A desperate email arrived in my inbox reading, “My prayers are not being answered. I am so discouraged. Can you help?” Although we don’t fully understand God’s sovereignty and its relationship to prayer, we can gain much wisdom and many truths from Scripture. Here are 7 ways to prevail in prayer and make sure to listen to the sermon at the bottom:
1. CHANGE YOUR SPIRITUAL DIET ASAP
Psalm 5 opens with these powerful words: “Give ear to my words, O Lord, Consider my meditation” (v. 1). Meditation means to reflect on, to study, and to practice. Prevailing prayer begins here. What you “reflect on” creates a hunger for more. Are you meditating on the things of the world—traumatized by the news and addicted to social media—or are you meditating throughout the day on God’s truth? Are you also “practicing” what God says, being a doer and not just a hearer of the Word (see James 1:22)? What you meditate on and how you live deeply affects your prayer life.
2. OFTEN, YOU MUST TRAVAIL BEFORE YOU PREVAIL
Psalm 5:2 says, “Give heed to the voice of my cry, my King and my God, for to You I will pray.” In short, David is saying, “Oh God, please listen!” As in pregnancy, there is a laborious effort before the blessing. The same holds true in prayer: We must persevere, as some strongholds and many blessings are only wrought through gut-wrenching, soul-searching prayer. When we travail, God hears the cries of His children. Don’t you, as a parent, run outside when you hear your children crying for help? Woe tells God that this is important … that it matters to you … that you will do whatever it takes to see the prodigal come home, the marriage restored, or the healing take place. No, I don’t believe that God heals everyone, but I do believe that travailing prayer goes a lot further than lifeless prayer. “It is only when the whole heart is gripped with the passion of prayer that the life-giving fire descends, for none but the earnest man gets access to the ear of God” (E. M. Bounds). When prayer becomes the priority of the day, your whole life is energized. Again, you must travail before you prevail. Watch my sermon on this topic here.
3. PRAYER MUST BE A PRIORITY
Psalm 5:3 adds, “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones would often tell aspiring preachers, “Safeguard your mornings!” That truth not only pertains to the pulpit but also to the pew. Whatever hurts our praying must be removed. “The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day” (E. M. Bounds). Do you wake up and immediately look at your phone or social media? Are you scrambling to get out the door? My advice is to get to bed earlier and read things at night that build you up spiritually, not pull you down. To be hungry for more of God, you must feed on prayer, worship, and the Word, not on Netflix, YouTube, and Facebook. What you take in the night before will deeply affect your spiritual health the next day. As a practical example (don’t try this, take my word on it), watching Breaking Bad at night versus reading E. M. Bounds will severely hinder prayer in the morning. When prayer is the priority, we become very selective. In the same way that an athlete training for the Olympics chooses their physical diet carefully, a Christian should choose their spiritual diet even more carefully.