5 Things That Make Prayer Powerful

Most people I know believe in the power of prayer. Few actually practice it though.

I’m not being judgmental. Until the last couple of years, my use of prayer was similar to Bugs Bunny’s use of dressing in drag: strategically reserved for only the biggest messes.

But now I can’t go the day without some serious praying.

I’ll spare you the long, useless sermonizing and get to the nitty gritty. Here are five things that make prayer powerful for me:

  • Consistency – my wife and I pray almost every morning, together, about an hour after we wake up. Some days we forget; when that happens, we usually notice a distinct difference in our attitudes and reactions to the events of the day. Often, if we miss in the morning, we’ll stop whatever we’re doing later in the day and carve out time to pray together. It makes a huge difference in our minds and hearts.
  • Honesty – this will sound weird, but if I’m praying about stuff that upsets me, I don’t try to hide that from God. I have, on occasion, uttered a word or phrase one would think inappropriate for conversation with the Almighty. I do not do this to be cool, nor do I do it because I am not reverent; on the contrary, I am too aware of God’s sovereignty to even think that I can “clean up” my thoughts. I’m not saying God condones cussing, but I do believe he values honesty more than attempts to preserve his delicate sensibilities. God is not someone’s 90 year-old grandmother.
  • Brevity – marathon prayers have their place, but not as a daily discipline. Too often, when I try and pray long prayers, I find that I venture away from the honesty God values. I get preachy, and, as a former pastor, that’s something I want to avoid. Brevity also forces you to make your point known to God instead of just hinting at it. Think of it this way: if you were sitting in a meeting with someone and they kept beating around the bush, you would eventually lose your mind. Most of us want people to get to the point; while God is infinitely more patient, I think the discipline of getting to the point is better for us because it forces us to be clear about what’s on our mind.
  • Sincerity – I can’t tell you how many times I prayed for stuff I didn’t really care about. I suppose you could file this under “Honesty”, but there’s enough of a distinction for me that I think it bears mention. I can honestly pray for someone else, but that doesn’t always mean I am sincerely invested in that situation. Being sincere when we pray about someone else’s sickness, or loss, or grief, helps us develop our empathy, which helps us pray with deeper sincerity.
  • Humor – this seems out of place when talking about prayer, but I find humor helps me stay away from too-pious prayer. I have no problem with piety, but when you get too-pious, you drift into a place where your prayers are hollow and bordering on spell-casting (which is another post for another day). The purpose of prayer is not for us to direct the affairs of God, but for God to direct the affairs of our lives; humor, especially in the midst of dark seasons, can be a powerful weapon to help alleviate our own drift towards playing God instead of talking to him.

This is a short list, but each of these five things have become important to me as I’ve learned to pray. You may be wired differently than me, so your list would naturally look different than mine (cuss words and humor, for instance, might not be part of your discipline). Regardless, creating space in your life for regular prayer is essential to a healthy relationship with God.

What do you do to make your prayer life powerful? What is something you have learned about prayer that you would share?

Sound off in the comments below, or on my Facebook page. You can also share your thoughts with me on Twitter (@JasonMuses).

11 thoughts on “5 Things That Make Prayer Powerful

    1. Sure. I see answers to prayers all the time. I’ve also seen many, many go unanswered, or seen things happen that were not as I had desired.

      What kind of evidence were you hoping for?

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      1. Hoping for? I consider there is no evidence and prayer is nothing but nonsense. But I could be wrong and am open to change my mind, so I was wondering exactly what evidence you believe you have that clearly demonstrates your god answers and how you differentiated between a genuine response from a deity as opposed to a minor delusion or pure chance – as in praying to find your missing keys, or asking for a parking spot?

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      2. I pray about everything, but recently the most specific answered prayer was my job. I was looking for a specific culture; a specific type of position; a specific type of boss; and a specific salary. Without broadcasting my requests to the universe, I came across a position that interested me. As I went through the process of interviewing, more and more of my criteria were ticked off, but even now, several months into my position, there are continual reassurances that my prayers have and are continuing to be answered.

        I understand the seeming triviality of prayer, especially when some of my greatest prayers–like for God to spare the life of my daughter who died–weren’t answered to my satisfaction. But I have come to understand that prayer isn’t as much me placing a cosmic order to a distant deity as it is me developing an understanding of God’s character and mind, which in turns shapes how I pray. It’s an intimacy unlike any other.

        I’m curious: what brought you to your current position on prayer?

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      3. How do you know this was a direct response from your god?

        And why do you think your god answered your prayer for a job and does not take notice of the thousands of children who are unable or unschooled in prayer die each year from malaria?

        Might your god only listen to prayers uttered by believers or do you think you are simply a tad arrogant to put your (relatively) paltry job request above the needs of the desperate children across the globe?

        I am an atheist. I find the whole idea of prayer selfish and nonsensical.

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      4. I don’t think God values my prayers more than those from people in dire and desperate situations. I don’t think he listens only to unbelievers, either. Truth is, he answers prayers big and small all the time, even in places where it seems he’s not “doing” much of anything.

        What trips us up most often is our expectations.

        As to how I know it was a direct response from God, I have a relationship with him through Jesus Christ, his son. And I have over 20-plus years of seeing prayers answered, both big and small, local and global.

        As I have aged, my prayers are more for other people–my kids, my wife, specific instances of pain and hurt in my community and within the human race–which is, I think the point of the exercise. It is not selfish to pray; it is, rather, the most generous thing I can do. I am limited in my ability to make a difference in the world; God, if he is real, is not. Therefore, asking him to intervene is wise.

        I understand the appeal of atheism, and I hope that you find it satisfying and fulfilling as a worldview.

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      5. Then why do you think your god helped you find a job but did nothing to alleviate the suffering of millions of children across the globe?
        Surely there must be a rational explanation for your god finding you a job and yet allowing several thousand children in the the same time frame to die.
        Your god isn’t capricious is he?
        So, how would explain this?

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      6. I think God does help those children; he just doesn’t necessarily do what you or I think ought to be done.

        I’ve been candid and honest with my answers, but I can see that you’re not interested in a dialogue as much as you’re interested in trying to force me into a corner. Thank you for your comments, but I am respectfully withdrawing from the conversation.

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      7. I was just curious as why you would think your god would consider finding you a job more important than saving the life of a child dying with malaria?
        You come across as though you are not really concerned with the life of such a child and think you having a job that you like is much more important to your god.
        I am wondering how you account for this? Surely you must have some rational explanation?

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