Prayer, the First Priority

“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.” -Corrie ten Boom


Our priorities determine the quality of our life; therefore, they are extremely important. Priorities differ from person to person; for example, millionaire’s priority list includes health, family, and financial security — those three things in that order.

We as believers should have three top priorities. See if you agree: God, Family. And purpose.

If God is our first priority, then prayer should also be listed alongside of God, since prayer is our link of communication with God.

Does God always answer prayer?

If you have been a believer for any length of time, you know the answer is no, yes, or wait. But why doesn’t God always answer prayer? I’ve put a lot of thought into that and have come up with seven reasons based on Scripture:

1. God answers only believer’s prayers and those requesting salvation. It is common to hear people talk about prayer who obviously are unbelievers. However, the Bible is clear on whose prayers God listens to: John 9:31 (KJV), “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.” God listens to those who worship him and are in good standing with him.

2. Unconfessed sin in your life blocks your prayers. Isaiah 59:2 (KJV), “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”

It isn’t popular to use the word sin anymore. It isn’t even mentioned from the pulpit in some churches. It is more politically correct to say “mistake” or “issue.” Nevertheless, the Scripture is very clear on how sin blocks your prayer life. If you harbor unconfessed sin, God will not hear your prayers. In the beginning of your prayer, confess all your known and unknown sins. This is the very first step to answered prayer

3. The reason for unanswered prayer is not always obvious. It could be that God is protecting you. Have you ever looked back and thanked God that He didn’t answer a certain prayer. If you have children, were there times you did not give them what they asked for to protect them?

It could be at times that God has something better for you than what you are praying for. Ephesians 3:20 (KJV), “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” God’s way and purpose is always far above our own. What a difference when we pray in Jesus’ name, and not just ending our prayer in his name, but praying in his will instead of our own. The better we know him, the better we know his will.

Even though it is difficult at times to know why god does not answer prayer. We must trust that He knows best and be willing to accept what He gives.

4. When your Motives are wrong, prayer goes amiss. James 4:3 (KJV), “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” Check your motives carefully. Why am I asking God for this? Is this something that is going to help me be a better servant unto God? Will it help me to help others? That does not mean that God never gives us the desires of our heart. He wants us to have an abundant life. Nevertheless, our primary objective should be the kingdom of God. Matthew 6:33 (KJV), “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

5. The answer to prayer may not come all at once. Exodus 23:29-30 (KJV), “I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.”

It took 400 years for God to answer Israel’s prayers and deliver them from Egyptian bondage. When they made it to the promise land, he gave them the Promised Land by stages because they would not have been able to deal with it all at once.

6. You may lack faith. Matthew 21:22 (KJV), “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Faith is a key to answered prayer. James 1:6 (KJV), “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” How do we build faith? Read and listen to the Word of God. Romans 10:17 (KJV), “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

7. It may not be God’s will. Even though Jesus was God, he was also man and in his flesh he did not desire the suffering that lay ahead, but he sought God the father’s will, not his own. Matthew 26:39 (KJV), “And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

How do we know that prayer works?

Perhaps you have personal examples of answered prayer, although, you may not consider them to be phenomenal. Nevertheless, they prove that prayer works. I want to give you a few examples of when God answers prayer in a phenomenal way. These are not ordinary, they are miracles.

“One of the mightiest men of prayer of the eighteen hundreds was George Mueller of Bristol, England, who in the last sixty years of his life obtained the English equivalent of $7,200,000.00 by prayer. But George Mueller never prayed for a thing just because he wanted it, or even just because he felt it was greatly needed for God’s work. When it was laid upon George Mueller’s heart to pray for anything, he would search the Scriptures to find if there was some promise that covered the case. Sometimes he would search the scriptures for days before he presented his petition to God. And then when he found the promise, with his open Bible before him, and his finger upon that promise, he would plead that promise, and so he received what he asked.  He always prayed with an open Bible before him.” [1]

Mueller and his wife commenced their work with orphans in Bristol, England in 1836, using their own rented home to house some 30 girls. Not long after, three more houses were required that included boys and younger children, which brought the total number of children being cared for to 130. George continued his work with the orphanage after his wife died until his own death on March 10, 1898 at the age of 92 or 93.

Amazingly, Mueller never requested any help financially, or otherwise, except in prayer to God. Neither did he go in debt to build more homes needed for the orphanage even though the cost was over 100,000 pounds.

One of the well-documented stories of Mueller’s faith happened at breakfast with the children seated around the table; a prayer of thanks was given to God even though the bowls and plates were empty and the cupboards bare. After the prayer, there was a knock at the back door; it was the baker who had brought enough freshly baked bread to feed all of them. It just happened that the milkman’s delivery cart also broke down right in front of the orphanage, so he brought plenty of fresh milk for everyone. [2]

Another classic example of Mueller’s powerful prayer happened in August 1877 when the ship Mueller was taking across the Atlantic ran into dense fog.  Mueller had an important engagement in Quebec on the following afternoon. He explained to Captain Joseph E Dutton the urgency of his engagement. The Captain informed Mueller that he had ordered the ship to slow down for safety and that the appointment would have to be canceled. Mueller asked the Captain if he may use the chart room to pray for the fog to lift. The Captain said it was OK. As he followed Mueller, he commented that it was a waste of time. After Mueller prayed, the captain also began to pray. Mueller stopped him, knowing that the Captain didn’t believe, and told him there was no need to pray because the prayer was already answered and the fog had already lifted. As the two men entered the bridge it was found that the fog had lifted, and the ship resumed speed. Shortly after, the Captain became a Christian and was later referred to as “Holy Joe.” Today that moniker is still used to ridicule staunch believers in Christ. [3]

Mueller was once asked how much time he spent in prayer. His reply was, “Hours every day. But I live in the spirit of prayer. I pray as I walk and when I lie down and when I arise. And the answers are always coming.”

George Mueller spent hours a day in prayer? I’m afraid that my prayer time falls way short of hours per day. Hours a day in prayer might be intimidating to most of us. Think about it: First of all, I’m not George Mueller. I don’t have over a hundred orphans depending on me for their next meal. I’m not responsible for maintaining houses for them, making sure that they are safe, properly clothed, and are being educated and taught the truth of God’s word. I don’t travel 200,000 miles to preach the gospel in three different languages. I don’t have anywhere near that kind of responsibility. Therefore, it doesn’t take hours a day to tell the Lord everything that is going on in my life. My concern need not be how long my prayers are anyway; I need to be concerned about how strong my faith is when I pray. Also, being in an attitude of prayer as we daily go through life, as was Mueller, is something each of us can do.

Mueller’s already strong faith in God continued to strengthen until the end of his life. Each day he spent hours in prayer and Bible study. In the latter years of his life, he read through the entire Bible four times each year. [4]

I shared this story with you because I believe it is a perfect example of the power of prayer and the value of having a solid foundation of prayer. Prayer is the secret for living a life filled with meaning and purpose. It gives the power to weather all the storms of life.

Another phenomenal answer to prayer is that of Marolyn Ford. I was present on a Sunday morning at Bellevue Church in Memphis Tennessee several years ago and heard Marolyn’s testimony concerning God’s great healing in her life. She was blind at the age of eighteen. After thirteen years of blindness, on August 26, 1972, God restored her sight through a bedside prayer. After her healing, she visited her doctor. After her examination, the doctor told her that medically she was still blind, and there was no medical explanation why she could see perfectly. The explanation is that this is a real miracle; it involves things that go beyond medical explanation. It can only be explained as supernatural intervention.

Years later, in 1991, Marolyn was involved in an accident which caused a severe injury to her digestive system. She found it difficult to take in nourishment and eventually was unable to eat, drink or take in anything by mouth.  Intravenous feedings, eighteen hours daily, was started in 1996.  Life for Marolyn was painful and death seemed to hang over her. To ask God for a second miracle of such magnitude seemed extraordinary. Nevertheless, that is what they did.  Marolyn suffered for twelve years with this terrible illness, but in 2003 God brought Marolyn another miracle and healed her entire digestive system. Today her digestive system works beautifully and she can eat whatever she wants.

She continues to shares her testimony now of both miracles giving God full credit for his awesome intervention in her life.

Dr. Randolph Byrd, a Christian cardiologist, conducted a test to answer the question does prayer work. The test was conducted with 393 patients, admitted to the coronary care unit at San Francisco General Hospital, over a 10-month period. They were randomly selected, by computer, to either a 201 patient control group or the 192 patients who were prayed for daily by 5-7 people in home prayer groups. This was a randomized, double-blind experiment in which only the patients, nurses, or doctors knew which group the patients were in.

Dr. Byrd discovered a definite pattern of obvious differences between the control group and those prayed for:

  • None of those prayed for required endotracheal intubation compared with twelve in the control group requiring the insertion of an artificial airway in the throat.
  • The prayed for group experienced fewer cases of pneumonia and cardiopulmonary arrests.
  • Those prayed for were five times less likely to require antibiotics.
  • The prayed for group were three times less likely to develop pulmonary edema, a condition where the lungs fill with fluid.
  • Fewer patients in the prayed for group died!

Dr. Larry Dossey, M.D. has referred to Dr. Byrd’s experiment, stating, “If the technique being studied had been a new drug or a surgical procedure instead of prayer, it would almost certainly have been heralded as some sort of breakthrough.” *

How do we pray?

When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, this is what he said: Matthew 6:10-13 (KJV), “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in 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.”

Some believe that we are to literally pray the Lord’s Prayer, but that was not the intention of the prayer. It is an example of how we should pray. The Lord’s Prayer is an outline of how we are to structure our prayers.

Verse 9: The attention at the beginning of our prayer is directed to the Heavenly Father, “Our Father which art in heaven hollowed be thy name…” It is an acknowledgement of who he is. It is adoration for his name. It is worship and praise to him as our God.

Verse 10: “Thy kingdom come thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven “ expresses our yearning to the fulfillment of God’s kingdom when all tears will be wiped away and all the bondages and yokes that Satan has placed on God’s people will be removed forever.

Verse 11: “Give us this day our daily bread” goes beyond the bread of physical nourishment and includes the bread of life, God’s Holy Word, which is needed daily. Bread meets our physical needs. The Bible meets our spiritual needs. This is also where we bring to God all those things which are on our heart. Mark 11:24 (KJV), “Therefore I say unto you, what things whatsoever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

Verse 12: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” God instructs us to repent of our own sins as well as being willing to forgive others for their trespasses against us. If we are not willing to forgive others, what right do we have to ask God to forgive us?

Verse 13: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, amen.” Here we pray for God’s power in our life to resist temptation and for his protection against all the evil acts of the devil.

We end our prayer “In Jesus name” which is to say in his will, and then amen which means that I agree with what your will is and accept what you give. Remember also that how we word our prayer is very important. Words are important to God and should be to us also. Matthew 12:37 (KJV), “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

Even if we don’t know how to pray or what to pray for, we should pray, for the Holy Spirit makes intercessions for us. Romans 8:26 (KJV), “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

Prayer is powerful.  James 5:16 (KJV), “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”  The Bible is clear on the priority of prayer.  James 4:2-3K (KJV), “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” Making prayer your first priority in life and making sure you are right with God is an essence for living a life of abundance and purpose. Try to imagine the difference it would make in your life if you made prayer your first priority!

Written by Jimmie Burroughs © copyright 2018


*Excerpt from an article by Dr. Keith Scott Mumby

[1]R.A. Torrey on George Mueller; “The Power of Prayer,” 1924 (P.81)

[2]Jump Up, Harding P. 79

[3]Jump Up, Mueller (2003) P. 35

[4]Jump Up, Annual report (1865) P.7

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