We often overlook confession. Perhaps we live unaware of our sins. Maybe we think if we don’t talk about them, God will not notice. We probably don’t realize how absolutely bad sin is. But the consequences of sin are dire. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened (Psalm 66:18 NLT). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
David gave a psalm of thanks when the Ark of God came to Jerusalem. Now the people had a special place to meet with God (see 1 Chronicles 15-16). His psalm demonstrates how to give thanks when we pray:
Give thanks to the Lord,
Call on his name.
Make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him,
Sing praise to him;
Tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
Seek his face always.
Remember the wonders he has done,
His miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.
He remembers his covenant forever,
The word he commanded to a thousand generations.
Sing to the Lord, all the earth;
Proclaim his salvation day after day.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
Strength and joy are in his dwelling place.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
His love endures forever.
Cry out, “Save us, O God our Savior;
Gather us and deliver us from the nations,
That we may give thanks to your holy name.”
God’s Word inspires prayer. It always has. Here’s what the Israelites prayed after Ezra the priest read the Bible to them (from Nehemiah 9 NLT):
May your glorious name be praised!
May it be exalted above all blessing and praise!
You alone are the Lord.
You have done what you promised,
For you are always true to your word.
Our ancestors were proud and stubborn.
They refused to obey.
They committed terrible blasphemies.
But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful,
Slow to become angry and rich in unfailing love.
You did not abandon them.
You were patient with them for many years.
What a gracious and merciful God you are!
You sent your Spirit, who warned them through your prophets.
But still, they wouldn’t listen!
And now, great trouble has come upon us.
We have sinned greatly.
You gave us only what we deserved.
God, the great and mighty and awesome God,
Who keeps his covenant of unfailing love,
Do not let all the hardships we have suffered seem insignificant to you.
We are in great misery.
Notice that they praised God for who He is, remembered what He had done, and trusted that He cared about their suffering.
Do not give up.
No matter how long it takes.
Even it means asking ten thousand times.
It seems like that’s what David did.
Here’s how he prayed:
“O Lord, how long will you forget me?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle
with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes,
Or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying,
“We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice
Because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
Because he is good to me.”
— Psalm 13 NLT
People who trust in God’s goodness have strength to persevere in prayer.
Because he knew he was helpless, the sick man’s conversation with Jesus was simple. Here’s how to pray his story (John 5:1-15):
The story: Crowds of sick people lay, waiting to be healed. Jesus asked one man if he wanted to get well. The sick man said, “I can’t. I have no one to help me.”
Your prayer: “Lord, I can’t.”
The story: Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”
Your prayer: “Lord, help me do what you say.”
The story: Instantly the man was healed!
Your prayer: “Lord, I can’t. But you can.”
The story: Jesus found the man and said, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen.”
Your prayer: “Lord, keep me from deliberate sins. Don’t let them control me (from Psalm 19:13).”
The truth behind the prayer:
The weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength (1 Corinthians 1:25).
God is able to do far more than we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).
Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).
“Jesus loves me!
This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong;
They are weak, but he is strong.”
Think about the Lord as you pray. He is:
The source of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3)
My refuge (Psalm 46:1)
My strength (Psalm 28:7)
My helper (Psalm 54:4)
Kind and Good (Psalm 116:5)
Merciful and Forgiving (Daniel 9:9)
The power that saves me
My place of safety (Psalm 18:2)
The Creator of everything that exists (Jeremiah 10:16)
The King over all the earth (Psalm 47:7)
Everlasting (Isaiah 40:28)
Holy and Jealous (Joshua 24:19)
My light and My salvation (Psalm 27:1)
An honest judge (Psalm 7:11)
Wise (Romans 16:27).
Mighty (Psalm 50:1)
Faithful (Isaiah 30:18)
Love (1 John 4:8)
The Lord spoke with Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend (Exodus 33:11). Model your prayer after their conversation. Here’s how Moses prayed:
Moses said, “You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me. You have told me, ‘I know you by name, and I look favorably on you. . . . let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.”
The Lord replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest — everything will be fine for you.”
Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. How will anyone know that you look favorably on me — on me and on your people – if you don’t go with us? For your presence sets us apart from all other people on the face of the earth.”
The Lord replied, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you and I know you by name.”
Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.”
The Lord replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you . . . As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.”
Here’s how I prayed:
“You’ve told me to teach these children. They are yours. If you don’t help me, I can’t do it. I know you are always with me, but I want to experience your presence every moment. Please show me more of who you are, speak to me. I’m listening.”
I waited. God didn’t appear, or speak audibly, but my Bible was open and I kept reading his promise, “I will personally go with you, and I will give you rest — everything will be fine for you.”
I decided to believe God was with me. As I drove to school that day, I felt incredible joy. In fact, I was joyful all day long. That’s how God showed me his presence.
In His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).
Three stories. One lesson.
Story One (see Luke 7:36-50):
A Pharisee saw the woman and thought, “She is a sinner.” He was right. She had lived a sinful life. But now she loved Jesus. She knelt behind him. Her tears wet his feet. Her hair dried them. She kissed his feet and poured perfume on them.
Jesus told her, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
Story Two (see Luke 18:9-14):
The Pharisee prayed, ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else.’
The tax collector dared not lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’
The sinner went home justified before God.
Story Three (see Luke 23:33-43):
Two men, both criminals, were crucified beside Jesus. One of them hurled insults at him. The other said, “We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
God answers prayer because of who He is, not because of who we are.
It is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Daniel was a person of prayer. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God and asking God for help. He was even thrown into the lion’s den for praying. However, when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God (from Daniel 6:10-23).
One of Daniel’s prayers is recorded in Scripture. He appealed to God’s character and reputation, confessed sin, and asked God to listen, forgive, hear, and act. Here is what he prayed:
O, Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened. . . . Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame. . . . you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. . . . we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him. . . .The Lord our God is righteous in all he does, yet we have not obeyed him. . . . O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath. . . .
Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name (Daniel 9:4-19).
We’re told the outcome of that prayer:
While I was still in prayer, Gabriel came and said to me, “As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed (from Daniel 9:21-23).
We can pray like Daniel did.
Bible stories show people interacting with Jesus. Approach Him like they did, and ask Him to respond in kind. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
Here’s an example of how to pray the story of Jairus and Jesus (Mark 5:21-43):
The story: Jairus saw Jesus. He fell at His feet and pleaded earnestly, “My daughter is dying. Please come and lay your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”
Your prayer: Look at Jesus. Get on your knees. Plead earnestly. Tell Him your need. Maybe you have a prodigal son, or a sick daughter, or an unemployed husband. Ask Jesus to restore, heal, and bless. Ask Him to give life.
The story: Men came and told Jairus, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher any more?”
Your prayer: Do others tell you to give up on God? Maybe you’ve grown weary of asking. Maybe the enemy has planted seeds of despair. Don’t stop praying. Listen to Jesus.
The story: Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Your prayer: Listen to Jesus tell you, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
The story: When they arrived at the home of Jairus, people were making a commotion, weeping, and wailing. They laughed at Jesus for saying the child was not dead. He put them out.
Your prayer: Ask Jesus to put other voices out of your mind. Listen to what He tells you. “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
The story: Jesus went to the child, took her hand, and said, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”
Your prayer: Ask Jesus to meet those you love at their point of need
The story: Jesus told those watching to give her something to eat.
Your prayer: Ask Jesus to tell others how they can help.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Do you believe this?