Making Prayer Work

Over the last three weeks we have been thinking about various aspects of prayer as we have studied together Jesus’ longest recorded prayer in John 17.  These short articles have addressed: ‘Pray like Jesus?’, ‘What does prayer do?’ and now ‘Making Prayer Work?’  The intention has been to teach and encourage us in both our private and cooperate prayer life.
To conclude our series I want to take five elements necessary to fully experience the power of prayer from R Kent Hughes’ comments on Ephesians 6:18 in ‘Disciplines of a godly man’
‘And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.’
Powerful prayer is in the Spirit prayer.
‘…And pray in the Spirit…’
The Spirit does two things in regard to our prayer.  He guides us to what we should pray for, using the Bible as a template.  This is why hearing the Bible taught (and for those who can reading our Bibles privately) and praying are two sides of the same coin: God speaks to us through the Bible and we speak to God in prayer.  We will have both sides of the conversation only if we have both disciplines.
Secondly, he supplies the energy for our distracted minds, tired bodies, and complacent wills to continue in prayer.  So without the Spirit we would not know what to pray or have the strength to pray.
Powerful prayer is continual prayer. 
‘…on all occasions…’ 
This does not mean the impossible task of a non-stop running dialogue but does mean a posture or attitude of heart with a perpetual inner connection with God that continually surfaces in acts of prayer.  Like how the variety of conversation with a close friend; from spontaneous short bursts (a quick text), longer conversations (a phone call), shared delights (a facebook post), and sustained time together (a meal out), all flow from a heartfelt connection to them.  So our prayers, of all varieties, flow from a continual connection with God.
Powerful prayer is varied prayer. 
‘…with all kinds of prayers and requests.’
The range and breadth of the sorts of prayer we can make to God our loving Father is mind-boggling.  Powerful prayer uses them all.  Spoken, written, pictorial, silent, public, private, family, long, short, clear, muddled…
Powerful prayer is persistent prayer. 
‘…With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying…’ 
There are a number of Bible stories that emphasis the mysterious efficacy of persistent prayer (e.g. Moses in Exodus 17 or Jesus’ story in Luke 18:1-5).  Powerful prayer is not a sprint but a marathon.  Do not stop.  Keep praying.
Powerful prayer is intercessory prayer. 
‘…for all the saints.’
What I mean is powerful prayer is prayer for others.  It is relational.
This is a demanding five-fold pattern for powerful prayer.  But how?
Four Practical Tips:
Make a prayer list for each day that is of sensible length, diverse and engages you with its content.  Use photos, articles, pictures, colours; anything that helps you pray.
Create some time most days that is quiet and purposefully for prayer.  Choose a place that is free of distractions at a time that your mind and body are vibrant.  This specific time of focussed prayer each day, even for a few minutes will become a source of a continual prayer attitude.  Hardest probably for mum with younger children.
Prepare your prayers.  Spent a few moments before you start praying noting down things to prayer for, or mentally clearing your mind.  Read part of the Bible and use your mediations to inform your prayers.  Make notes throughout the day of things that you should or could pray for.
Be realistic.  Recognise an unrealistic goal will only de-motivate you.  If you do not have good habits of daily prayer start with the following.  And aim for four days a week.
a.    Jot down people or situations to pray for (2 minutes)
b.    Read a Psalm noting down one or two truths about God from it (5 minutes)
c.    Pray first through your thoughts on God from the Psalm and then through your list (5 minutes)
d.    Lastly read the Psalm again and close with a short prayer of thanks to God for a number of things in your life.
This is fifteen-twenty minutes but done in a quiet place with good mental and emotional posture you will find it wonderfully powerful and refreshing.