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How to Pray

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Call to Worship  Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to our cries; give ear to prayers from lips free of deceit..

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words.

Wondrously show your steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.

As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

*Praise                      # 350       Open My Eyes, That I May See”

*Invocation (Lord’s Prayer) You hear the prayers of your people and you pay attention to their requests.  Your faithfulness spans generations and nations, as a cloak of protection sewn with compassionate care.      You promise your presence as your Spirit abides in our midst. We bow down before you, as our ancestors have done before us, in praise and adoration of your gracious name.  //  Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen

*Gloria Patri (Sung together)                                                    

*Psalm for Today                                                                 Psalm 17:1-7 (NLT)

O Lord, hear my plea for justice.  Listen to my cry for help.  Pay attention to my prayer, for it comes from honest lips.

Declare me innocent, for you see those who do right.

You have tested my thoughts and examined my heart in the night.  You have scrutinized me and found nothing wrong.  I am determined not to sin in what I say.

I have followed your commands, which keep me from following cruel and evil people.

My steps have stayed on your path; I have not wavered from following you.

I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray.

Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways.  By your mighty power you rescue those who seek refuge from their enemies.

Just for Kids Ac 1:21-2621 “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus— 22 from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”

23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they all prayed, “O Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen 25 as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven.

Bring paper, red crayon, toy car,  shower cap, spoon.  I’m going to act out some things we do just about every day. Try to guess each thing I act out.  Draw a pic, move the car around the group, put on shower cap and pretend to take a shower, use the spoon and pretend to eat soup.

When can we pray?  Can we pray when we’re coloring with red?  Can we pray when we’re riding in the car?  Can we pray in the shower or bathtub?  Can we pray before we eat?  When do you pray?  // The disciples had to make a very important decision.  They prayed to ask God to help them make the right decision.  Can we pray to ask God to help us make a good choice?  We can pray to God at any time and in any place.

Dear God, it’s good to know that we can pray to you any time in any place.  Thank you for always hearing our prayers.  AMEN.

Joel 2:28 “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.

Acts 2:17-18 ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy.

Our Offering to God        the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”


*Prayer of Dedication  Gracious God, your compassion brings wholeness, and your forgiveness brings promise of new life.  Through Christ the gifts of your grace are available to all.  We place ourselves before you as recipients of your mercy; we make offerings to you in response to Christ’s call.  Accept them as tributes to your glory as we dedicate ourselves anew to Christ’s service.

Scripture Reading                                                                         Isaiah 55:1-5 (NLT)

1 “Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink—even if you have no money!  Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it’s all free! 

2Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?  Why pay for food that does you no good?  Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.  You will enjoy the finest food.

3“Come to me with your ears wide open.  Listen, and you will find life.  I will make an everlasting covenant with you.  I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.  4See how I used him to display my power among the peoples. I made him a leader among the nations.  5You also will command nations you do not know, and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey, because I, the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”

*Hymn of Prayer            # 1         “Holy, Holy, Holy”

Pastoral Prayer  As far back as we can remember, gracious God, we have been told that you are love, and that all who love are born of you and know you. We accept this truth in our minds, but our actions tell a very different story. We confess that we have rationed our love - confined it to those who place few demands upon us because they are so much like us./We have failed to act in love toward the poor, the homeless, the stranger; toward those we deem our enemies or our nation's foes; toward those who have nothing to give in return; toward those we believe we cannot help./Forgive our lack of love. Help us, through the change of heart and life that is true repentance, to grow in knowledge and love of you; / so many needs surround us: those who suffer from sickness of body or mind; those who labor in unsatisfying jobs; those without homes, without help, without hope; those who serve in the military far from home; those whose families are wracked by dissent; those without families or friends; those who struggle against poverty or the addiction to money and power; those who draw near to the end of life and the final mystery of death. Beyond our individual concerns are those of the world: for justice and freedom for all people; for leaders who serve their people without exploitation; for careful stewardship of the natural world. As we await your Spirit, help us to open our hearts to you and to others, shining forth the love with which you have blessed the world, even Jesus Christ our Lord, who is mercy and peace. Amen.  


*Hymn of Praise          # 309        “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say”

Scripture Text                                                                  Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21 (NLT)

The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.  The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.  The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it.  When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.  The Lord is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness.  The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.  He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them.  The Lord protects all those who love him, but he destroys the wicked.  I will praise the Lord, and may everyone on earth bless his holy name forever and ever.

Message                       How to Pray

You won’t find it in the Bible. I don’t know of a single text that says, “God is nice.” Particularly when we define “nice” in terms of its synonyms—agreeable, congenial, favorable, and pleasant. God is merciful, yes. And compassionate. But nice? Never.

Some folks, however, want to think of God as being nice. Much too nice to get angry or upset at people. Much too nice to punish sin. Maybe the “God of the Old Testament” was harsh. But, they say, the “God of the New Testament” is loving. And what they mean by loving is “nice.” He’s candy-sweet, and all too innocuous to fear.

Second Thessalonians 1:5–10 must come as a shock to the proponents of “God is nice” theology. What’s this about Jesus coming to “punish those who do not know God”? What’s this about being “punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord”? Why, that doesn’t sound nice at all!

It isn’t nice. But it is just, and it is right. God the loving is also God the Judge. God the tender is God the tough. God the compassionate is God the severe. And when Jesus comes, those who have accepted the Gospel and those who have not will display these desperate aspects of the character of our God. // But no one will assume that “God is nice.”

Maintain your respect for God: don’t fall into the trap of dismissing Him as “nice.”

C.S. Lewis  wrote “The demand that God should forgive such a man while he remains what he is, is based on a confusion between condoning and forgiving. To condone an evil is simply to ignore it, to treat it as if it were good. But forgiveness needs to be accepted as well as offered if it is to be complete: and a man who admits no guilt can accept no forgiveness.[1]

The fact that God is just rather than nice is one of the reasons that we are taking this month to pray for America.  As a country we feel that everyone else is guilty, but not me.

Principles of prayer are revealed in the context of preaching and teaching the “whole counsel” of God’s word.  The truths are found throughout the Bible.  The practice of prayer spans the whole Bible and encompasses the believer’s whole life.  //

Rowland Hill, the famous preacher, was once driven by a storm of rain into a village inn, and compelled to spend the night there. When it grew late, the landlord said: “Sir, I wish you would go to bed. I must see all the lights out: I am so afraid of fire.” “So am I,” was the reply, “but I have been expecting to be called for family prayer.” “All very good, sir; but it cannot be done at an inn.” “Indeed! then, get me my horse. I cannot go to sleep in a house where there is no family prayer.”

The host preferred to dismiss his prejudice rather than his guest, and said, “I have no objection to have prayer, but I don’t know how.” “Well, then call in the family servants, and let us see what can be done.” The landlord obeyed and in a few minutes the astonished domestics were on their knees, and the landlord called upon to pray. “Sir, I never prayed in my life. I don’t know how.” “Ask God to teach you,” was the gentle reply. The landlord, folding his hands, said, “God teach us how to pray.” “That is prayer, my friend,” cried Mr. Hill, joyfully, “go on.” “I am sure I don’t know what to say now, sir.” “Yes, you do; God has taught you how to pray; now thank Him for it.” “Thank you, God Almighty, for letting us pray to you.” “Amen! Amen!” exclaimed Rowland Hill, and then offered prayer himself.

Two years afterward, Mr. Hill found in that same village a chapel and a school, as a result of the first effort of family prayer at the “Black Lion.”[2]

Praying4America is not intended for political expression but for spiritual intercession.  Before we talk about how to pray let me just briefly outline why we should pray for America.

·        Because America is faced with major decisions.  We will soon choose a new President and Vice President, a new Congress, and leaders at all levels nationwide. These are serious decisions that demand serious prayer.

·        Because America has deep seated crises that must be met with God’s wisdom.   There is a crisis of confidence in our leaders, a crisis of uncertainly as we face the future, a crisis of character that threatens to undermine our society. 

·        Because America is moving its biblical landmarks.  The interpretation of “In God we Trust” and “one nation under God” is now very different than generations past.

·        Because America is loosing it Christian memory.  We do have a rich Christian heritage, but it is being forgotten as American culture strays farther and farther from a once-dominant Christian/Biblical influence.

·        Because America has been blessed by God in the past as an answer to prayer.  We are blessed to live in this land, but we must not take it for granted, and prayer is the most proactive way we can respond, calling on Him to keep blessing America.///////////

Today I want to give you 6 of 12 practical keys to effective prayer.

1.  Pray persistently.  God’s delays are not denials. Revelation 22:20  We don’t know the day or the hour, but Jesus is coming soon and unexpectedly.   

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to illustrate their need for constant prayer and to show them that they must never give up. Luke 18:1  This verse is followed by the story of the godless judge and the woman who would not stop pestering him for justice. To persist in prayer and not give up does not mean endless repetition or painfully long prayer sessions. Constant prayer means keeping our requests continually before God as we live for him day by day, believing he will answer. When we live by faith, we are not to give up. God may delay answering, but his delays always have good reasons. As we persist in prayer, we grow in character, faith, and hope.

Luke 11:8  Persistence, or boldness, in prayer overcomes our insensitivity, not God’s. To practice persistence does more to change our heart and mind than his, and it helps us understand and express the intensity of our need. Persistence in prayer helps us recognize God’s work. // We must learn from biblical examples:  the woman who had an answer for every objectionMa152128

The blind man who refused to stop crying outmark 10:46-52 The man who would not give up at midnightLuke 11:5-8 The widow who wore down the judge with her ceaseless pleading Luke 18:1-8     

2. Pray insistently.  James 5:16-18 The Christian’s most powerful resource is communion with God through prayer. The results are often greater than we thought were possible. Some people see prayer as a last resort to be tried when all else fails. This approach is backward. Prayer should come first. Because God’s power is infinitely greater than ours, it only makes sense to rely on it—especially because God encourages us to do so.                                    

A Lady in Melbourne, Australia, in reading the book “How to Pray” was greatly impressed by one sentence of two short words, “Pray through.” It took a great hold upon her and she began to organize prayer circles all over Melbourne. There were 1,700 prayer circles a week and the wonderful success of the mission was largely due to these prayer circles. This lady told Mr. Alexander this story and it made a great impression on him. He afterwards said the two words, “ ‘Pray through,’ gripped me like a vice.” One day he had occasion to go into a bank in Liverpool to get some money. While he was standing at the bank counter waiting for the clerk to come, he picked up a pen and began to write on the blotter in large letters these two words, which had been burned into his soul, “Pray through,” “Pray through,” “Pray through.” Over and over and over again he wrote it on the blotter until the big blotter was filled from top to bottom with the words “Pray through.” After he had transacted his business he went way.

The next day a friend said that he had a striking story to tell him. “A business man came into the bank soon after we had gone. He had grown discouraged with business troubles. He started to transact some business with the same clerk over that blotter, when his eyes caught the long column of ‘pray through.’ He asked who wrote those words, and when he was told, he exclaimed, ‘That is the very message I needed. I will pray through. I have tried to worry through in my own strength, and have merely mentioned my troubles to God. Now I am going to pray the situation through until I get light.’ ”[3]

in Acts 12:5 Herod’s plan undoubtedly was to execute Peter, but the believers were praying for Peter’s safety. The earnest prayer of the church significantly affected the outcome of these events. Prayer changes things, so pray often and with confidence.

3. Pray confidently.  We can have a right relationship with God by trusting him. Our outward actions—church attendance, prayer, good deeds—will not by themselves make us right with God. A right relationship is based on faith—the heartfelt inner confidence that God is who he says he is and does what he says he will do.

Allow God to work in response to your prayer.  In John 14:14 when Jesus says we can ask for anything, we must remember that our asking must be in his name—that is, according to God’s character and will. God will not grant requests contrary to his nature or his will, and we cannot use his name as a magic formula to fulfill our selfish desires. If we are sincerely following God and seeking to do his will, then our requests will be in line with what he wants, and he will grant them.

Avoid trying to answer your own prayers.  In Genesis 16 Sarai gave Hagar to Abram as a substitute wife, a common practice of that time. The children born to the servant woman were considered the children of the wife. Abram was acting in line with the custom of the day, but his action showed a lack of faith that God would fulfill his promise.

Rely on God’s unlimited power and resources.

God is ready and willing to work on our behalf.  Ephesians 3:20  promises by his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.

4. Pray resistantly. Recognize the enemy - Ephesians 6:12  We face a powerful army whose goal is to defeat Christ’s church. When we believe in Christ, these beings become our enemies, and they try every device to turn us away from him and back to sin. Although we are assured of victory, we must engage in the struggle until Christ returns, because Satan is constantly battling against all who are on the Lord’s side. We need supernatural power to defeat Satan, and God has provided this by giving us his Holy Spirit within us and his armor surrounding us. If you feel discouraged, remember Jesus’ words to Peter: “Upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it”

Recognize the enemies tactics- Distraction, reminders of past failures, and discouragement.  Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour. 9Take a firm stand against him, and be strong in your faith. 1 Peter 5:8, 9/ Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.  Lions attack sick, young, or straggling animals; they choose victims who are alone or not alert. Peter warns us to watch out for Satan when we are suffering or being persecuted. Feeling alone, weak, helpless, and cut off from other believers, so focused on our troubles that we forget to watch for danger, we are especially vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. During times of suffering, seek other Christians for support. Keep your eyes on Christ, and resist the Devil. Then, says James, “he will flee from you”. 

5. Pray specifically.  Acknowledge dependence on the Lord by being specific.  The visitor in Luke 11:5 asks for three loaves rather than just bread.

Avoid generalizations in prayer, intercession has a specific focus.  Praying for a specific city, state or leader is more effective than praying God Bless America.  If you keep a prayer list or guide it can be very helpful and beneficial.

6. Pray unceasingly according to 1 Thessalonians 5:17.  We cannot spend all our time on our knees, but it is possible to have a prayerful attitude at all times. This attitude is built upon acknowledging our dependence on God, realizing his presence within us, and determining to obey him fully. We can find it natural to pray frequent, spontaneous, short prayers.

Pray “arrow” prayers.  Arrow prayers are the kind that we constantly shoot up to God during the day.  Arrow prayers reflect our natural turning to God throughout the day- sharing with Him our feelings, hurts, happiness, disappointments, needs and concerns.  Arrow prayers are spontaneous and natural.  As breathing is to our physical function, so prayer is to our spiritual function.  Arrow prayers occur in the flow of life.  Such as praying for the person in the ambulance that passes by with the siren blaring.  Praying for the students in a particular school.  Praying for the right words to say in the middle of a conversation.  Praying for safety in an uncertain situation.  Arrow prayers are best aimed from a life that is grounded on the foundation of worship and intercessory prayer.

*Communion Hymn


*Hymn of Response                                                                                            # 25

“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”

*Sending forth  


An important element of the Praying4America initiative is the preaching of messages that emphasize the overarching view of prayer.

Historically, spiritual awakenings have almost always been preceded by prayer.

        Praying4America is not a gimmick; it is an exercise in strategic intercession at an historic moment.

        The means to becoming a people of prayer is not just to study the doctrines of prayer, but to pray.

        God’s delays are not God’s denials.

        “In prayer we do not conquer God’s reluctance; rather we take hold of His willingness.”

 --Philip Brooks.

        Praying for a specific city, state or leader is more meaningful than praying

“God bless America.”

Arrow prayers—the kind we constantly shoot up to God throughout the day—reflect our natural turning to Him with our feelings, hurts, happiness, disappointments, needs and concerns.

Pray boldly because of who Christ is:  our high priest and advocate.  Pray boldly because of who you are:  a believer priest.

Asking must come from a heart that is abiding.

“It is in silent moments, between prayers,  that God speaks to us, and in this silent communication with our Heavenly Father we are changed.  We are not there primarily to ‘get things’ but to realize God’s presence.  –Rosalind Rinker

Pray naturally.

Communicate with God in your own language, from your own heart.

Communicate with God as freely and naturally as possible.

Remember that He knows you.  (Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 4:6-7)

Remember that He loves you, accepts you, and understands you.

Pray knowing that He hears and answers.


[1]Richards, L. (1990). The 365 day devotional commentary. Includes index. (1024). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

[2]Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

[3]Torrey, R. A. (1907). Anecdotes and illustrations (157). New York: Fleming H. Revell Co.

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