Isn't it great when you pray for something and God answers your prayer? Charles Spurgeon said, "Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscles of omnipotence." So why is prayer typically the last thing some of us do, after nothing else works and we're at the end of our rope?
One of the early church's priorities was prayer, according to Acts 2:42: "They continued steadfastly…in prayers." It was their regular, instinctive response to life. In Acts 4, after the Jewish leadership threatened the church and made it illegal for them to proclaim the name of Jesus as the Messiah, the believers "raised their voice to God with one accord" (v. 24) and set a beautiful pattern for us in the prayer that followed:
1. It had perspective: "Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them" (v. 24). The word they used for Lord is the Greek word despotés, or despot. They realized they were talking to the Lord who, as the absolute ruler of the universe, has it all in His hands. That's the best way to begin your prayer: by reminding yourself to whom you're praying (see also Jeremiah 32:17). We so often carry our limitations over onto God: "I don't know if You can do anything about this." Just take a moment to consider the vastness of the universe God made. He can handle your problem.
2. It had balance. Their prayer wasn't just a request; it was also filled with the recognition and praise of God. In verses 25-28, these early believers acknowledged who God is, what God had done, what Scripture says, and how awesome God is. Isn't that how Jesus taught us to pray? You start by saying, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed [praised] be Your name" before you pray, "Give us this day our daily bread" (see Matthew 6:9, 11).
3. It had direction: "Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus" (vv. 29-30). Their prayer was specific and directed, not wispy and vague. It's not that God needed informing; it's that when we're specific, we can look back when a prayer is answered and say, "I prayed for that specifically," and our faith is bolstered for the next go-round.
4. It had results: "When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness" (v. 31). The prayer that had perspective, balance, and direction was the one that worked. As James wrote, "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16).
Notice that this time in the early church, which was a time of crisis, produced praying people. Could that perhaps be one reason why God allows our lives to be spiced up with just enough trials to keep us saying, "Oh yeah, God, I really need You—I depend on You"?
Whatever trial you're facing, I pray the Holy Spirit would lead you to lean on the Lord and pray regularly and instinctively, bringing everything to the one who's truly in charge of it all.