Steps to Successful Praying
Oh Lord, Hear: Oh Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not. (Daniel 9:19)
The first step in approaching God is, “Oh God, hear me.” Does it seem strange to you that he says “hear,” and then says, “hearken?” Realize there’s such a thing as hearing with hearkening. I could tell one of you to do a certain thing. You heard me, but you didn’t hearken unto me; there’s a difference. It seems a little technical to mention this in prayer, but it’s important. If you could learn this I’ll guarantee you’ll start seeing some answers shortly, of things you want from the Lord.
“Oh Lord, hear me.” That simply means, “God, let me get your attention.” You need his attention before you can get an answer from him. How do I get his attention? Write this down, because I want you to get this if you don’t get anything else. “Hear me, Lord, let me get your attention.”
How do I get God’s attention? To get His attention is for Him to get your attention! When He has your attention, you have His attention. A divided mind, a scattered thought, a casual approach with your mind running about forty miles an hour; you’re not going to touch God or get His attention. Your approach to God must be with a singleness of heart, a single eye. It has to be that way. God will not accept it any other way.
Your example in the Old Testament is where the priest went into the holy place, and veils were all around him. He could not see outside; he was enclosed.
When thou prayest, enter into thy closet. (Matthew 6:6)
That doesn’t mean go into the clothes closet. It means get everything else shut out. Have you ever knelt to pray with several things on your mind? Did you get through to God that way? You can’t. God won’t accept it. “Oh Lord, hear, I want your attention.” The best way to get His attention is for Him to have your undivided attention. Pull the curtains around you, get in your closet, shut the world out, and you’re about to get a hold of God! That’s when you may begin to feel a little Spirit moving over you. Man, that makes it easier to pray.
You have his attention, but just because you felt God, and here’s a tremendous mistake of both preachers and saints (if you ever preach on prayer, stress this point). Sometimes, people kneel to pray just to feel God, and the minute they feel Him, up, they’re gone! “Somebody said I needed to pray until I touched Him, and I just touched Him, now I’m in a hurry.” You’ve just reached the place to pray.” The song says, “Pray until you pray, and then you can pray the clouds away.” Pray until you touch God, and now, man, that’s no time to leave! God can be absorbed!
Stay plugged in! I have an electric shaver you keep plugged in, and then you take the cord off to shave with it. When it runs down, the only thing to do is plug it in, turn it on “with cord,” and use it, but as soon as you unplug it, there’s no life. A lot of our power of God is exactly the same way. We don’t stay long enough to get charged. We plug in quickly, feel a little spark, “Whoops! Okay, now I’m ready to go! I was in a hurry to begin with! I just wanted to be sure He’s around somewhere, and make sure I wasn’t backsliding, so I felt a little touch, now I’m in a hurry.”
You’re missing the entire program of prayer when you don’t learn that getting to the place that you feel Him, and have His attention, is where you can start with these other points. If I can get this in you, there will be results, and prayer will be more exciting to you! I guarantee it!
Step number two, after you have God’s attention by Him getting your attention, you have closed the world out, and entered into your closet, and pulled the curtains around you. Now, it’s you and God, with the world outside, and suddenly you feel an attitude come over you. An atmosphere surrounds you.
“Now, God, what am I to tell You? What’s my next approach to You? What’s my next step to come into your presence, and get answers?” If this step is overlooked, the whole framework is torn down. “Oh Lord, forgive;” notice the pause, the semicolon represents a pause. This man waited after he said, forgive. He was in no hurry. People that are in a hurry can’t get things from God. I’m contending that you cannot. You’ve got to slow down if you want things from God. You can’t push Him. “Oh Lord, forgive me.”
Can I touch God, scripturally, if I have sin in my life? Do you believe you can? Impossible.
While I was… confessing my sin. (Daniel 9:20)
And he made mention of some
We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets. (Daniel 9:5, 6)
If a saint gets all crossed up with a preacher, he might as well quit praying, because God’s not going to hear them. Yet you have those that will almost brag about all their hours of prayer, and are crossed up in their life. They’re wasting time.
Realize that saints can be most valuable if they can understand, “My heart must be clean before he’ll hear me.” You cannot pray over unrepented sin, and expect God to hear you. It doesn’t matter what it is.
“Oh Lord, forgive.” A repented heart is one that moves God the quickest. People that justify themselves, never see their wrong. They go to God and pray as though God heard them, but sin is still down in there.
A person gets God’s attention by setting their mind towards Him, and searching their heart. Some stop right there, and never go any further, and waste their hour doing nothing but saying, “My God, I’m unworthy,” and, Friend, you can tell God you’re unworthy for a solid hour, and thoroughly convince yourself you’re unworthy. You can brainwash yourself until, sure enough, you believe you can’t have it, and sure enough, you didn’t get it! Just as much as you can overlook this step and not get your prayers through, you can hang up on this step, and not get your prayers through.
It grieves my God for you to consistently repent of the same thing. Now, if you’ve done it over again, naturally, you’d better repent. But you’d be surprised, how old, faithful saints are living on step number two. It’s our job to get them out of there!
I went to one place, where from the pastor’s wife on down, every altar call, every one of them came to the altar. There wasn’t any room for the sinner! There wasn’t any conviction on the sinner, because the saints absorbed it! One night, and said “Look, no more!” It seemed like they were relieved! Really, they wanted to hear it, but they were scared not to. I didn’t do it unkindly, but I said, “Explain why you’re filling this altar. Sinners see you come here, and say ‘what’s the use of me going? Every night I see the same bunch down there, and it’s the whole church, pastor’s wife included!'” That spirit can lodge in a church and destroy it. On the other hand, the unrepentant spirit can also lodge, and destroy.
We don’t have to search our hearts all night. You cannot always tell God you’re sorry and get forgiveness. If I wrong you, I need to come to you, or God won’t forgive me. That’s a secret people need to learn, and it’s hard for them. You can retain sins. Suppose I’ve wronged Brother Gary, and I go to pray, and I say, “God, I’ve done that boy wrong. Forgive me for it.” Okay, but what about him, and maybe the ones to whom I talked to against him? What about them?
I believe in old fashioned restitution. I believe I owe you an apology if I’ve done you wrong. I don’t believe I can slip off in a corner, and say “God, I apologize for that, I won’t do that any more,” and that poor man doesn’t know. All he knows is I still dislike him. You’re fixing to hang up. You’re not going to get any prayers through. The Bible specifically teaches that there are certain things that will hinder your prayer.
Even in the home life, the Bible teaches that if there are problems between husband and wife, they get all crossed up, then go to pray, God won’t hear them. The domestic problems around the home will actually hinder prayers from getting through to God, and saints need to know that.
Sometimes, these big, burly men think they can come in, and all but cuss their wife out and still feel their prayer, and touch God. They can’t do such a thing! I need to treat my wife as a saint; she’s my sister in the Lord, besides being my wife. I can’t mistreat her, and get by God. I can’t walk to this pulpit, and know that I have spoken sharply to her without apologizing. I don’t believe that’s being too sensitive, either. When you get to the point that it’s too much trouble, you’re fixing to sear your conscience. Write this statement down right here in big bold letters before we go any further. Self-justification is the first step toward a reprobate mind. You justify yourself on points, first thing you know, you can’t do anything wrong. That is, to you it’s not wrong.
So without question, we must search our hearts, but please, recognize it’s one time. If you’ve cleared it with man, or needed to, and you asked God to forgive you, He does it. That was it. Oh He’s so willing to do that, if you just say, “My Lord, I’m sorry, forgive me!” You know what? He just did! He just forgave you. That was it! Don’t mention it anymore, but sometimes you feel that guilt. The devil can bring guilt upon you, as though you have already sinned. I have felt guilt, when I didn’t even know why I felt guilty.
Perhaps you’ve never spoken against a person, or even shown an expression against them, yet you felt in your heart a deep resentment. I made a mistake one time, because I felt it in my heart. I hadn’t said anything, I hadn’t done anything, I just felt it. I thought I was supposed to go tell him about it. It was a great mistake. If I haven’t touched their character by talking with someone else, or speaking unkindly to them, it’s all inside. That can be cleared between you and God. I didn’t know that, and I hurt myself and a man over that one time. If you have misrepresented something, the only way in the world is to fix that.
Brother Massey Stark was telling me about when he was a boy; he killed a neighbor’s dog, and lied about it. When he was old, after preaching for years, he didn’t know what had happened to this man, because he had moved. He was driving through a town one day, and there stood that man on a corner. He pulled that car over, and said “Look, when I was a boy, do you remember a certain dog you had? I killed that dog, and I’m apologizing.” I believe he needed to do that. He could have said, “My Lord, not now, maybe someday I will.” I believe when the opportunity comes you ought to fix it, right then. But, if you can’t find them, and don’t know where to find them, God’s fair. He knows you’d do it if they were there.
One fellow who prayed through in revival, asked me, “I stole some hogs. Would you let me get on the radio, and seek him out? I don’t know where that man is at, but there’s a chance he may be listening!” If you feel guilt, and you don’t know why, the devil gave you that guilt. When God condemns you, He shows you the reason He condemns you, because He’s fair. But the devil will just load you down, and make you feel guilty.
I lived the first three years of my Christian experience, in a miserable state of mind. If I would have known it before I received the Holy Ghost, I don’t know if I would have received it or not. It was terrible. I almost lost my mind, because I did not know that the devil could give me guilty feelings. He is the accuser of the brethren. He would give me a guilty feeling, and I hadn’t done a thing! Man, I’d feel like I robbed the First National Bank, and here I am saying, “My God forgive me!”
Mother would say, “Son, what have you done?”
“I don’t know.”
That’s a true sign the devil gave that feeling. I had to learn that, or I’d have lost my mind. When God starts dealing with you, the first thing he’ll do is point to what’s wrong. “That is why you’re feeling bad.” That’s how you can tell the difference, and if you’ll learn that, your faith will be built up. Sometimes, when you’re feeling bad physically, the devil can come in on you spiritually, and make you feel condemned.
I’ve had nerve problems early in the morning. I’d wake up, Brother! I’ve bound to have committed some horrible crime! A man couldn’t feel this guilty without having done something real bad. Early in the morning is no time to judge your spirituality. Wait until you wake up, before you even repent of anything. You’ll feel better after a while. When you’re sick or nervous, the devil can take advantage of that, and will give you certain feelings.
We’ll get back to that more thoroughly, and some messages, and examples to try to counteract that in saints. Can you see why you’d need to counteract it? Here’s a saint with a sensitive conscience to begin with, and that’s the one the devil tries to take advantage. They could be mighty powerhouses, but there they are, “Oh, I’m so unworthy! I’ve done wrong, and I feel so guilty!” They don’t know what they’re feeling guilty about, they pray, and ask God for revival. How can they ask for one, when they feel like they just finished unloading the First National Bank? You cannot imagine the value of the release from oppression for your revival, or your church. You can help them gain a release from guilt, and build their faith in God’s mercies.
We have a problem as Apostolics. We draw the lines, and we need to do it. We say, “That’s wrong, and if you do that, you’ll be lost. You can’t do that and be saved.” The first thing you know everybody’s looking, “My Lord, I’ve done that! Oh I’ve done this.” We get them so sin-conscious, which they need to be. But, on the other hand, you’d better come along every once in awhile with a message on God’s mercies, and forgiveness, or you will get them so overbalanced, until they never get beyond step number two. If a man sins, you tell him, God said He’ll forgive him.
We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but for the sins of the whole world. (I John 2:1-2)
If He can immediately take care of every sin in the whole world at one time, surely He can handle our little problem.
Step number three is to hearken. “My heart is clean, and I believe that it’s clean. I trust in his mercies. If I did sin, I straightened it out, and believed he forgave me.” It’s time to start asking for something. “Now Lord, not only do I get your attention, but hearken to me now; do something.” This is a point so thoroughly overlooked and yet so simple! Do! Do, and defer not, don’t wait, do it now! All these points are interwoven. There’s a direct connection between step number four, and your prayer life’s intercession. You start saying, “God, do something.” I imagine Brother Davis could demonstrate this, since He’s heard me teach it so many times. “Oh Lord, do.” Do. What in the world does that mean? I’ll tell you one thing it doesn’t mean, it doesn’t mean stay there on your knees and say, “Myyy God! I’m going to pray my hour today. Ohhh Looord.” Sometimes, they even get a little music with it. “Jeeesuuus!” And, sometimes, they just say, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Thank you Lord, Thank you Lord, Oh God, Oh God, Oh God.”
You know what you’re doing? You’re not praying, you’re thinking. You can say all of that and think about cows, auctions, cars. “Ohhh God.” You can say that for thirty minutes, and grease cars, change tires, “Ohhh God, (that tire didn’t work right) Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” You’re not praying! I’m so sensitive to it, I watch it carefully, and you’d be surprised how many people do this, and claim they prayed an hour, but didn’t pray five minutes! God didn’t hear a thing.
That’s it. It’s so simple! Let’s demonstrate Brother Lawrence. You answer me back all you want. “Oh, Brother Lawrence, Brother Lawrence, (What do you want Brother Bean?) Oh Brother Lawrence, Brother Lawrence. (What do you want?) Ohhh, Brother Lawrence, Brother Lawrence.”
God must undoubtedly want to snap His fingers, and say, “Speak up son! You’ve been calling My name for an hour now, what do you want?” Yet we wonder why we don’t get answers!
When Jesus called Lazarus forth, if He hadn’t said a name, every dead body in the world would have come up out of the grave! He had the power of resurrection, and if He had just said, “Come Forth!” Every thing that had ever died would have stood up! God understands this, and He wants us to understand it, so we’d be effectual, and fervent in our prayer life. This needs to be taught to our saints. It needs to be taught to our people, because they’re wasting hours to which God doesn’t pay one ounce of attention!
You might think, “I believe He honors them just kneeling down there.” Believe that if you want. I believe He just sees them on their knees. General prayers require no faith; therefore they are not heard.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Find as many scriptures on prayer as you can, and mark them in your Bible, because we may need them before these two weeks is up. I feel that if you get your mind acquainted with some of them, it will help us in these classes. For the next couple of weeks, let your mind be on prayer. Study the scriptures on prayer, because I want you to be praying men. I believe we have some in this room that know how to touch God. A little polishing up, and God only knows what they’ll be for Him.
This article “Steps to Successful Praying” was excerpted from: Verbal Bean Prayer by Verbal Bean. Copyright 1991. It may be used for study & research purposes only.