When life is impossible, we pray to God for help. Jesus’ followers in the Early Church have lessons to teach us about bringing God’s supernatural power into our desperate situations.
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Roadblocks To Prayer We Can Overcome
4 Principles For Praying God’s Power Into Impossible Situations
“God, help me!”
Does this sound like the kind of desperate prayer you might have uttered recently? If so, then you’re already on the right track.
Praying to God for help when life feels impossible doesn’t require a poetry degree or perfectly rehearsed language. It requires honesty and authenticity. These qualities were demonstrated in the Scriptures many times, but particularly in the book of Acts.
To open the doors of communication and access God’s power, there are a few principles demonstrated in the days of the Early Church. Let’s explore a suspenseful story found in Acts 12:1-19.
THE FOLLOWERS’ COMMITMENT TO PRAYER
Here’s the summary of what’s happening in this portion of Scripture:
The events occurred after Jesus was resurrected, lived on earth for 40 days, and then ascended into heaven. The church was exploding and the disciples were seeking God’s power and guidance continually.
We learn of James’ death and Peter’s imprisonment, where they assigned 16 men to guard him. After all, he was the leader of this movement and they didn’t want him escaping. In fact, during the night, they chained him and assigned a soldier on either side, with guards at the entrance. He was not getting away.
And yet, he did—without any commotion. God miraculously sent an angel to awaken Peter and lead him out of prison, right past every guard.
Upon his release, he went to the place where the disciples were gathered and found them praying.
The actions of the followers can teach us a great deal about prayer and petition.
ROADBLOCKS TO PRAYER WE CAN OVERCOME
Before we uncover the 4 principles, let’s address the roadblocks that sometimes hinder our ability to pray to God for help.
First, this isn’t an issue of spiritual maturity. Praying to God requires only that you turn to Him. I don’t have a secret way of praying that I haven’t shared with you. That said, I will give you some tips that have helped me as I’ve struggled in this area of my walk with Christ.
Second, be aware of the true roadblock that hinders you from coming to God: sin. That’s what keeps us from God. But when He died on the cross, He paid for your sin. And when He rose from the dead He created a way so that you and I can approach the throne of God confidently, based solely on His finished work on the cross. When you confess your sins and believe that He was raised, sin isn’t a roadblock anymore.
Third, you might be wrestling with life issues and you’re embarrassed or ashamed to come to God in that state. 1 John 1:9 says:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Christ keeps on cleansing. If there’s an issue between you and another person, or you and God, confess your sin. He assures us that He’ll:
- Draw near
Thankfully, these roadblocks don’t have to get in the way of praying to God anymore.
Now that we’ve addressed the barriers that can hinder our communication with God, let’s explore the principles found in Acts 12:5:
Peter therefore was kept in the prison: but prayer was made earnestly of the church unto God for him.
The disciples’ example reveals powerful principles regarding the act of prayer: we need to pray unto God in earnest—corporately and specifically. Let’s explore those elements here.
4 Principles That Teach Us How To Pray To God For Help And Bring His Power Into Impossible Situations
1. Learn to pray UNTO GOD.
Of course, you’re praying to God, right? Who else would you be praying to?
I’d like to suggest that 50-75% of the time we don’t really pray “unto” God. Not that you’re praying to a false god, but your focus is on other things, like your words, your surroundings, or more often than not: absolutely nothing at all.
Have you ever gone on autopilot during prayer?
During the early church, there didn’t seem to be an autopilot prayer mode. These people knew to whom they were praying and they were fully aware of God’s power and presence.
What if, before we said a word in prayer, we consciously became aware of who we’re speaking to? This quote by R. A. Torrey says it well:
“We should never utter one syllable of prayer, either in public or in private, until we are definitely conscious that we have come into the presence of God, and we are really speaking to Him.”
This isn’t automatic and it isn’t always easy, but it’s possible.
Ponder God’s attributes by reading a Psalm. This helps me to remember who He is and prepare my heart for prayer.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth. – Psalm 121
Pray: God, I want to remember who You are. And I want to make sure that I’m speaking to You, not to the people I’m praying with, or not just to get my prayers done.Your merit, your absolute guarantee that you can come into the presence of the Almighty Creator of the universe, isn’t because you’ve been a good boy or a good girl today. It’s only by the blood of Christ. Click To Tweet
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2. We must pray earnestly.
It’s a word used in Luke 22:44, where Jesus prays for God to take the cup from Him if it’s His will. And then He sees the disciples and He goes back to pray. And the verse says:
Therefore in agony He prayed more earnestly as He was doing battle.
No doubt, that was a prayer of focused purpose and passion.
Think about a desperate, scary moment in your life when you cried out to God—that’s an earnest prayer. It’s coming to God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, saying, God, I mean business! I want what I’m asking of You. I’m not going through the motions.
I liken it to an exhausted, terrified parent praying for their young child’s high fever to subside at 2 AM. That prayer is not eloquent; it doesn’t check all the boxes. It’s primal and honest: earnest.
When you are praying to God for help in your impossible situation, come to Him humbly and earnestly.
Test yourself in this area. A clear way to measure whether or not you’re praying earnestly is to ask What’s the level of my perseverance? Does the “time on your knees” reflect your desire to see God show up in this situation?
Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love;
in your great mercy turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant;
answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
– Psalm 69:17-17
Pray: Lord, I’m facing an impossible situation and I need You. Give me strength and faith to come to you earnestly, knowing you’re a Good Father.The disciples’ examples have taught us to pray earnestly. You can come to God with all your heart, soul, and mind, saying, “God, I mean business! I want what I’m asking of You. I’m not going through the motions.” Click To Tweet
3. Pray corporately.
The church was born, it grew and then it exploded based on a commitment to gathering and interceding. In fact, the early followers believed the most powerful force on the earth was when they gathered and asked in unity.
Historically and globally, every great movement of God is tied with people who begin to lay hold of earnest, corporate prayer. Consider Jonathan Edwards, the Reformation, or Korea today—where God is moving marvelously—and you’ll find people praying daily and corporately.
Here are just a few of the many times in Scripture when God answered the believers’ corporate, earnest prayers and made a powerful impact —
Acts 1: Jesus ascended and the believers prayed
Acts 2: Pentecost came while they were praying
Acts 3: Peter and John perform a miracle on their way to a prayer meeting
Acts 4: They got beat up and thrown into prison, where they prayed for more effectiveness
As the account of Acts continues, you see many more instances where prayer was the catalyst for incredible movements of God. In fact, in Act 6 when leadership said, “We must give ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word,” the whole structure of the church changed to make this a priority.
Prayer was more than a priority. It was a necessity.
Pray with others. Believe what the New Testament says about prayer and call out to Him alongside other believers. You’ll be a part of the work of God and you’ll see things happen.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. – Romans 12:12
Pray: Give me Your courage and strength to participate in corporate prayer. Help me to believe and see the work of Your hands.
The church was born, it grew and then it exploded based on a commitment to gathering and praying. The early followers believed the most powerful force on the earth was when they gathered and asked in unity. Click To Tweet
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4. Pray specifically.
Why do we pray vaguely? Are we afraid to impose upon God? We ask for His will and we ask Him to work out all things, which seems fine at a glance, but it’s like coming to a billionaire with nickel and dime requests.
What do you want?
Doesn’t a parent want to know the desires of his child’s heart, what will bring her joy? We want to bring her good gifts! You’ll never see God’s power until you start praying specifically.
As for me, I decided to make a list of the specific, impossible things I want for the lives of my family, for me, and my church. Why not? I can’t wait to see how God moves.
What about you? Do you pray vaguely? Try making a list of 5 impossible requests for yourself, and also your family and church. Write down specific things and put them before the throne of God, and see if the Eternal God of the universe doesn’t want to bring His power into your impossible situation.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. – Philippians 4:6
Pray: Father, give me courage and discernment to pray specifically. Open my eyes to your supernatural power.Pray specifically. Write detailed petitions and put them before the throne of God, and see if the Eternal God of the universe doesn’t want to bring His power into your impossible situation. Click To Tweet
What about you? Do you use these principles in your prayer life already?
People who seek the true God earnestly, corporately and specifically get a front row seat of His supernatural work in this world. Imagine the healing and peace that would take place if we all applied these principles to the trials in our lives.
I want that for you; I want that for your impossible situation.
Find more life-changing lessons on prayer in my Daily Discipleship Course on YouTube, The Power of Prayer. We’ll cover struggles like prayerlessness, wrong motives, unforgiveness, and explore their impact on our lives. Tune in today for hope and encouragement.
Can you remember a time when God answered your specific prayer? Or an occasion when you were part of powerful corporate prayer? Leave a comment below and share your story.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip