns—whatever the trouble is—and if your people offer a prayer concerning their troubles or sorrow, raising their hands toward this Temple, then hear from heaven where you live, and forgive. Give your people whatever they deserve, for you alone know the human heart. Then they will fear you and walk in your ways as long as they live in the lands you gave to our ancestors.

“And when foreigners hear of you and your mighty miracles, and they come from distant lands to worship your great name and to pray toward this Temple, then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. Then all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built bears your name.

“If your people go out at your command to fight their enemies, and if they pray to you toward this city that you have chosen and toward this Temple that I have built for your name, then hear their prayers from heaven and uphold their cause.

“If they sin against you—and who has never sinned?—you may become angry with them and let their enemies conquer them and take them captive to a foreign land far or near. But in that land of exile, they may turn to you again in repentance and pray, ‘We have sinned, done evil, and acted wickedly.’ Then if they turn to you with their whole heart and soul and pray toward the land you gave to their ancestors, toward this city you have chosen, and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name, then hear their prayers from heaven where you live. Uphold their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you.

“O my God, be attentive to all the prayers made to you in this place. And now, O Lord God, arise and enter this resting place of yours, where your magnificent Ark has been placed. May your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, and may your saints rejoice in your goodness. O Lord God, do not reject your anointed one. Remember your unfailing love for your servant David.”

* What to request of God in prayer

Solomon praised the Lord and prayed for the people.  His prayer can be a pattern for our prayers.  He had five basic requests: (1) for God’s presence; (2) for the desire to do God’s will in everything; (3) for the desire and ability to obey God’s decrees and commands; (4) for help with each day’s needs; (5) for the spread of God’s Kingdom to the entire world.  These prayer requests are just as important today.  When you pray for your church or family, you can make these same requests to God. (NLT)

1 Kings 8:56-60 – “Praise the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, just as he promised.  Not one word has failed of all the wonderful promises he gave through his servant Moses.  May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he never forsake us. May he give us the desire to do his will in everything and to obey all the commands, laws, and regulations that he gave our ancestors.  And may these words that I have prayed in the presence of the Lord be before him constantly, day and night, so that the Lord our God may uphold my cause and the cause of his people Israel, fulfilling our daily needs.  May people all over the earth know that the Lord is God and that there is no other god.

* Don’t always expect immediate answers to prayer

Months, maybe years, had passed since Solomon’s prayer of dedication.  Several other building projects had been completed after the Temple.  Then after all this time, God told Solomon that he had heard Solomon’s prayer.  How often do we look for immediate answers to our prayers and, when nothing happens, wonder if God has heard us?  God does hear, and he will provide for us.  We must trust that God will answer at the proper time. (NLT)

2 Chronicles 7:12 – Then one night the Lord appeared to Solomon and said, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices.

* Hezekiah’s saved a nation

Sennacherib, whose armies had captured all the fortified cities of Judah, sent a message to Hezekiah to surrender. Realizing the situation was hopeless; Hezekiah went to the Temple and prayed. God answered Hezekiah’s prayer and delivered Judah by sending an army to attack the Assyrian camp, forcing Sennacherib to leave at once. Prayer should be our first response in any crisis. Don’t’ wait until things are hopeless. Pray daily for his guidance. Our problems are God’s opportunities. (NLT)

2 Kings 19:1-7 – When King Hezekiah heard their report, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the Temple of the Lord to pray. And he sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the court secretary, and the leading priests, all dressed in sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They told him, “This is what King Hezekiah says: This is a day of trouble, insult, and disgrace. It is like when a child is ready to be born, but the mother has no strength to deliver it. But perhaps the Lord your God has heard the Assyrian representative defying the living God and will punish him for his words. Oh, pray for those of us who are left!”

After King Hezekiah’s officials delivered the king’s message to Isaiah, the prophet replied, “Say to your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. Listen! I myself will move against him, and the king will receive a report from Assyria telling him that he is needed at home. Then I will make him want to return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.”

* How Hezekiah approached God in prayer

Although Hezekiah came boldly to God, he did not take God for granted or approach him flippantly. Instead, Hezekiah acknowledged God’s sovereignty and Judah’s total dependence on him. Hezekiah’s prayer provides a good model for us. We should not be afraid to approach God with our prayers, but we must come to him with respect for who he is and what he can do. (NLT)

2 Kings 19:15-19 – And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: “O Lord, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Listen to me, O Lord, and hear! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God.

“It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations, just as the message says. And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.”

* Jabez remembered for prayer

Jabez is remembered for a prayer request rather than a heroic act.  In this prayer, he asked God to (1) bless him, (2) help him in his work (“extend my lands”), (3) be with him in all he did, and (4) keep him from trouble and pain.  Jabez acknowledged God as the true center of his work.  When we pray for God’s blessing, we should also ask him to take his rightful position as Lord over our work, our family time, and our recreation.  Obeying him in daily responsibilities is heroic living. (NLT)

1 Chronicles 4:9-10 – There was a man named Jabez who was more distinguished than any of his brothers.  His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful.  He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and extend my lands! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!”  And God granted him his request.

* Ingredients of Jehoshaphat’s prayer

Jehoshaphat’s prayer had several essential ingredients. (1) He committed the situation to God, acknowledging that only God could save the nation. (2) He sought God’s favor because his people were God’s people. (3) He acknowledged God’s sovereignty over the current situation. (4) He praised God’s glory and took comfort in his promises. (5) He professed complete dependence on God, not himself, for deliverance. To be God’s kind of leader today, follow Jehoshaphat’s example: Focus entirely on God’s power rather than your own. (NLT)

2 Chronicles 20:6 – He prayed, “O Lord, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you!”

* Serious prayer

Ezra knew God’s promises to protect his people, but he didn’t take them for granted.  He also knew that God’s blessings are appropriated through prayer, so Ezra and the people humbled themselves by fasting and praying.  And their prayers were answered.  Fasting humbled them because going without food was a reminder of their complete dependence on God.  Fasting also gave them more time to pray and meditate on God.

Too often we pray glibly and superficially.  Serious prayer, by contrast, requires concentration.  It puts us in touch with God’s will and can really change us.  Without serious prayer, we reduce God to a quick-service pharmacist with painkillers for our every ailment. (NLT)

Ezra 8:23 – So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer.

* What prayer clarifies for us

Nehemiah fasted and prayed for several days, expressing his sorrow for Israel’s and his desire that Jerusalem would again come alive with the worship of the one true God.  Nehemiah demonstrated the elements of effective prayer: (1) praise, (2) thanksgiving, (3) repentance, (4) specific requests, and (5) commitment.

Heartfelt prayers like Nehemiah’s can help clarify (1) any problem you may be facing, (2) God’s great power to help you, and (3) the job you have to do.  By the end of his prayer time, Nehemiah knew what action he had to take.  When God’s people pray, difficult decisions fall into proper perspective, and appropriate actions follow. (NLT)

Nehemiah 1:5 – Then I said, “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands,

* Spontaneous prayer

With little time to think, Nehemiah immediately prayed.  Eight times in this book we read that he prayed spontaneously.  Nehemiah prayed at any time, even while talking with others.  He knew that God is always in charge, is always present, and hears and answers every prayer.  Nehemiah could confidently pray throughout the day because he had established an intimate relationship with God during times of extended prayer.  If we want to reach God with our emergency prayers, we need to take time to cultivate a strong relationship with God through times of in-depth prayer. (NLT)

Nehemiah 2:4 – The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?”  With a prayer to the God of heaven, …

* Combining prayer with preparation

Nehemiah constantly combined prayer with preparation and planning.  His people trusted God and at the same time kept vigilant watch over what had been entrusted to them.  Too often we pray without looking for what God wants us to do.  We show God we are serious when we combine prayer with thought, preparation, and effort. (NLT)

Nehemiah 4:9 – But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves.

* Prayer should precede important decisions

The Christian’s most powerful resource is communion with God through prayer.  The results are often greater than we thought were possible.  Some people see prayer as a last resort to be tried when all else fails.  This approach is backward.  Prayer should come first.  Because God’s power is infinitely greater than ours, it only makes sense to rely on it–especially because God encourages us to do so. (NLT)

James 5:16-18 – 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 wonderful results.  Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for the next three and a half years!  Then he prayed for rain, and down it poured.  The grass turned green, and the crops began to grow again.

* Jesus prayed for us too

Jesus prayed for all who would follow him, including you and others you know.  He prayed for unity, protection from the evil one, and holiness.  Knowing that Jesus prayed for us should give us confidence as we work for his Kingdom.

Jesus’ great desire for his disciples was that they would become one.  He wanted them unified as a powerful witness to the reality of God’s love.  Are you helping to unify the body of Christ, the church?  You can pray for other Christians, avoid gossip, build others up, work together in humility, give your time and money, exalt Christ, and refuse to get sidetracked arguing over divisive matters.

John 17:20-26 – “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony.  My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father–that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me.

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are–I in them and you in me, all being perfected into one.  Then the world will know that you sent me and will understand that you love them as much as you love me.  Father, I want these whom you’ve given me to be with me, so they can see my glory.  You gave me the glory because you loved me even before the world began!

“O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me.  And I have revealed you to them and will keep on revealing you.  I will do this so that your love for me may be in them and I in them.”

* Prayer part of God’s healing process

People in the church are not alone.  Members of Christ’s body should be able to count on others for support and prayer, especially when they are sick or suffering.

The “prayer offered in faith” does not refer to the faith of the sick person but to the faith of the people praying.  God heals, faith doesn’t, and all prayers are subject to God’s will.  But prayer is part of God’s healing process. (NLT)

James 5:13-15 – Are any among you suffering?  They should keep on praying about it.  And those who have reason to be thankful should continually sing praises to the Lord.

Are any among you sick?  They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.  And their prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well.  And anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.

* Prayer for your children

Job showed deep concern for the spiritual welfare of his children.  Fearful that they might have sinned unknowingly, he offered sacrifices for them.  Parents today can show the same concern by praying for their children.  This means “sacrificing” some time each day to ask God to forgive them, to help them grow, to protect them, and to help them please him. (NLT)

Job 1:5 – When these celebrations ended–and sometimes they lasted several days–Job would purify his children.  He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them.  For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.”  This was Job’s regular practice.

* Assurance of answered prayer brings peace

Sleep does not come easily during a crisis.  David could have had sleepless nights when his son Absalom rebelled and gathered an army to kill him.  But he slept peacefully, even during the rebellion.  What made the difference?  David cried out to the Lord, and the Lord heard him.  The assurance of answered prayer brings peace.  It is easier to sleep well when we have full assurance that God is in control of circumstances.  If you are lying away at night worrying about circumstances you can’t change, pour out your heart to God, and thank him that he is in control.  Then sleep will come. (NLT)

Psalm 3:5 – I lay down and slept.  I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.

* God hears every prayer

The godly are those who are faithful and devoted to God.  David knew that God would hear him when he called and would answer him.  We, too, can be confident that God listens to our prayers and answers when we call on him.  Sometimes we think that God will not hear us because we have fallen short of his high standards for holy living.  But if we have trusted Christ for salvation, God has forgiven us, and he will listen to us.  When you feel as though your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling, remember that as a believer you have been set apart by God and that he loves you.  He hears and answers, although his answers may not be what you expect.  Look at your problems in the light of God’s power instead of looking at God in the shadow of your problems. (NLT)

Psalm 4:3 – You can be sure of this: The Lord has set apart the godly for himself.  The Lord will answer when I call to him.

* Prayer the secret to a close relationship with God

The secret of a close relationship with God is to pray to him earnestly each morning.  In the morning, our minds are more free from problems, and then we can commit the whole day to God.  Regular communication helps any friendship and is certainly necessary for a strong relationship with God.  We need to communicate with him daily.  Do you have a regular time to pray and read God’s Word? (NLT)

Psalm 5:1-3 – O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning.  Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I will never pray to anyone but you.  Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.  Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.

* Pray even when God seems far away

“Why do you hide when I need you the most?”  To the psalmist, God seemed far away.  But even though the writer had honest doubts, he did not stop praying or conclude that God no longer cared.  He was not complaining but simply asking God to hurry to his aid.  It is during those times when we feel most alone or oppressed that we need to keep praying, telling God about our troubles. (NLT)

Psalm 10:1 – O Lord, why do you stand so far away?  Why do you hide when I need you the most?

* Moving from prayer to praise

Many of David’s psalms follow the pattern found in these two verses–a transition from prayer to praise.  David was not afraid to come to God and express his true feelings and needs.  Thus, his spirit was lifted, and he praised God, his helper, protector, and friend. (NLT)

Psalm 54:3-4 – For strangers are attacking me; violent men are trying to kill me.  They care nothing for God.  But God is my helper.  The Lord is the one who keeps me alive!

* Prayer a weapon against evil

Praying morning, noon, and night is certainly an excellent way to maintain correct priorities throughout every day.  Daniel followed this pattern, as did Peter.  The prayers of God’s people are effective against the overwhelming evil in the world. (NLT)

Psalm 55:17 – Morning, noon, and night I plead aloud in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice.

* Prayer can release tensions of emotional stress

David expressed his feelings to God and then reaffirmed his faith.  Prayer can release our tensions in times of emotional stress.  Trusting God to be our rock, salvation, and fortress will change our entire outlook on life.  No longer must we be held captive by resentment toward others when they hurt us.  When we are resting in God’s strength, nothing can shake us. (NLT)

Psalm 62:3-6 – So many enemies against one man–all of them trying to kill me.  To them I’m just a broken-down wall or a tottering fence.  They plan to topple me from my high position.  They delight in telling lies about me.  They are friendly to my face, but they curse me in their hearts.

* Prayer places our focus on God

Asaph cried out to God for courage during a time of deep distress.  The source of Asaph’s distress was his doubt.  He said, “I cry out to God.”  As Asaph expressed his requests to God, his focus changed from thinking of himself to worshiping God: “You are the God of miracles and wonders!”  Only after he put aside his doubts about God’s holiness and care for him did he eliminate his distress.  As we pray to God, he shifts our focus from ourselves to him. (NLT)

Psalm 77:1-12 – I cry out to God without holding back.  Oh, that God would listen to me!  When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord.  All night long I pray, with hands lifted toward heaven, pleading.  There can be no joy for me until he acts.  I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help.

You don’t let me sleep.  I am too distressed even to pray!  I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs.  I search my soul and think about the difference now.  Has the Lord rejected me forever?  Will he never again show me favor?  Is his unfailing love gone forever?  Have his promises permanently failed?  Has God forgotten to be kind?  Has he slammed the door on his compassion?

And I said, “This is my fate, that the blessings of the Most High have changed to hatred.”  I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.  They are constantly in my thoughts.  I cannot stop thinking about them.

* Intercessory prayer

The psalmist was not praying for his own peace and prosperity but for that of his brothers and friends in Jerusalem.  This is intercessory prayer, prayer on behalf of others.  Too often we are quick to pray for our own needs and desires but neglect interceding for others.  Will you intercede for someone in need today? (NLT)

Psalm 122:6-9 – Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  May all who love this city prosper.  O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces.  For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be with you.”  For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem.

* Why many are afraid to talk with God in prayer

Ahaz appeared righteous by saying he would not test God with a sign (“I wouldn’t test the Lord like that”).  In fact, God had told him to ask, but Ahaz didn’t really want to know what God would say.  Often we use some excuse, such as not wanting to bother God, to keep us from communicating with him.  Don’t let anything keep you from hearing and obeying God. (NLT)

Isaiah 7:12 – But the king refused.  “No,” he said, “I wouldn’t test the Lord like that.”

* Prayer can change events

When Isaiah went to Hezekiah, who was extremely ill, and told him of his impending death, Hezekiah immediately turned to God.  God responded to his prayer, allowing Hezekiah to live another 15 years.  If you have a desperate need in your life, bring it to the Lord.  In response to fervent prayer, God may change the course of your life, too. (NLT)

Isaiah 38:1-5 – About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him.  He gave the king this message: “This is what the Lord says: Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die.  You will not recover from this illness.”

When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, O Lord, how I have always tried to be faithful to you and do what is pleasing in your sight.:  then he broke down and wept bitterly.

Then this message came to Isaiah from the Lord: “Go back to Hezekiah and tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears.  I will add fifteen years to your life…

* Prayer in the midst of panic

Daniel was at a crisis point.  Imagine going to see the powerful, temperamental king who had just angrily ordered your death!  Daniel did not shrink back in fear, however, but confidently believed God would tell him all the king wanted to know.  When the king gave Daniel time to find the answer, Daniel found his three friends and they prayed.  When you find yourself in a tight spot, share your needs with trusted friends who also believe in God’s power.  Prayer is more effective than panic.  Panic confirms your hopelessness; prayer confirms your hope in God.  Daniel’s trust in God saved not only himself but also his three friends and all the other wise men of Babylon.  (NLT)

Daniel 2:16-18 – Daniel went at once to see the king and requested more time so he could tell the king what the dream meant.

Then Daniel went home and told his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah what had happened.  He urged them to ask the God of heaven to show them his mercy by telling them the secret, so they would not be executed along with the other wise men of Babylon.



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