Would you prefer powerless prayer or powerful prayer? Silly question, right? It’s like asking a kid if he’d rather have an ice cream cone or iced creamed corn! Yet no doubt you have experienced times when you felt your prayers were inept, ineffective and impotent, as if they barely bounced against the ceiling—a long way from the throne room of grace up in heaven.
We don’t have to settle for powerless prayers. Jesus said, “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:19–20, emphasis added).
Fredrick Myconius wrote his friend, Martin Luther, in 1540 to tell him that he was deathly ill and would soon die. The following is Luther’s response: “I command thee in the name of God to live because I still have need of thee in the work of reforming the church… The Lord will never let me hear that thou art dead, but will permit thee to survive me. For this I am praying, this is my will, and may my will be done, because I seek only to glorify the name of God.”
To pray in God’s will is to know God’s will; to look the Creator in the eye and say, “You know I’m not praying for my own personal advantage, but that your most holy name may be glorified.” Such praying lends great boldness to our ability to intercede for others and for the work of the kingdom.
What could be more important than knowing when we pray that Christ is with us, hearing and answering our prayers? Perhaps the promise of His presence that we read in Matthew 18:19–20 is more direct than in any other Scripture passage.
But, as an attorney might explain, this passage is “provisional.” It has a proviso. It begins with the condition or stipulation—”If . . . ”
Read John 15:4. Jesus said He would answer our prayers if we fulfilled a certain requirement. What must we do?
Read James 4:3. Why did James say we do not receive the answer to our prayers?
So we see that there are certain conditions that we must meet if we want to pray with power.
People fall into two general categories—responders and initiators. The only people who make an impact in the world—for good or for bad—are those who are willing to take the initiative. Responders are those who sit back and wait for things to happen, rarely making a difference in their generation.
Think about your own personality as a pray-er. Do you tend more often to be an initiator in your prayer life, or a responder? The kingdom of God is about taking initiative. The proviso “if…” in Matthew 18:19–20 is one more reminder that God is waiting for us to move.
When I (Eddie) was a small boy, I would play the game of Checkers with my granddaddy Jeff. He would pull out the board and set it up. Then we would begin. Frankly, the only thing I remember him saying was, “Your move.”
You see, after I would move my checker I would become distracted with the other things that were going on in the room. I’d become interested in what one of my two brothers was doing or something that would flash across the television screen. During that fleeting second, Granddaddy would move his checker. Then he’d break into my concentration on whatever had me distracted from the game with two words “Your move.”
At times we become distracted by the world and the things in it to the point that we forget why we are here. We find ourselves thinking, Now, what is it that God is doing on the planet that could possibly involve me? From time to time it is necessary for our heavenly Father to softly whisper, “Your move!” He calls for those of us who are willing to take the initiative in prayer. He says, “If any two of you on earth…”
The Partnership—”…Two of you”
Throughout this book, we’ve been reminding you that the God we serve is a relational God who calls us into relationship with Himself and with each other. His call is one of partnership. In these verses He suggests partnerships of “two” and “three.” In Deuteronomy 32:30 we are told that one person can “chase a thousand,” but two can “put ten thousand to flight”!
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, knew the power of partnership. In Ecclesiastes 4:12, he wrote, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
In our verses from Matthew 18, there are two partnerships mentioned. The first partnership is between those who gather to pray. The second is the partnership Christ enters into with the group!
Referring to the first partnership, Jesus talked about two “on earth” agreeing about a matter. Where else but on earth?, you might think. Yet have you ever thought about the fact that although man’s focus is on getting into heaven, God’s focus is on the earth? We overlook the fact that God is still intent on “getting into earth.” We are so interested in His coming to take us out of this earth that we forget His interest is getting into this earth with the gospel of His kingdom in order to complete His Great Commission! (Read Matthew 28:19–20.) He’s just waiting for a generation that will join Him by praying Great Commission prayers and taking the gospel to the ends of the earth! Remember His ultimate intention: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14).
Jesus indicates the second partnership when He says, “…agree about anything you ask for…” (Matt. 18:19). Jesus had just told His disciples that whatever they saw bound in heaven, they could bind on earth. And whatever they saw loosed in heaven, they could loose on earth. Here He reaffirms that if they agree (implying partnership with each other) concerning anything they see God doing, or wanting to do, and they ask Him for it (implying partnership with God), it’s “a done deal.”
There has been a lot of talk in the American church about unity during the past ten years. Unity is not uniformity. In fact, without diversity, unity is pointless. Scripture tells us to “be of the same mind one toward another” (Rom. 12:16, KJV). But it isn’t speaking of unison—it’s speaking of harmony. The New International Version says, “Live in harmony with one another.”
Quin Sherrer and Ruthanne Garlock, in their book Prayer Partnerships, make the following point: “What comes to mind when you hear the word agree? A handshake? A nod of agreement? An oral or written statement to be of one mind about a matter? The business world understands the word in terms of written contracts.
But in the above Scripture, the word agree derives from a Greek root from which we get our English word symphony. It means ‘to sound together . . . to be in accord concerning a matter.’
Picture in your mind a symphony orchestra. It consists of different types of instruments—some play the melody, some play harmony, some play rhythm. Yet all the musicians follow the same composition, in the same musical key, under the same conductor.
That is a picture of praying in agreement. We may have different styles of praying, but all our prayers are based on the Word of God, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Of course, private prayer is a vital discipline for every believer. However, praying about a matter with one or more prayer partners makes a powerful and eternal impact in the spiritual realm.”
Jesus doesn’t say that we must agree about everything. He says if we agree about anything. We will never agree about everything. But can’t you and the Christians in your city agree about one thing? Agree about the need for God’s presence to be revealed in every aspect of society.
Can you imagine the result? Maintaining your individual differences and doctrines is fine. But if you can agree about the need for God’s presence, you can begin to gather all over town and pray for revival—
which crosses doctrinal and ethnic lines!
Read Acts 4:31–32. The early church prayed with such power that the earth shook. How does the Bible describe the unity they enjoyed?
Read Acts 4:24. In what way did these believers pray?
Read Philippians 2:1–2. How did Paul say the early believers would make his joy complete?
We’ll be looking for you next week,
Eddie and Alice
“America’s prayer coaches”
“Having read literally scores of books on prayer and spiritual warfare, I can say without hesitancy that Strategic Prayer, by Eddie Smith and Michael Hennen, is unique and powerfully practical. If you want to pray strategically, take this book seriously. You won’t be disappointed.”
–Dr. Dick Eastman, Int’l President, Every Home for Christ
“Strategic Prayer is one of the essential field guides for the body of Christ. Eddie Smith and Michael Hennen have developed a proactive, strategic ‘victory’ manual for the saints!”
—Chuck D. Pierce, President, Glory of Zion Int’l, Inc.; VP, Global Harvest Ministries
Learn to Pray Targeted, Specific, Result-Oriented Prayers
Prayer practitioners Eddie Smith and Michael L. Hennen identify twenty-seven principles that will equip you to pray more purposefully and effectively. Using them, you will
- focus on the Lord’s answers rather than your requests
- understand strategies for a successful offensive
- grasp the critical importance of timing
- learn the enemy’s goals and strategies
- and prepare for victory as God’s glory is revealed
Complete the practical survey that follows each principle to spiritually map your prayer target. Then use your map to effectively focus both personal and corporate prayer. This goal-based, proactive approach to prayer will bring results in individuals, churches, cities, and nations as you enter into partnership with God.