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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Productive Praying

By Dick Eastman
Dec. 30, 2012

“The great people of the earth are the people who pray,” wrote the gifted Bible teacher S.D. Gordon a century ago. He added, “Prayer isn’t the only thing, but it is the chief thing.”

Is prayer a priority of your everyday walk with Christ, or do you tend to pray only when difficult circumstances arise? Corrie ten Boom asks, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?”

All believers, if they understand the ways of God in any sense, recognize prayer is essential to spiritual growth. Charles Spurgeon said it well: “All the Christian virtues are locked up in the word prayer.” He adds, “Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the Kingdom.” Martin Luther chimes in, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”

What better time to renew our determination to make prayer a daily priority than when facing a new year. But if you’re like me, you not only want to make prayer a priority, you desire to make it productive as well. What exactly is productive praying?

In the simplest sense, productive praying is prayer that produces! God said, “Call to me, and I will answer you” (Jeremiah 33:3, NKJV). James wrote, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). More specifically, productive praying might be defined in terms of seven objectives.


1. Productive praying exalts God.

Because God “inhabits the praises” of His people (see Psalm 22:3, KJV), the more praise I can bring into my praying, the more of God’s presence will saturate it. The Hebrew word translated “inhabits” here comes from a root word meaning “to sit.” Of course, where God sits is His throne. It is thus appropriate to say that praise “enthrones” God in our praying.

I am told that a literal Japanese translation of this verse reads, “When you praise God He brings a big chair and sits there.” Ralph Herring reminds us, “Only a sovereign God can inspire prayer, and only a sovereign God can answer it. … Real prayer begins and ends with God enthroned.”

Our first objective for productive prayer, then, is to exalt God through praise and worship (Psalm 118:28). Paul Billheimer, in his classic book Destined for the Throne, wrote, “The secret of answered prayer is faith without doubt. And the secret of faith without doubt is praise, triumphant praise, continuous praise, praise that is a way of life.”


2. Productive praying enriches growth.

I am sometimes asked what I feel is the most important single lesson I have learned during a lifetime of prayer experiences. There have, of course, been many.

One, however, rises above the others. Through it I was to learn what I believe is the fundamental essence of all productive praying. It happened years ago during a particularly significant prayer encounter. I was reading Jeremiah’s words regarding Israel’s 70 years of Babylonian captivity and their ultimate freedom (see Jeremiah 29). It was in this context that God told Jeremiah, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, NKJV).

As I prayerfully pondered these words, I felt an inner directive from the Lord to take my pen and circle each of the three occurrences of the word “Me” in the text. I responded without hesitation. When I finished this brief act, God spoke to my heart again. It was unmistakable: You have just circled the three most important words regarding prayer in all of Scripture.

Somehow I instinctively knew what this meant. The essence of productive praying is not in how many answers we may receive or how much emotion we might feel, but in how much of God we touch.


3. Productive praying exercises authority.

Next, we must exercise authority in our praying. Christ admonished His disciples, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says” (Mark 11:22,23).

Of such authority E.M. Bounds penned these words: “Prayer projects faith on God, and God on the world. Only God can move mountains, but faith and prayer moves God.”

William Barclay adds, “What prayer does is to enable us, not to find a way round the hard thing but to go straight through it, not to avoid it but to accept it and overcome it. Prayer is not evasion; prayer is conquest.”

In the ministry I lead, Every Home for Christ, I recall the testimony of several of our indigenous workers who were evangelizing from village to village in the Solomon Islands. They came upon a river clearly infested with crocodiles. An unreached village awaited the good news on the other side.

The team huddled together to pray, asking God for wisdom and guidance. Workers recalled how Daniel faced a den of hungry lions and survived, so the team commanded the crocodiles’ mouths to stay shut — in Jesus’ name. Then, one by one, they swam across the river. Amazingly, the crocs floated motionless, seemingly oblivious to an easy afternoon lunch floating by.

Little did the workers realize that villagers hiding in the bush saw this act of faith unfold. The team soon arrived at the village, soaking wet, to a joyous welcome. The village chief quickly explained that no one had ever swum across that river and survived.

Using the Old Testament account of Daniel in the lions’ den to begin, our workers presented the gospel. By nightfall the majority of the villagers had prayed to receive Christ as Savior. Only then did our team learn from the old chief that for many generations the god of their village had been the crocodile. The chief then boldly affirmed, “From this day onward, we worship only your God!” Authoritative prayer had helped win a village to Christ! 


4. Productive praying eliminates strongholds.

S.D. Gordon wrote, “In its simplest meaning prayer has to do with spirit conflict.” Everywhere we look Satan has established fortresses of domination. Too often these exist in the lives of believers. Productive praying, then, must also include prayer that confronts these strongholds and eliminates them in Jesus’ name.

Jesus told Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19, NIV). Paul would later write: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).

D.L. Moody described this kind of bold praying: “Luther and his companions were men of such mighty pleading with God that they broke the spell of ages, and laid nations subdued at the foot of the cross. John Knox grasped all Scotland in his strong arms of faith, and his prayer terrified tyrants. [George] Whitefield, after much bold, faithful closet pleading, went to the devil’s playground and took more than a thousand souls out of the paws of the lion in one day.”


5. Productive praying enhances relationships.

When Jesus prayed His high priestly prayer five times (John 17), He requested that His disciples would be one. Christ was concerned about relationships. He taught His disciples, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25).

There is something about a daily quiet time in God’s Word that creates a climate for the believer to reflect on family, friends and others he or she relates to on a regular basis. This often leads to intercession on behalf of these, and allows the intercessor to receive revelation insight regarding strengthening those relationships.

As Charles H. Brent expressed, “Intercessory prayer might be defined as loving our neighbor on our knees.” Indeed, it is often out of such moments of intercessory prayer that we rise to put feet to our prayers and pursue ways to bless that neighbor. William Law suggested, “There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as praying for him.” 


6. Productive praying encompasses nations.

When was the last time you traveled to the nations in prayer? A sweeping promise recorded in Psalm 2:8 reads, “Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession” (Psalm 2:8, NKJV). Why not ask big? Ask for the nations!

True, Psalm 2 is a messianic psalm — a promise given by the Father to His Son. But remember, such promises are ours as well. We are rightfully “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).

We also know that Jesus directly tied the gathering of His harvest to prayer. Matthew 9:37,38 reads, “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’”

 Of such praying, Harold Lindsell wrote, “Distance is no barrier to reaching the remotest place on earth. Nor is the power of prayer diminished by the distance between the person who prays and the person who is prayed for. Men and nations can and do have their destinies decided by God’s praying people who, through intercessory prayer, wield power greater than the armed might of the nations of the earth.”

I encourage you to become a “world prayer missionary” and travel the world in prayer — to every nation, every month. It’s far easier than you might imagine if you have a simple plan.

(Every Home for Christ produces an annually updated, full-color world prayer map, free upon request, featuring a 31-day prayer calendar of the nations. Visit www.ehc.org to request a copy.)


7. Productive praying expects answers.

I’m always amazed at the faith of a praying child, even if that child doesn’t fully understand God’s ways in answering prayer. In Children’s Letters to God one lad wrote:

Dear God,

I wrote You before, do You remember? Well, I did what I promised but You did not send me the horse yet. What about it?

— Lewis

Humor aside, Jesus spoke of a faith that expects answers: “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24). God delights in the faith of His children who boldly petition Him, expecting great answers.

Writing in his classic book The Necessity of Prayer, E.M. Bounds cautions, “Before prayer ever starts toward God, before its petition is accepted, before its requests are made known — faith must have gone on ahead; must have asserted its belief in the existence of God; must have given it assent to the gracious truth that ‘God is a rewarder of those that diligently seek His face.’”

William McBirnie adds, “When we pray for rain we should get our umbrellas ready. When we pray for God’s power, we should get ready to act.”

So, dear reader, as you face a new year with joy and anticipation, and hopefully a determination to make prayer a daily priority, why not pray for “showers of blessings” (Ezekiel 34:26) — blessings on your family, your church and community, our nation and the nations of the world? And don’t forget your umbrella!


DICK EASTMAN is an ordained Assemblies of God minister and international president of Every Home for Christ, a global home-to-home evangelism ministry headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., that currently reaches more than 225,000 homes daily in 116 nations with the printed gospel. Dick is also a bestselling author of more than 15 books on prayer, evangelism and Christian growth, with more than 3 million copies in print.

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