GOD'S PROMISE: "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of him." I John 5:14-15
Praise is the first step to take in prayer.
“Sing to the Lord, all the earth; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He also is to be feared above all gods” (1 Chron. 16:23-25).
Praise, according to the Scriptures, is an act of our will that flows out of an awe and reverence for our Creator. Praise gives glory to God and opens us up to a deeper union with Him. It turns our attention off of our problems and on the nature and character of God Himself. As we focus our minds on God and proclaim His goodness, we reflect His glory back to Him. The results can fill you with peace and contentment (Isaiah 26:3) and transform your outlook on life. “It is better to put on a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3)
- We praise God because He is worthy of our praise (1 Chron. 16:25; Rev. 5:11-14). He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is our Creator, Provider, Healer, Redeemer, Judge, Defender and much more.
- We praise God to be obedient to Him. The Bible says God is a “jealous” God who demands and desires our praise. “You shall have no other gods before Me,” says the first commandment (Deut. 6:7). As the psalmist said, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6).
- Praising God helps restore us to that right relationship, for God actually dwells in the praises of His people ( Psalm 22:3). As we draw near to the Father in praise, He draws near to us (James 4:8). We were created by God to praise Him ( Isa. 43:7, Matt. 21:16).
- Praise is also our ultimate destiny. When the Lord Jesus Christ returns again to earth, all creation — including prideful mankind — will recognize His glory and praise Him (Phil. 2:9-11).
PRAISE FOR PROTECTION
God also gives us assurances of additional blessings as we praise Him. When we praise God, He honors us as His children, and provides His loving protection (2 Sam. 22:47-51). Failure to praise God, however, leaves us out of fellowship with God and out of His divine protection ( 1 Samuel 2:27-32).
Our praise can also serve as a powerful witness to those who do not know the Lord (1 Peter 2:9). Also, God can work miraculously through our praises. The ancient walls of Jericho came crashing down, giving victory to God’s people, as a result of shouts of praise ( Joshua 6:1-21). The prison doors shook open when Paul and Silas praised God ( Acts 16:25-26).
OBSTACLES TO PRAISE
Praise is both important and powerful. So why is it so difficult at times to praise God? The Bible explains that, even with the power of the indwelling Jesus, our hearts are still “more deceitful that all else” (Jer. 17:9). We sometimes forget that we are always dependent on God to live victoriously in this life.
Satan therefore tries to persuade us that we will eventually reach a point where we can “do it ourselves.” The Scriptures are clear that Satan “prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Disguised as an “angel of light,” the devil and his host seek subtly to subvert the praises the children of God owe to their heavenly Father.
God, however, has given us grace in times of need, provided we humble ourselves (Matt. 23:12; James 4:5-10). Praising God allows us to defeat the strategies of the enemy. As God’s adopted children, we no longer have to remain slaves to sin (Gal. 4:6-7). We have a powerful spiritual weapon in praise, and it is guaranteed to be effective (2 Cor. 10:4-5).
Confession is the second step you will take in prayer.
Our relationship must be right with God, and with others, if we desire him to hear and answer our prayers. “Confess” means to agree with God that something is sin in our life. The wonderful promise in God’s Word is, “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Confession of sin alone is not all that God requires. He asks that we repent, that we turn away from our sinful activities and turn instead to follow Him. Repentance can be defined as: “A turning away from sin, disobedience, or rebellion and a turning back to God. In a more general sense, repentance means a change of mind or a feeling of remorse or regret for past conduct. True repentance is a ‘godly sorrow’ for sin, an act of turning around and going in the opposite direction. This type of repentance leads to a fundamental change in a person’s relationship to God.” The Apostle Paul notes this in (Acts 3:19-20): “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus.”
Repentance doesn’t mean we become perfect. God understands that even at our best, we may backslide at times. However, every time we seek His forgiveness, we will receive it. There is even better news for those who have learned to confess their sins, to repent and to turn to God. The Bible says Jesus Himself will come to our aid. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).
When sins are forgiven by God, the Bible says that God does not hold those sins against us. Psalm 103:11-12 says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
Thanksgiving is the third step you will take in prayer.
Spend some time together thanking God for some specific things he has done for you. During this time do not ask God for anything, only offer him your thanksgiving. “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:18) Remember that you are not thanking God for difficult things, but you are thanking him for being with you in the midst of them.
Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:12–14)
The Bible repeatedly stresses the importance of giving thanks. “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Psalm 50:14). “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His loving-kindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His works with joyful singing” (Psalm 107:21–22). “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Thy name, O Most High” (Psalm 92:1). “Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Ephesians 5:20). “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17). “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15). Thanksgiving should permeate our speech, our songs, and our prayers.
These first three steps prepare your heart for the fourth step-Intercession.
Intercession is prayer that pleads with God for your needs and the needs of others. But it is also much more than that. Intercession involves taking hold of God’s will and refusing to let go until His will comes to pass.
Intercession is warfare — the key to God’s battle plan for our lives. But the battleground is not of this earth. The Bible says, “We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and spiritual powers in the heavens above” (Eph. 6:12). Intercessory prayer takes place in this spiritual world where the battles for our own lives, our families, our friends and our nation are won or lost.
If you are born again, you are God’s son or daughter (John 1:12). As His child, you have a direct “hotline” to God. At any time, you can boldly come into His presence (Heb. 4:16) This incredible access to God is the basis for intercession. Once you are in God’s presence, you can now discover His battle plan for the situation you are facing. Because prayer alone is not enough — you need a target for your prayers!
To discover God’s plan, all you have to do is ask. The Bible says that “if any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). When we ask God for wisdom, His desires will become the focus of our prayers. “Let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to Him” (Romans 12:2).
- First, recognize that Jesus is in control of the situation. Jesus “rules over forces, authorities, powers, and rulers … over all beings in this world and will rule in the future world as well” (Eph. 1:21). He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Then, put on “all the armor God gives” (see Eph. 6) so that you will be ready to fight with God’s weapons. These are the “weapons of our warfare” that can pull down strongholds in the spirit world (see 2 Cor. 10:3,4). They will also protect you from the attacks that are sure to come once you begin the spiritual battle.
- Next, bind the work of Satan, knowing that Jesus has given you authority “to defeat the power of your enemy” (Luke 10:19). If God shows you the identity of specific spiritual strongholds that are at work, take authority over these strongholds in the name of Jesus. And always remember that “God’s Spirit is in you and is more powerful that the one that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
- Finally, as you begin the spiritual battle, take comfort knowing that you are not alone: Jesus also is interceding on your behalf! The Bible says that Jesus “is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25; see also Romans 8:26,27,34).
Intercessory prayer is also prayer that doesn’t give up. It’s the kind of prayer that endures all setbacks and overcomes every obstacle. It’s prayer that “presses on” until we “apprehend” God’s will in whatever situation we are facing (see Phil. 3:12).
This kind of prayer is the key to seeing breakthroughs in your life and in the lives of those around you. Jesus gave a great model for intercession in the story of the persistent friend. Here we see a friend who knocks on his neighbor’s door at midnight to ask for three loaves of bread. The neighbor does not want to get up, but Jesus said, “because of his friend’s persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs” (Luke 11:8, NASB).
Then Jesus said, “Everyone who asks will receive, everyone who searches will find, and the door will be opened for everyone who knocks” (Luke 11:10). Those words mean keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. In God’s time, your persistence in intercessory prayer will reap a spiritual harvest in your life and the lives of those around you!
God is calling Christians to join His battle plan for this world — to join in intercessory prayer. He is not looking for perfect prayer warriors, just willing hearts who want to see His will come to pass on the earth. All you have to do is turn to the Lord in prayer:
"Father, I come into Your presence and ask You to give me the heart of the intercessor. Help me to be persistent in prayer until the breakthrough comes. Thank You for this powerful weapon of spiritual warfare -- and for Your faithfulness in my life. In Jesus' name. Amen."