The Purpose of Prayer

by John David Hicks

Imagine a tall building filled with hundreds of rooms. Every room is filled with good possibilities for your future—provision of every kind, healing, deliverance, guidance, and wisdom to make right decisions. The problem is that the door is locked and you can’t get in. But suppose someone puts a “Master Key” in your hand that will open every door. You can choose to use the key or not use it. If you don’t use the key, the doors won’t open for you.

That is a picture of how prayer works. God won’t automatically do everything for you. Instead, He has given you His “Master Key” to use, which is prayer. Prayer gives you the ability to participate in His will being accomplished on earth. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4). However, if we don’t use the “Master Prayer Key,” the door will remain closed for some of God’s blessings.

“And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven” (Matt. 16:19 the message).

Three questions will help us understand the purpose of prayer:

What was the reason that Jesus came? “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him” (Acts 10:38).

We are in spiritual warfare—if there were no devil, it would be easy to pray, but it is the evil one’s chief aim to keep you from prayer. Prayer is about this age, but also about reigning with Jesus in the age to come.

According to Paul Billheimer in Destined for the Throne, our prayer life determines our place of rulership in God’s kingdom. Jesus’ victory on the cross won the legal right and authority over all that was lost in the fall. Satan is defeated, but God has given the enforcing of this victory over Satan to His church, to you and me. Satan will not give up any of his rights or authority until we, the church, enforce Jesus’ victory.

Prevailing prayer is aggressive spiritual warfare. Prayer is the means by which we receive God’s supernatural help. This supernatural grace is what distinguishes Christians from the world. That’s why Jesus prayed and why prayer must take a central place in our life and ministry. Prayer also is about relationship, fellowship, and listening. Sometimes this is called contemplative prayer. Faith is born out of this relationship. “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:10).

Why is prayer so powerful? “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:12-14).

We are to do what Jesus was doing, fulfilling the purpose of God the Father. It is in the atmosphere of prayer that the Holy Spirit nurtures and develops your faith and directs your will. In prayer we are “abiding” in Christ. In communion we receive His strength and power to be what we were meant to be. Prayer allows us to fulfill the Great Commission and the purposes of God for our life. When we are “born again” by the Holy Spirit, we are in covenant with God and God will keep the promises in that covenant. Joshua 23:14 testifies, “You know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!” (nlt). Prayer puts your dependence and trust in God into action. God will keep His covenant promises.

How are we to pray? Prayer is connecting your heart to God’s heart.Jesus’ only prayer request is found in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Jesus also said in Matthew 6:10 to pray for God’s “kingdom come; your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men” (Romans 14:17-18). “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen” (Rev. 1:5-6). “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Cor. 4:20).

Your purpose is to pray for the kingdom of God to come in your life and in the world. The purpose of prayer is not to inform God. Neither is it to persuade Him, for His love needs neither to be induced nor charmed. So, come boldly to the throne of grace and express your faith, your expectation that by His grace He has made us an overcomer.

Paul encourages us to pray for those in authority and those under your authority (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Pray for your family, friends, those who don’t know Christ, and your influence in the world. Prayer also prepares our hearts to obey. In prayer the Holy Spirit gives us God’s heart and thus gives us faith to do His works. Prayer gives us ears to hear God and hearts to obey. God gives the Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32).

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). We are to pray persistently, with thanks-giving, in faith, for the glory of God, and in His righteousness. The Lord has promised to answer your prayers. “I call on you, my God, for you will answer me” (Psalm 17:6). “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17). The Lord has promised, “How much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (Rom. 5:17).

Prayer is the way we release our cares, problems, and burdens to God. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

Your faith influences this spiritual battle. “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor.15:57).

That is why James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” “Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the kingdom,” said C. H. Spurgeon. You should not think it unreasonable that God should make some things totally dependent upon your prayers. God promised if we will “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). Prayer will make a difference in what happens in your life and in the world. God has placed in our hand the “Master Key,” but it’s up to us to put it in the doorknob. Will you use the “Master Key of prayer?”

Prayer should become our lifestyle—to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4). The manna from heaven would spoil if used more than one day (Ex. 16:20). The same applies to yesterday’s “portion” from the Lord. You need a fresh portion and direction each day.

The Power of Prayer

Dr. Randy Byrd was a staff cardiologist at San Francisco General Hospital and a professor at the University of California. He conducted a 10-month study of 393 patients admitted to the coronary intensive care unit of the hospital. In the prayed-for group were 192 patients, while the remaining 201 patients were not prayed for.

Prayer groups around the country were given only the first names, diagnoses, and prognoses of the designated 192 patients. The groups were asked to pray for the patients by name once each day. No other instructions were given. None of the patients, nurses, or physicians knew which group the patients were in.

The results were startling. The prayed-for patients were five times less likely to require antibiotics and three times less likely to develop fluid filling the lungs. None of these prayed-for patients required breathing tubes compared to 12 in the other group, and fewer of the prayed-for patients died. The findings were published by the American Heart Association. Dr. Byrd’s study shows that praying for others really does make a difference even when the patients don’t know they are being prayed for.

Think what could happen if we started praying for others and ourselves about everything. Our prayers could change the world!

Oswald Chambers said well, “Prayer does not equip us for greater works—prayer is the greater work.” Like Paul “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the power may be of God and not of ourselves” (2 Cor. 4:7).

    PS: The “Master Key” is found in John 14:13-14—Prayer in Jesus Name.