If you want to know the temperature of your spiritual life, look at the thermostat setting on your prayer life.
Prayer is the most misunderstood and neglected aspect of the Christian life. It has been estimated that most Christians pray three to five minutes a day. Compare that to the time many spend complaining, and you’ll gain insight into the spiritual and emotional condition of our day.
Yet God has constructed the world in such a way that there is much He won’t do in a Christian’s life apart from prayer. Prayer, when combined with faith, can accomplish great things.
In this practical and comprehensive overview of prayer, Tony Evans covers a variety of topics, including:
- Principles of productive prayer
- The power of prayer and praise
- Fasting and prayer
- Prayer and God's purposes
Tony’s expositions of various passages on prayer will help you realize its critical importance and encourage you to make it a dominant mark of your life.
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About the Author
DR. TONY EVANS is the founder and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, founder and president of The Urban Alternative, former chaplain of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, and present chaplain of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks. His radio broadcast, The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, can be heard on over 1,200 US radio outlets daily and in more than 130 countries. Dr. Evans launched the Tony Evans Training Center in 2017, an online learning platform providing quality seminary-style courses for a fraction of the cost to any person in any place. The goal is to increase Bible literacy not only in lay people but also in those Christian leaders who cannot afford nor find the time for formal ongoing education. For more information, visit: http://www.TonyEvans.org.
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Touching Heaven to Change Earth
By Tony Evans, Jim Vincent
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2016 Anthony T. Evans
All rights reserved.
Power and Promises
A number of years ago, I took the family on a vacation to see one of the great wonders of the world. We had already been to the Grand Canyon and gotten to ooh and ahh about the scenery there. Personally, I didn't completely understand why we had to drive that far to see a hole in the ground, but it was on the list of "Great Family Vacation Destinations" so we went.
This vacation, we went to see another hole in the ground — or what looked like a hole in the ground from up above. The difference, though, was that this hole was filled with an enormous amount of water. It didn't take me more than one look to understand why we had come. It was overpowering in its beauty. I couldn't look away.
Niagara Falls proved to be a great adventure for us as a family, but as we spent a few days there, something else stood out to me about the experience in relationship to prayer and our experience of God Himself.
We had chosen to stay on the Canadian side of the Falls for our vacation, and so when we had arrived at our hotel room the first night, that became our initial opportunity to see the mammoth horseshoe-carved landmark, flooded with an ongoing surge of water causing it to be soaked with foam at the bottom. I'll never forget looking out the window of our hotel room that very first time and being overwhelmed by the magnificence of this natural wonder. It seemed close. It seemed enormous. I recall mouthing the word "wow" and just standing at the big window with the family, staring in amazement. We were all impressed at the majesty flowing in front of us.
But it was too late that evening to actually go and visit Niagara Falls up close. Instead, we unpacked, grabbed some dinner, and went to bed. The next morning, Lois and I woke the kids and headed out to show them a closer, more powerful view. We headed out the hotel, went down a walkway, and then took a short ride on a hillside tram to get to a little park and visitor area right at the top of the Falls.
Now, the view from our room had been spectacular. There were no complaints mumbled at all. But the view from the park area right where the water literally lunges over the edges of stone and rock — well, that view was breathtaking. I didn't just mouth one "wow" like in the hotel room. This time as I stood there witnessing the immeasurable amount of water nose-diving off the rim of the upper riverbed, I voiced my amazement out loud. Several times. The thunderous roar of the water hitting the basin never stopped. The rainbow painted in the sky shone above it, immovable — almost like a sentry positioned on duty.
We stood there bathed in the constant sound and sight of pure wonder. If you've been there yourself, you know we also got a little wet as the water's spray would fly through the air, sprinkling us as it went about its way.
Witnessing the Falls firsthand — close enough to feel as if I could reach out and touch it — evoked a profound sense of awe within me. Hours went by in what seemed like only minutes.
But there is a third way to experience Niagara Falls, one many visitors on the Falls' American side enjoy. It's called the Maid of the Mist, a magnificent boat you can ride close to the foot of the Falls. If you have been on it yourself then you know that the word "mist" is an understatement. When you ride the Maid of the Mist, you don't get misted at all. You get drenched. But "Maid of the Drench" probably wouldn't go over as well in marketing the riverboat ride!
Everyone is given a raincoat before they board the boat. This is intentional because the owners of the boat know you are about to get really wet. Before long, the cold, penetrating river water that just fell fifty-seven meters (one hundred eighty-seven feet) from the cliffs at Niagara soaks everyone on board. Passengers on the boat don't merely see the Falls. They don't merely hear them. They don't merely get sprinkled with droplets on the breeze. No, on that boat they are drenched as they experience Niagara as close as is humanly possible without actually going over it in one of those barrels that many adventurous daredevils have tried.
Close, Closer, Closest
These three very different experiences offered visitors to Niagara Falls reminded me of our relationship to prayer and our experience of God Himself. Some of us approach our prayer lives and relational experience of God from the hotel room of our hearts. We see Him from a distance. Yes, we are duly impressed, but not really impacted. We admire His work from afar but then we become easily distracted because it's just an image out a window. We might mouth a word or two. But before long we have turned to do other things, or simply gotten bored with the view.
Then there are others of us who engage our prayer lives from the park. We're closer. We abide a bit more. We stay a little longer. But we are still safely behind the steel and rock barriers of our own will and minds. We don't allow the current to connect with us or direct us in any way. Yes, we may feel His engagement and hear His voice, like answers blown to us on the breeze, but then there are other times where we become easily distracted by the visitor center souvenirs to purchase, or the hamburgers, ice cream, and pretzels nearby. Before long, we've left His presence and entered the store.
But there are some who refuse to settle for a hotel room window or even park experience of prayer. They are the ones who put on their raincoats, raise their umbrellas, and venture into the basin to get as close as they can. They long to be drenched by God's presence. Drenched by His purity. Overwhelmed by His glory. They see not just the rainbow of His promises but move into the actual light of His promises. They may get uncomfortable sometimes as the boat gets rocky or they get drenched, but it's worth it as they fully engage with the One who truly is the voice on the waters. As the psalmist writes, "The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord is over many waters," (Ps. 29:3). That is the voice you hear, know, and experience. And with His voice comes His power.
Did you know that Niagara Falls is not only a spectacle of wonder to behold? It is also a source of power, great power. In fact, a fourth of all of New York State as well as Ontario are powered by these falls alone. The Niagara generating stations create hydropower that can turn on 24 million 100-watt light bulbs at one time. There is nothing quite like Niagara Falls in physically illustrating a spiritual principle with regard to prayer. Both promises (the rainbows) and power (enormous hydroelectricity) come from this one place.
But it is up to you whether you choose to simply view the postcard or the calendar photo featuring the Niagara Falls. You could go a step further and take a trip to a hotel close to the Falls and look out the window. Or you could choose to make the walk down to the park and line up at the edge where the water cascades for a closer look. Or if you will decide to go all the way — put on the raincoat, get on the boat, and be drenched by both the power and promises of that place.
It's your choice. But while you do get to make your choice, you don't get to choose the outcomes of that choice. The choice itself will influence the results. If you want the full power and promises of God's presence, you will have to get close and go deep in your relationship with Him.
Prayer has been studied, written about, talked about, and preached on by countless people in countless ways. Yet it remains an elusive element to most of us. In over four decades of ministry, I have encountered only a few who truly seem to grasp and understand prayer. For far too many people, even those who follow Jesus Christ, prayer is like the National Anthem before a sporting event. It gets the game going but has little to no relevance on what is happening on the field. It is merely an exercise of routine.
For example, when most of us pray before we eat, we don't really utilize our minds to do that because we say the same general things each time. Or when many of us pray before we go to bed at night, we simply recite a call for blessing and protection with a little bit of gratitude thrown in for good measure.
Prayer has become a habit for far too many of us.
Yet prayer is powerful. Kingdom prayer is the divinely authorized methodology to access heavenly authority for earthly intervention. Such prayer is earth giving heaven permission to intervene in the reality down here with the manifestation of the spiritual reality up there. That is a definition few of us really grasp. God is waiting to be involved in our activities and yet because we were given freedom He does not force Himself on our situations. He waits for us to ask — to connect with Him in prayer.
There was a lady who lived way out in the boondocks for years without any electricity, but finally the power company was able to get electricity installed where she lived. But after several months, the power company noticed that very little power was being used at this woman's home. They did some tests and saw that the power was get- ting to her house just fine, but she didn't seem to be using much at all. So a representative decided to visit her home and ask if there was a problem.
"Ma'am, are you using your electricity here that we've run to your property?" he asked.
"Oh, yes!" she replied. "It's been very helpful."
"Can you explain to me how you use your new electric power?"
"Well, it's very simple," she said. "When it begins to get dark, I turn on the lights long enough to light my kerosene lamps and then I turn the lights off again."
I'm sure you will agree with me this lady didn't understand the use of the power. She had it, but she wasn't maximizing it; she wasn't getting all of the power that it was designed to deliver. It's the same way with prayer. In order to experience maximum spiritual power, we need to understand how this thing called prayer is designed to work.
We sing songs about power. Our songs remind us of all of the deposits that God has made in us, yet so many of us are living as though we are powerless. Now, how can you live in God's prayer power? It starts by first knowing Him — really being intimate with who God is. Being willing to get drenched on the boat and take a trip into the basin of God's presence. Now, that doesn't mean how many Bible verses you have memorized or how many theological concepts you have mastered. Those academic pursuits have their place, but knowing God personally in prayer is more than that. When you become intimate with God, it's not a vague concept — it's an ongoing conversation. It's an experiential reality that produces results.
Finding Power before We "Lose Heart"
When you experience God the way He intended, you will experience power in your prayers like never before. The apostle Paul introduces this concept when he makes the statement in my favorite New Testament book, Ephesians, "Therefore I ask you not to lose heart" (3:13). To "lose heart" means to become discouraged, despondent, and finally, to give up. There is a lot today to lose heart over. It might be a financial situation, a relationship, a health concern, loss of a job, or emotional distress. Just watching the evening news can cause anyone to lose heart very quickly.
So much that surrounds us today speaks of doom, gloom, and unfortunate situations. As a pastor, I am regularly called on to counsel people. There isn't a week — and often even a day — that passes when I do not speak with someone who is ready to give up.
Paul must have heard many similar accounts. And his concern for the believers at Ephesus — "saints" as he called them (so they were saved people) — was that they would not lose heart. This concern thus led Paul to pray one of the great prayers of the New Testament. This prayer for power, found in Ephesians 3:14–19, is often overlooked when it comes to Bible study, but I believe it to be one of the most insightful and powerful models of prayer that has been given to us.
Paul's Prayer for Our Power
In verse 14, Paul writes, "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name." Now understand: When the Bible mentions that somebody has dropped down to their knees, it means this-is-serious-prayer time. This was a humbling kind of prayer.
Paul continues with this mighty prayer. He prays that God "would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man" (v. 16). Paul is basically asking that God would give the Ephesian believers some power. But what kind of power is Paul referring to? He's talking about power to no longer allow your circumstances to own you. He's talking about the power to deal with a losing-heart situation. He's talking to weak people who need to be strengthened because of what they are going through.
They don't have the power to get out of the situation, or even through it, by themselves. They cannot overcome the circumstance, deal with the pain, or find the answer. They feel so powerless that they are losing heart. That is the context in which Paul prays this prayer.
Through his prayer, Paul is saying to them — and to you and me — that the answer is not on the outside. It's not found in changing the situation. Paul is saying the power to not succumb to losing heart is based on the Spirit's work inside of you.
Many of us who are losing heart try to change the external situation. We don't think to make an adjustment on the inside, where real change can take place. This only makes us more frustrated. And then we wonder why there's no power and nothing happening.
Have you ever picked up your cellphone only to notice there is no power left in it? It powers down and now you can't access your contacts or even dial a number. You can't call out and no one can call in because there is an absence of power.
When this happens, you or I could scream at our phones and say, "Come on, someone talk to me!" But that wouldn't change anything. We could push the screen harder or shake the phone. We could say nice words to it or look at it longingly. Yet still nothing would change. Nothing would turn it on — except simply plugging it in. All efforts are doomed to failure and frustration unless something got charged in the inner casing.
Many of us who are losing heart in our physical, tangible lives and experiences are making ourselves more frustrated by trying to change the external situations and dynamics when there has been no adjustment on the internal connection. Then we wonder why there is no power and nothing seems to be happening.
Here is what Paul had to say about situations like this in Ephesians 3:16–18 (NIV):
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.
The Greek word "dwell" means to make yourself at home. That's a key word to understanding the power of prayer. Let me illustrate it through this comparison. Many of us have a welcome sign outside of our front door. When someone comes to our home, we say "Come in! Make yourself at home." But let's face it — we don't usually mean that. Rather, it's just something polite that we say to welcome a guest. It would be more correct to say, "Make yourself at room," because we don't really mean that a guest can wander throughout our entire home. They can't go into your bedroom or peek into your closets. Those areas are private. They are off-limits.
Excerpted from Kingdom Prayer by Tony Evans, Jim Vincent. Copyright © 2016 Anthony T. Evans. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsIntroduction: Why Is Praying a Challenge?, 7,
Part 1: The Concept of Kingdom Prayer,
1. Power and Promises, 13,
2. Authority and Access, 27,
3. Ruling and Relationship, 41,
4. Precision and Persistence, 53,
5. Accessing the Able, 65,
Part 2: The Context of Kingdom Prayer,
6. Faith and Futility, 75,
7. Two or Three Together, 89,
8. Commitment and Calm, 103,
9. Stop Blocking Your Miracle, 115,
10. Pushing Through in Prayer, 127,
Part 3: The Conditions for Kingdom Prayer,
11. Making Mountains Move, 141,
12. The Force of Fasting, 155,
13. Aligning through Abiding, 169,
14. The Purity of Purpose, 185,
15. Grace and Gratitude, 199,
16. Breaking Free from Bondage, 215,
Conclusion: True Power, 225,
The Urban Alternative, 231,