This article is an excerpt from my book, Prayer A to Z.
There is really only one prayer that a non-Christian can pray with the assurance that God will hear him. It is the prayer for mercy—from a humble heart that sincerely has decided to go God’s way. Any other prayers that are uttered by a non-Christian are an abomination to God and are not heard. Why? Well, it is not because God is not good. He is good (Read Matthew 5:43-45). It is because He can not grant any other request of the unsaved, because they naturally do not do what is right or seek after God (Romans 3:10-11). Isaiah 64:6 tells us that the unsaved are unclean and all their righteousness are like filthy rags to God. Therefore, God will not listen to their prayers because all their requests are made with selfish, ungodly motives.
What the world could use most is prayer. But for some reason most of us don’t understand the value of prayer. We come up with all kinds of solutions to our problems, but we miss the most important one—prayer. Prayer is the best solution because it brings us directly to God and gives us the power of God.
God is calling us to prayer. He invites us to His throne, and He says to us, “Call on Me and I will answer you,” “Come to Me and I will give you rest.” Moreover, He searches continually for the faithful, like Abraham, Moses, and Daniel who will sacrificially stand in the gap before Him (Ezek. 22:30).
But there are so few these days that are faithful in prayer. And there are so few preachers who preach and teach and model prayer. Peter Wagner, in his research, has found that 80% of the meaningful intercession in the average congregation is provided by only 5% of its people.
What is wrong? Why don’t we see the need for prayer? Why don’t our preachers preach on it more?
Well, one of the things we can do in our churches and fellowship groups to help people learn about prayer and how to pray is to provide a prayer ministry.
Two Purposes of a Prayer Ministry
A prayer ministry is simply a ministry having to do with prayer. A prayer ministry I think has two purposes:
1.It serves those who need prayer. This is its primary purpose—to see that people are prayed for, as many as possible.
2. It serves those who desire to pray. To accomplish the first and primary purpose, a prayer ministry must service the needs of those who desire to pray. This second objective I think is the main task of the prayer ministry—so that the primary purpose can be accomplished.
The prayer ministry, then, as I see it, is a vehicle to help people pray: to teach them about prayer, and to motivate them to pray. It may also provide for them people to pray with, people to pray for, a prayer atmosphere, and prayer tools. Overall, a prayer ministry will help people to develop a desire for prayer, to feel the call of God to pray, and to gain a sense of responsibility to pray and intercede for others.
So, the prayer ministry covers a lot of ground. It is a big service. But we must be careful that we don’t get off track so that we lose our focus. A prayer ministry should not be so focused on all the activities of its ministry, that it loses its focus on helping people pray.
I think this occupation with activities is what happens when leaders are more concerned with how the ministry looks then with people. Leaders sometimes get so caught up with getting people to events to hear grand messages on prayer, and they get so enthused about their prayer breakfasts and prayer charts and prayer chains and prayer walks, etc., that they forget about how their people are doing, whether they are learning how to prayer or not.
The heart and focus of the prayer ministry is being involved with people, not events. It exists to serve people—to counsel them and teach them and to help them grow in the Lord. If all our prayer activities and prayer tools distract us from our focus then we must get rid of them. They do us no good. Likewise, if we as leaders spend most of our time at our desk making plans and writing sermons, etc., and very little time with our people, that is just wrong! Jesus spent most of his time with His disciples. They learned by being with Him. They learned how to pray mainly by watching Him pray and by praying with Him. Let us as prayer leaders seek to do the same as Jesus did.
My writing adventure began about 1992, while I was attending Majestic Oaks Community Church. At the beginning, I was immersing myself in many books on prayer for the purpose of prayer ministry for the church. And I was content to read just the books I had on my shelves which I had collected over the years. Later, when I was thinking about the possibility of writing a book on prayer and when I was trying to put an outline together, I found that I had to look elsewhere for more books. The place that I looked most was at the Bethel Seminary library. I wasn’t a student there, but when I told them that I needed books for a book I was writing, they agreed to get me a library card.
I remember so well when the idea came to me about writing a book. I had recently moved into a place as a renter, and I remember lazily laying on my bed day dreaming of future possibilities of a book. I admit that my first thought was that maybe I could actually make some money on a book. But then, I also thought of just using a book to bring a good teaching to people on prayer. I concluded that I could kill two birds with one stone. Why not. So, I committed it to prayer and immediately began forming an outline. From the start of my reading on prayer, I had the desire to look at prayer from every possible angle, and to read especially from all the prayer experts and great scholars. So, I continued to go with that idea in developing my outline.
First, I scanned through all the books I had and jotted down all the possible prayer topics I could write on. I came up with over 70 topics. Too many. Then I had a great idea. If I could put them all in alphabetical order, I could entitle the book, Prayer A to Z. That would give me only 26 topics, but I could always have more than one topic under the same letter. Eventually, I managed to get all my topics in alphabetical order and also narrow the count down to just over 50. Then I got another idea. If I could come up with exactly 52 topics (chapters), that would give me a great year-long study of prayer, studying one chapter a week. I settled on that idea. It was all set. Now, all I needed to do was put it together—write the book.
I have heard from more than one Christian publishing company that authors should never brag about how their book was designed by God. And I can see their point. But just between you and me, I definitely got the impression in seeing how my book came together so easily, that God had a part in it. Yes, I do feel that God wanted me to write the book and that He definitely helped me put it together.
When I began thinking of what I wanted the book to be like, my thoughts were drawn to some of the classic books on prayer I have read, books by E. M. Bounds, Andrew Murray, Hudson Taylor, R. A. Torrey, and Charles Spurgeon. I considered these authors to be powerful and holy men of God, and so I wanted to follow in their steps.
What would I do? How would I form its content? The first thing I did was to look through all the books I had (about 30 book) to get ideas. I wrote down all the possible topics or chapter titles. I came up with about 80 topics; and I also decided that I would take some time to read through the bible to find all the prayers of the bible. It took me over a year; and during that time, I also worked on the formation of the chapters. Eighty chapters was way too many. I eventually narrowed it down to 52 chapters, including five chapters on the prayers of the bible.
Then I had a brilliant idea. If a person would read and study one chapter a week, that would make a good year-long study. I also got the idea of trying to put all the chapters in alphabetical order. That took some doing, but it came together. Well, after I was done patting myself on the back for my brilliance, I suddenly got the thought that maybe God had something to do with it. And the more I realized how everything came together, I was sure of it. It was all His doing!
Okay, here are the fifty-two chapters, with just a short comment on each chapter.
Answers to Prayer. Seventeen pages on this topic. A great start.
Aroma of Prayer. This is a favorite to many readers.
Authority of Prayer. All our authority is in Christ.
Burden in Prayer. In this chapter you realize God’s heart of compassion.
Confidence in Prayer. Discover God-confidence in prayer.
Definition of Prayer. Discover here what prayer is.
Desire in Prayer. It is important to pray with desire.
Earnestness in Prayer. Earnest prayer grows out of desire.
Evangelism in Prayer. How to pray for the lost.
Failure in Prayer. Why we fail in prayer.
Faith and Prayer. Why faith is necessary in prayer.
Fasting and Prayer. Instruction and guidelines for Fasting.
Forgiveness and Prayer. Why forgiveness is so necessary for prayer.
God’s Idea. Prayer is God’s idea.
Holiness and Prayer. Holiness always goes with prayer.
Holy Spirit and Prayer. Prayer and the Holy Spirit work together.
How to Pray – Part 1. Eight of Jesus’ Teachings on Prayer.
How to Pray – Part 2. A study of the Lord’s Prayer.
Importunity in Prayer. Persistent and urgent prayer.
Intercession – Part 1. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit’s Intercession.
Intercession – Part 2. The definition of intercession.
Intercession – Part 3. How we intercede for others.
Jesus’ Name. Prayer in Jesus’ name.
Kneeling in Prayer. Prayer posture.
Length of Prayer. How long should we pray for.
Ministry of Prayer. Practical help on how to have a prayer ministry.
Necessity of Prayer. Nine reasons why prayer is necessary.
Obedience and Prayer. Being obedient to God is so necessary in prayer.
Possibilities of Prayer. Praying for big things.
Power in Prayer. How to have power in your prayers.
Praise and Prayer – Part 1. Praise as a vital part of prayer.
Praise and Prayer – Part 2. Biblical examples of praise.
Prayerlessness. The sin of prayerlessness.
Quietness in Prayer – Part 1. Hearing God’s voice.
Quietness in Prayer – Part 2. Our quiet time with God.
Quietness in Prayer – Part 3. The importance of solitude.
Quietness in Prayer – Part 4. How the Devil perverts our prayers.
Revival and Prayer. What part prayer has in revival.
Specific Praying. How to pray specifically.
Survey of Prayer – Part 1. Prayers of the Bible, Abraham through Moses.
Survey of Prayer – Part 2. Prayers of the Bible, Joshua through Samuel.
Survey of Prayer – Part 3. Prayers of the Bible, David through Jehoshaphat.
Survey of Prayer – Part 4. Prayers of the Bible, Elijah through Daniel.
Survey of Prayer – Part 5. Prayers of the Bible, Ezra through John.
Travail in Prayer. Why we need to travail in prayer.
United Prayer. Praying together in agreement.
Vigilance in Prayer – Part 1. Why vigilance is necessary.
Vigilance in Prayer – Part 2. Overcoming the enemy through vigilance.
Word and Prayer. The use of the word in Prayer.
Xanadu. Experiencing the beauty of prayer.
Yielding in Prayer. Why we must yield to God when we pray.
Zenith of Prayer. This last chapter of 93 pages summarizes the entire book.