Relationship is the core of effective, powerful prayer. Each of us has been given the ability to come before God’s throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) at any time to communicate with our Creator. This is one of the truths that makes our faith unique, but it can be difficult for our minds to grasp. On an earthly level, we are not accustomed to this kind of unlimited access to those in authority, but God is different. We can approach Him in an instant. He wants to hear from us and is pleased when we call! He will never put us “on hold,” tell us He will respond later, His “phone” off the hook or let an answering machine take our message.
Jesus Christ wants a relationship with us that is built on time spent in His presence and through reading His Word. On a personal level, we can speak to Him about anything and everything. And yet, although prayer is simple, its principles must be learned. Even the disciples asked their Master to teach them to pray.
There is no underestimating the importance of prayer in a family or its influence and vital importance in our nation. I feel this very strongly because it was so decidedly absent from my own early childhood experience. The little girl that I once was grew up in a troubled home where daily prayers were unknown and the sounds of joyful praise were never heard. I’m aware of what family-centered spiritual training can mean to a child because I “discovered” it for myself when I was about eight years old. What a contrast to the rich spiritual heritage of my husband’s family! He has often told me how his grandmother used to gather the six children around her for daily devotions. She prayed, “Lord, it is my most urgent request that each of these children will come to know You personally. If one of them fails to make that commitment, it would have been better that I never had been born.” This is the priority she gave to her spiritual responsibility. Her prayers made such an impression on Jim’s dad that he referred to them throughout his life. This is the example our children need to see in us. But it is more than a model. Prayer and reverence for God must permeate every aspect of our lives and become a natural part of our life.
We need to learn how to become a people of prayer once again. Then and only then will God hear us from heaven and restore and heal our land. It is certain that many circumstances cannot be changed, except by prayer. People do not change unless they learn to yield to the Lord as a result of prayers of others who diligently beseech God for their salvation. Prayer can change our hearts, our loved ones and even our society.
As we study the Scriptures – on the truths and promises of the Bible, our attitudes, thoughts and behaviors change. We are cleansed from within and we are empowered to do battle on behalf of our Lord and the land we love.
The very life and death of Jesus are intercessory prayers for us. By dying for us, He interceded on our behalf before God, our heavenly Father. And as He prayed for us on earth, he continues to intercede for us before the Father’s throne:
“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)
Through his death, Jesus showed us the importance of praying for transgressors. By way of example, therefore, He is asking us to pray for the transgressors of our land:
God is calling us to intercession, but He wants us to be certain that His Word is with us as we pray. His Word brings life, power and faith to our prayers. We must remember that we are not alone when we pray – when we intercede for our nation. There is a band of fellow believers who stand with us, both in this country and around the world. Jesus prays with us as well and the Spirit empowers us. The Spirit of God is praying for us, with us and through us!
As we pray for our nation, we need to let God break our hearts with the same things that break His heart, never forgetting to love deeply the people of our country even though some may be involved in gross sins of immorality. The nation will be reached if the godly will remain faithful prayer warriors who walk in love and humility before Him.
What a privilege it is to serve the Lord in the vital ministry of intercession. As Andrew Murray points out, “like Christ, give yourself to God as a sacrifice for men: it is your highest nobility; it is your true and full union to Him. It will be to you, as to Him, your power of intercession. Beloved Christian! Come and give your whole heart and life to intercession, and you will know its blessedness and power. God asks nothing less. The world needs nothing less. Christ asks nothing less. Let nothing less be what we offer to God.”
Shirley Dobson is the wife of psychologist and author Dr. James C. Dobson and has served as Chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force since 1991. Through the efforts of her team, more than 35,000 prayer gatherings are conducted by approximately 40,000 volunteers across the country. Several million people participate every year in this call to prayer for our nation, its leaders and citizens. To learn more or to get involved, visit www.NationalDayofPrayer.org