SEVEN HABITS OF PRAYING PEOPLE
BY EDDIE SMITH
As coordinator of the U.S. Prayer Track–the prayer resource network of the A.D. 2000 & Beyond Movement and Mission America–I have become convinced that God is orchestrating the greatest global prayer thrust in history. I have witnessed undeniable answers to prayer and have seen conclusive evidence that God’s power is being released throughout the world. I now believe that everything that lies ahead for the church and for this world hinges on prayer.
Prayer is foundational to every other ministry of the church, for it is prayer that puts the power of God into the work of God. One form of prayer- intercession–is selfless prayer that involves “standing in the gap” to plead the cause of another. Other Christian ministries go to people for God; intercessors go to God for people!
Intercession is a high-level ministry calling. For some Christians, it is their primary purpose in the body of Christ. The most significant work of their lives is accomplished in the prayer closet.
I call intercessors God’s “spiritual activists.” They are not driven to the streets with placards and slogans; they are drawn into their prayer closets with prayers and petitions.
Intercessors are “burden bearers.” They bear not only their own burdens, but also the burdens of those for whom they are praying. At times, they are called upon to bear the burden of the Lord as well.
Recently I asked 50 seasoned, national prayer leaders and intercessors the keys to their effectiveness in prayer. What is it they do to keep their prayer lives energized? Their answers helped me formulate this
list of prayer habits we should all adopt:
1. Pray in a designated place.
All highly effective praying people pray in a place that is far from distractions and interruptions–a “tent of meeting” they have set aside in which to meet with God that can take various forms.
A private place. Jesus, the most highly effective praying person who ever lived, sought a secret place for prayer. Matthew 14:23 says, “And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by
Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there” (NKJV).
Effective intercessors today often take the phone off the hook. Others hang out a “do not disturb” sign.
Jesus had a traveling ministry. But Luke reports that He “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16, NIV). Jesus found private places for prayer on the mountains, in the gardens and
A public place. Paul reports from Philippi, “On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer” (see Acts 16:13). According to Acts 21:5, the early Christians also prayed at the beach.
A prison. One of the greatest revivals in history was the result of Paul and Silas’ praying in prison (see bets 16:25). Thankfully, we are seeing great revival in various prisons around the world today.
In the Los Olmos Prison near Buenos Aires, Argentina, there are 1,200 intercessors-prisoners-who pray around the clock for revival and spiritual awakening. These men were once the most dangerous prisoners
in the nation. Now they are praying their nation back to God!
The church. Today many churches are constructing well-equipped prayer rooms. Luke 2:36-37 describes Anna, an 84-year-old widow who “never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” And Paul often prayed at the temple (see Acts 22:17).
2. Set aside a specific time for prayer.
Researcher George Barna reports that while 86% of Americans profess belief in a prayer-answering God, only 58% of them set aside time to pray each day. Highly effective praying people all report that prayer
doesn’t “just happen.” One has to make time for it.
It is important to set aside the best time to commune with God. One intercessor said she reports her prayer time to her husband so he can help her be accountable in keeping it.
All-night prayer. Many intercessors pray all night. Most report that when they do so, they don’t suffer from lack of sleep! Jesus was accustomed to this. He often spent the night praying (see Luke 6: 12).
Night watches. Many highly effective praying people report being awakened routinely by the Holy Spirit. The most frequently reported times are 12:00 midnight, 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. These seem to be the
night watches to which God calls his “watchmen.”
Pre-dawn prayer. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed” (Mark 1:35). There is a growing movement around the world
toward pre-dawn prayer.
Scheduled prayer. The Jews had three scheduled hours of prayer daily: 9:00 a.m., 12:00 noon and 3:00 p.m. The Scriptures bear this fact out. Acts 3:1 reports that “One day Peter and John were going up to the
temple at the time of prayer-at three in the afternoon.”
And in Acts 10:9 we find Peter praying on a rooftop at noon.
Continual prayer. I think it would be safe to say that the 120 who “prayed in” Pentecost were highly effective praying people. It says of them in Acts 1:14, “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”
3. Develop an effective prayer plan.
It is essential to plan your prayer time. However, prayer schedules or plans differ widely among effective intercessors. They include such things as: worship, quietness, submission, confession, listening, requesting and praise.
Highly effective prayer is earnest prayer, prayer with a purpose. Luke 22:44 says of Jesus, “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
Prayer is war! And too many prayer warriors give up before winning the battle. Jesus admonished His disciples “that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). For what do highly effective praying
people suggest we pray? They say:
Pray for your enemies. Jesus said, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28).
Pray for your friends and family. Jesus prayed for His friends. “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:32).
Paul, too, prayed for his friends. He also requested of them, “Brothers, pray for us” (1 Thess. 5:25).
I think we sometimes fail to pray for our friends for lack of time. But we aren’t necessarily required to spend a great deal of time. To even “mention” one another in prayer is effective.
Paul writes, “We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers” (1 Thess. 1:2). Someone might complain, “But I don’t know what to pray.” It’s easy. Pray what you would want someone to pray for you and your family!
Pray for the gospel to be preached and the lost to be saved. Paul wrote, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved” (Rom. 10:1).
Pray for yourself. Jesus warned His disciples, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:40). James 5:13 specifically tells us to pray for ourselves when we are in trouble.
Pray for the persecuted church. We are living in the day of the martyrs. More people are imprisoned, tortured and killed for the gospel today than ever before in recorded history.
We are challenged over and over to pray for those who are persecuted (Rom. 15:30-31). In Acts 12:5 we read, “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.”
To the Christians in Thessalonica Paul wrote, “And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men” (2 Thess. 3:2). Paul believed in the prayers of the saints for those who were persecuted for the
Pray for all men. 1 Timothy 2:1 tells us to pray for everyone. One way to begin is to prayerwalk your neighborhood. Another is to pray through local telephone directories.
Pray for leaders. 1 Timothy 2:2 encourages us to pray for those in authority. This includes authorities in the family, church, society and government.
Pray for the sick (see James 5:1416; Acts 28:8).
Pray for God’s will to be done (see Rom. 1:10).
Pray the Scriptures. Paraphrase an appropriate verse of Scripture and personalize it for a person or an issue. Then pray it back to God. Nothing is more effective than praying according to God’s will, and nothing is closer to the will of God than His own Word!
Pray prophetically. Beyond our prayer list, we should listen to the voice of the Lord in prayer.
The Holy Spirit prays within us as well as for us (see Rom. 8:26-27). He will guide us to know what to pray (see John 16:13). He also prays along with us, completing our prayers.
Most highly effective praying people pray aloud, even when they are praying alone. They report that it helps them focus. Jesus and others in Scripture apparently prayed aloud as well, for many of their prayers
have been recorded for us to read.
Effective intercessors also take time to listen. Intercessor, author and speaker Evelyn Christensen says, “Then in silence I listen to my God, who in love has chosen to reveal His wisdom, His will and Himself
to me” (see Ps. 139:17).
4. Keep a prayer journal.
Many effective intercessors routinely journal their prayer requests in a notebook. Most of them date God’s answers to their prayers. Some record the confirmation God gives them in prayer, in the Scriptures and
Sandra Clopine, coordinator of the Assemblies of God National Prayer Center says, “I write my impressions in a notebook. Sometimes I write a prayer to God; sometimes I write what I feel He is saying to me.” She
knows that specificity produces fervency, and fervent prayers are highly effective!
5. Have materials close at hand.
Our closet at home looks like a strategic prayer command center. My wife, Alice, has it equipped for battle. Highly effective intercessory prayer warriors typically have a well-ordered place of prayer. Within arms’ reach might be:
A globe or maps
A box of facial tissues
A notebook and pen
A hymn book for personal worship
A prayer list or prayer calendar
A prayer journal
One or more Bibles
6. Pray with expectation.
Like the Old Testament priest who would go beyond the veil once a year into the holy of holies, highly effective praying people approach the place of prayer with great expectation. They have expectant hearts that are “pregnant with the plans and purposes of God.” As they bear the burden of the Lord, many intercessors live lives of almost continual “spiritual pregnancy.”
Highly effective praying people are full of faith. They know that, as they pray, something is released in the heavenlies that would not be released if they didn’t pray. They take their responsibility seriously. It is not a religious duty to them; it is a matter of life and death.
7. Pray with humility.
Highly effective praying people approach God with a submissive heart. Prayer itself is the most effective means of learning and submitting to the will of God. Jesus used prayer both to discover the Father’s will
for His life and to discipline Himself to it, Several essential qualities mark the effective prayer:
Reverent. Notice how the writer of Hebrews describes Jesus’ personal prayer life. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could
save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission” (Heb. 5:7).
We see that Jesus was passionate, not passive, in prayer. He prayed “with loud cries and tears.” He also was totally submissive in prayer. For this reason, He was heard.
Clear-minded and self-controlled. People often ask, “Why is fasting important to prayer?” Perhaps fasting, more than any other thing, helps us to be clear-minded and self-controlled.
Righteous. James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” Why? Because a ‘the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer'” (1 Pet. 3:12).
Forgiving. “And when you stand praying if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him” (Mark 11:25).
Baptist prayer leader and founder of Prayer Explosion Oni Kittle once said, “We were created to pray.” She was right; God is relational and has created us for communion with Himself.
But prayer is a struggle, even for highly effective praying people. If it were not, Jesus would not have had to stir his disciples from sleep when they were supposed to be praying with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” He told them (Matt. 26:41, KJV).
Effective prayer requires discipline. May we reevaluate our commitment to prayer in light of these suggestions from seasoned intercessors-and delight in the opportunity to join with them in helping bring about God’s purposes on
Books to help you spend time with God
Does your prayer life need a shot in the arm? Books on prayer abound, but books entirely on the topic of intercession are harder to find.
Here’s a sampling:
Intercession: Thrilling and fulfilling by Joy Dawson (YWAM Publishing). In her straightforward way, Dawson offers various prayer strategies. A Bible teacher since 1970, the author is the mother of well-known author John Dawson.
Love on Its Knees by Dick Eastman (Baker Book House). Eastman believes every salvation is “in some way related to intercessory prayer.” His book includes a one-week prayer outline with different emphases for
each day of the week.
Experiencing God Through Prayer by Madame Jeanne Guyon (Whitaker House). Guyon has been acclaimed as one of the best Christian writers since the aposde Paul. This is deep, intense stuff–guaranteed to ignite spiritual passion.
Prayerwalking by Steve Hawthorne and Graham Kendrick (Creation House). A guide to interceding for others by researching the history of a place and going onsite with your prayers. Includes tips for prayer journeys.
Possessing the Gates of the Enemy, by Cindy Jacobs (Chosen Books). Jacobs offers “a training manual for militant intercession.” She teaches how to overthrow demonic strongholds and explains prophetic
The Ministry of Intercession by Andrew Murray (Whitaker House). Murray (1828-1917), who was an evangelist from South Africa, wrote many books that are classics today. This is one of his best.
Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets (Regal Books). Sheets gives indepth teaching on a believer’s partnership with God in His work. Includes insightful guidelines on praying for the lost.
Beyond the Veil by Alice Smith (Regal Renew). Using the tabernacle as a model, Smith teaches the intercessor how to go from the outer court beyond the veil and into the holy of holiest
The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s life by Charles Spurgeon (Emerald Books). Billy Graham says this book “is one of the finest, most helpful books on prayer you will ever find.”
Praying With Power by C. Peter Wagner (Regal Books). Wagner ties together points made in the five excellent books released earlier in the Prayer Warrior Series. This is must reading.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY MINISTRIES TODAY, MARCH/APRIL, 1998, PAGES 43-46. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.