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Updated: 5/25/2011

What I've learned about prayer from my teachers:

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Obstacles to Answered Prayer...Greg Laurie...Listen! The Lord's arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It's your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. —Isaiah 59:1–2

One of the reasons our prayers may not be answered is because of unconfessed sin in our lives. Nothing will bring a prayer life to a halt faster than unconfessed sin. Psalm 66:18 says, "If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." And Isaiah tells us, "Listen! The Lord's arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It's your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore" (59:1–2).

The problems is that we don't want to call sin what it is anymore. We will call it a weakness or a mistake or a shortcoming or a sickness. But why don't we call it what it is—a sin? And why don't we admit it is there? Why don't we ask God to forgive us as we turn from it? If we will not deal with our sins, God will not hear our prayers.

Idolatry, or putting something in our lives into a place of prominence over God himself, can also be a hindrance to prayer. In Ezekiel 14:3, God said, "Son of man, these leaders have set up idols in their hearts. They have embraced things that will make them fall into sin. Why should I listen to their requests?"

Is there someone or something that is more important to you than God himself? Anyone or anything that becomes more important to you than God can potentially become your idol. Any object, idea, philosophy, habit, occupation, or sport that has your primary concern and loyalty—or to any degree, decreases your trust and loyalty to God—could potentially become an idol. And it could stop your prayers from being answered.

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Why We Should Keep Praying...Greg Laurie...Then he said to me, "Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words." —Daniel 10:12

Have you ever had a time when you prayed about something and there was no answer from heaven? You were praying a lot about a certain situation, and it seemed as though God wasn't listening to your prayer. Let me say that He is listening. And there may be a number of reasons He did not answer you as quickly as you had hoped.

A spiritual battle may be raging that you know nothing about. There is a supernatural realm that functions right alongside the natural realm. There is a thin wall that divides us. And in this supernatural world, things are happening when we pray that we often know very little about.

In the Book of Daniel we find a fascinating story in which Daniel is praying and an angel arrives. The angel said, "Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words" (Daniel 10:12). Then he essentially told Daniel the reason for the delay in Daniel's prayer being answered: "Twenty-one days ago, your prayer was heard in heaven, and an answer was sent. I was bringing the answer, and I was stopped by a high-ranking demon that opposed me. So the great archangel Michael was dispatched to deliver me from this dilemma. And then I was freed to bring the answer to you."

If you are praying for something and haven't received an answer as quickly as you wanted, maybe a spiritual battle has been raging. So just remember this: God's delays are not necessarily His denials. Just because an answer hasn't come as quickly as you would like does not mean that it never will come at all. So keep praying.

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Pastor Rick Warren...Choose faith and ask for help
..."Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6 (NLT)

Our verse today gives us the formula for how this works.
  1. “Pray about everything.” First, you talk. As you talk to God about everything, you will find the anxiety level lessening in your life.
  1. “Tell God what you need.” That’s the second thing. A lot of times people go to God in prayer and tell God about everything and everyone else, but don’t share their needs with him. Tell him what you are worried about!

  2. “Thank him for all he has done.” There is something about gratitude that lessens anxiety and opens the door to peace and incredible faith in your life. No matter what you’re going through in life right now, there is something you can look back on and say, “God, I’m grateful for that.” So hang on to that.

How do you increase your faith when there are so many circumstances in life that cause you to worry? Start praying in advance. Most of the time you can see what’s coming, so you can either choose to worry about it or you can start putting your faith in God before it gets here.

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Dr. Charles Stanley...Prayer is life's greatest time-saver
  1. Gives us clear, timely direction, eliminating confusion
  2. Prevents us from making wrong decisions
  3. Eliminates worry and anxiety
  4. Produces a sense of calmness and peacefulness
  5. Invites God into our activity
  6. Gives us confidence
  7. Eliminates fretting
  8. Sharpens our discernment
  9. Gives us God's viewpoint
  10. Brings us energy
  11. Prevents us from getting distracted
  12. Reminds us of the necessity to act
  13. Prevents discouragement
  14. Opens doors of opportunity
  15. Enables us to discern between being busy and being fruitful
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Pastor Greg McBride...How to make an effective prayer
- Be still and know I am God (Psalms 46:8-10)
- Be kingdom minded (Colossians 3:1-3)
  - Set hearts on things above
  - Set minds on things above
- Be praise focused (Psalms 150:1-5)

What gets in the way of effective prayer?
- Sin (Isaiah 59:2)
- Pride (James 4:6)
- Broken Relationships (1 Peter 3:7)
- Self Centeredness (James 4:3)
- Busyness

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Dr. James Denison...There is no such thing as "unanswered prayer." God hears your every request, and in fact keeps "the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne" of heaven (Revelation 8:3). In our fast-food instant gratification culture, it's hard to wait on the Lord. But it's always best. This is the promise, and the invitation, of God.

How to pray to God
Nehemiah 1:5-11.

1) Pray to the right person - someone who loves us and is capable.
2) Pray from the correct position - don't treat God like a restaurant waiter.
3) Pray as part of the group - from a position of ownership or family.
4) Pray that God finishes out his promise - He has rescued us, now please do the rest through us.
5) Pray for success - ask for all the right things necessary for your mission.
6) Pray for the next thing - the next need He wants us to fill.

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There are those who say that we should only pray for something once; otherwise, we are demonstrating a lack of faith. Yet Jesus taught His disciples, "Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened" (Luke 11:9). We give up far too easily sometimes.

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Rick Warren..."O Lord, God of my master, Abraham," he prayed. "Please give me success today, and show unfailing love to my master, Abraham." Genesis 24:12 (NLT)

A major step to getting where you want to be in life is simple: ask God to help you. Once you have found your promise in God's Word, pray and ask God for success, just as Eliezer did in today's verse.

Is it really okay to pray for success? Yes! If you aren't praying for success, what's the alternative? Are you going to pray for God to make you a failure? Eliezer clearly shows us that it is okay to ask God for success in accomplishing a goal as long as the motive is right.

When your success helps people and honors God, praying for success does not become a selfish act. It is the means to good testimony. In fact, here is what the Bible says, "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God and there we will receive mercy and we will find grace to help us when we need it" (Hebrews 4:16 NLT).

If you study Genesis 24 further, you'll find that Eliezer prayed during his entire mission. In verse 12 he prays before he starts. In verse 15 he prays after he arrives in Nahor. And in verse 52 he prays in front of Rebekah's family.

So my question to you today is this: Are you praying about your goals? Are you praying about your future? Are you praying about your dreams or are you just kind of keeping them to yourself?

Your prayers reveal a couple of things. First, they reveal how serious you are about your goals. If you don't pray about them, you really don't care about them that much. If you only pray about them once, they are not a desire, they are just a whim.

The other thing your prayers reveal is how much you are depending on God to reach your goals. If you never pray about your goals, never pray about your job, never pray about your finances, you are not depending on God in any of those areas. The more you depend on God, the more you'll pray.

So determine your present position, decide what you want, find a promise from God to hold onto, claim it, and then ask God for help.

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Rick Warren..."You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay." Hebrews 10:36-37 (NIV)

If you're discouraged because of God's delay in answering your prayers, understand the delay is NOT a denial. Just because the answer or the miracle hasn't come - yet - that doesn't mean God isn't going to answer or that he's forgotten you or that he doesn't care about you. It simply means "not yet!"

Part of becoming spiritually mature is learning the difference between "no" and "not yet," between a denial and a delay.  God's delay may be a test of your patience. Anybody can be patient once. And, most people can be patient twice. And, a lot of us can be patient three times. So God tests our patience over and over and over.

He does it so you can see how patient you are. So you'll know what's inside you, and you'll be able to know your level of commitment. God tests you so that you can know he is faithful, even if the answers you seek are delayed.

If you're discouraged, turn it around by remembering God teaches you patience during delay. Ask him to transform your discouragement into patience.

You may be going through difficult times right now. You're discouraged because the situation you face seems unmanageable, unreasonable, or unfair.  It may seem unbearable and inside you're basically saying, "God, I can't take it anymore. I just can't take it anymore!"  But you can.

You can stay with it longer because God is with you. He'll enable you to press on. Remember, you are never a failure until you quit. Resist discouragement and finish the race God has set before you.

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Dr. James C. Denison..."But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!" (Habakkuk 2:3 LB).

Even as you make a decision to follow the dream God places in your heart, you can expect a delay. God will not fulfill your dream immediately because this is another step toward building your faith.

• Noah waited 120 years from the time he started building the ark until it began to rain.
• Abraham was told he would be the father of a great nation and didn't have a child until he was 99.
• God told Moses he would be the leader to lead his people out of 400 years of slavery, but then made him wait in the desert 40 years.
• Joseph spent years in prison before God raised him up and he became the ruler God wanted him to be.
• God had David anointed as king, but then David waited for years until he actually got to be king.

We all have to go through these waiting periods. Even Jesus waited for 30 years in the carpenter's shop before setting out on his public ministry.

Why do we wait? It teaches us to trust in God. We learn that His timing is perfect. One of the facts we have to learn is this: God's delay never destroys His purpose.

A delay is not a denial. Children must learn the difference between "no" and "not yet," and so must we. Many times we think God is saying, "No," but He is saying, "Not yet."

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Here's the good news: the mind which is contemplating you right now thinks you're more valuable than all the diamonds in all the mines in all the world. The God of the universe thinks about you more often than the number of grains of sand in the world (Psalm 139:17). He says that "whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye" (Zechariah 2:8). With David you can pray this morning, "Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings" (Psalm 17:8).

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Dr. James C. Denison…In understanding the logic of praying to an all-knowing, all-loving God, here’s where I think we are. One: Praying positions us to receive what God’s grace intends to give. Two: Praying changes us, as the Holy Spirit uses our communion with God to mold us into the image of Christ. Three: Praying for other people or in ways which involve others will bring results insofar as God does not violate their freedom. So pray persistently. Don’t give up on God.

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Rick Warren...In Philippians 1:9-11, Paul spells out exactly what he's praying for people. "And this is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God." (NIV)
These verses give you four things you can pray for people today -
1. "Abound in love ..." Pray that they will grow in love.
2. "Discern what is best ..." Pray that they make wise choices.
3. "Be pure and blameless ..." Pray that they will do the right thing.
4. "Filled with the fruit of righteousness ..." Pray that they will live for God's glory.

Why don't I get everything I pray for?" Here are three reasons:
1) God is not a genie. You don't put in a prayer, rub a thing and get whatever you want. If every prayer were answered we'd be spoiled brats. Just like you seeing the bigger picture when your kids ask for something, how much bigger is the picture God can see?
2) Sometimes Christians pray in conflict. You get two Christians praying at the Super Bowl for different teams. God can't answer every prayer at the same time.
But I think the real reason is this:
3) God knows what's best and you don't. If you think you do, that is very presumptuous. First John 5:14 tells us, "We are sure that He (God) hears us if we ask Him for anything that's according to His will."(GNT) Look at the phrase "according to His will." The attitude of your prayer needs to be: "Lord, this is my prayer request, but Thy will be done." That's what Jesus prayed, "Lord if it's possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless let Thy will..." (Luke 22:42).

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Max Lucado..Proper prayer follows the path of revealing God to us before revealing our needs to God. The purpose of prayer is not to change God, but to change us.

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Rick Warren..."Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

At one time or another, you've probably been in a situation where you've asked, "Doesn't God care?" The disciples asked this very question in Mark 4.

They were out in a boat on the lake when the winds and the waves came up. The water started sloshing over the boat and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping. The disciples woke Him up and asked the most important question you can ever ask, "Jesus, don't you care that we're drowning?" (Mark 4:38 NLT)

What about you? Does God care about your house payment, your health, whether you are a success or failure in life, your children and the education they get, whether you ever get married or not, about the argument you had with your boyfriend, or about how you feel this morning? God says, "You bet I care! I am a caring Father."

Matthew 6:31-32 says, "So do not worry saying, 'What shall we eat? ... or what shall we wear? ... Your heavenly Father knows that you need these things." The next verse goes on to say, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you." (NIV)

Scripture says that God is interested in every little detail of your life. That's so incredible I don't think it even sinks in. God is a caring God. He is concerned about every little detail in your life.

A while back, a man came into my office and said, "I'm a Christian but I don't feel like I'm going anywhere in my Christian life. I'm kind of stuck in neutral." I said, "What do you think the problem is?" He said, "I think my problem is I just don't love God enough." I said, "That's not your problem. Your problem is not that you don't love God enough. Your problem is that you don't understand how much He loves you."

Love is always a response to love. The Bible says, "We love because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19 NIV) When you say, "I don't love God," it's because you don't understand just how much He really loves you. He cares about every detail of your life. He is a compassionate, caring Father.

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Max Lucado...Our passionate prayers move the heart of God. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Prayer does not change God’s nature; who he is will never be altered. Prayer does, however, impact the flow of history. God has wired his world for power, but he calls on us to flip the switch.

Most of us struggle with prayer. We forget to pray, and when we remember, we hurry through prayers with hollow words. Our minds drift; our thoughts scatter like a covey of quail.

Satan seeks to interrupt our prayers. Our battle with prayer is not entirely our fault. The devil knows the stories; he witnessed the angel in Peter’s cell and the revival in Jerusalem. He knows what happens when we pray. “Our weapons have power from God that can destroy the enemy’s strong places” (2 Cor. 10:4 NCV). But the walls of hell shake when one person with an honest heart and faithful confession says, “Oh, God, how great thou art.”

Satan keeps you and me from prayer. He tries to position himself between us and God. But he scampers like a spooked dog when we move forward. So let’s do it.

God called us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) and Jesus declared that “My house will be called a house of prayer” (Mark 11:17 NIV).

No other spiritual activity is guaranteed such results. “When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action” (Matt. 18:19 MSG). He is moved by the humble, prayerful heart.

Teach me, Lord, to take full advantage of this amazing privilege, especially in regard to reaching others with your love. Give me a heart for those who have yet to experience the fullness of your grace, and prompt me to pray for them and for their welfare, both in this world and in eternity. Lord, bring me to the front lines of this battle. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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Pastor Greg Laurie...Are you facing an emergency today? Dial 911—Psalm 91:1, that is. Psalm 91 does not say you will never die. But it is saying that you won't die before your time. It is saying that until God is done with you, His angels will keep you in all your ways . . . in your ups and downs, when you are awake and asleep, in the sunshine and the rain.

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Greg Laurie...We don't always know what to pray in every given situation. That is when the Holy Spirit will help you, even interceding for you.

Romans 8:26–27 tells us, "And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don't even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will" (NLT).

What is God's will?

We as humans are always interested in the here and now—what will benefit us temporarily. However God sees things in the "bye and bye" and the eternal. God has a bigger plan than my personal happiness in the given moment. He desires my holiness as I am conformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

It is interesting that following Romans 8:27 is Romans 8:28-29, which say, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren."

Let's put this all together, because this is showing the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Allow me to loosely paraphrase: There are times when we are overwhelmed with the way life is going. We are so distressed that we don't even know how to pray, so we just sigh or groan. But the Holy Spirit takes these groans and sighs and turns them to prayers to the Father.

No matter what is happening, God is going to take your present circumstances and bring good out of bad. But His ultimate goal is to take all that happens, the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, and make us more like Jesus. Because that is the objective and endgame for every believer.  One other thing: I have found that happiness does not come from seeking it, but from seeking God. If you dedicate your life to being happy, it's doubtful you ever will be.

But if you focus instead on being holy—on being the person God has called you to be—you will find personal happiness as a byproduct of having your priorities in order.

When we get to heaven one day, all of this will make sense! Randy Alcorn, in his book Heaven, writes, "Seeing God will be like seeing everything else for the first time. Why? Because not only will we see God, He will be the lens through which we see everything else–people, ourselves, and the events of this life."