SESSION 3: "The Four Keys of Effective Prayer"

Why was this Prayer Meeting so different?

"Iíve never been in a prayer meeting like that before," a young deacon exclaimed as he left a conference at Scofield Church in Dallas. Two couples from the Oklahoma City area and three men from Corpus Christi, Texas, had been deeply moved by messages from Bill McLeod of Canadian Revival Fellowship and Erwin W. Lutzer, Senior Pastor of Moody Church. So they approached me asking how they could meet some of the needs of their churches back home.

"I really donít know what to tell you," I replied, "but I suggest that we get together for prayer. We will ask the Lord Jesus Himself to meet with us and actively take charge. Then you can get your friends back home to join you in claiming the presence and leadership of Christ in your church." With that in mind, we gathered in the pastorís study for prayer.

I looked around and saw that we were a rather unusual prayer group. Usually the women outnumber the men, but we had seven men and three women. There was a generation gap, too. My wife, Betty, and I and the other couples were seniors. The three men from Corpus Christi were "baby boomers" with young children. I was pleasantly surprised to see that a young, single man from Dallas (Iíll call him "Sam") had joined us. With Jesus in charge we came together in one accord. I began by reading our Lordís promise to meet with us:

"Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." (Mt. 18:19-20).

The "Four Keys of Effective Prayer"

Then I asked, "Can we all agree to base our prayers on four basic truths in the light of this passage and other related Scriptures?"

KEY #1: "Letís claim the Presence of Christ in our midst, expecting Him to actually be present by His Spirit as He promised.

KEY #2: "Second, letís trust Him to take charge of us because He is the Head of the Church.

KEY #3: "Third, are we all completely willing for Him to change each one of us as He sees fit?

KEY #4: "Fourth, can we agree to trust Him to bring us all into harmony with His Father and thus into heavenís harmony with one another?"

I paused and then added, "Now, I would like for each of you to carefully consider whether you can heartily agree to unite in prayer on the basis of these four commitments. I want you to feel perfectly free to say so if you are not ready to accept this basis for our united prayer at this time."

I waited while they thought this through. They all agreed. So we began to pray. We had barely begun when Samís prayer dissolved in tears. For some time he sobbed like his heart would break. Finally, I asked, "Can we help you?"

"Iíve been away from the Lord for a long time," he confessed, "and I want to come back to Him. Last night, Dr. Lutzer told how Israel had backslidden and become like a marred clay vessel and God had to break His people that He might mold them into a new vessel. I know God was speaking to me, calling me back to Himself."

We encouraged Sam, then resumed praying with a sense of awe and wonder that the Lord had so remarkably answered our prayer for His presence and active leadership. By the time we finished praying, all of our hearts were softened and we were drawn closer to the Lord.

Gene Constantine, a deacon from Corpus Christi, remarked as he was leaving, "Iíve never been in a prayer meeting like that before." What made the difference? Christ came into our midst and took charge because we "opened the door" (Rev. 3:20) and let Him come into our meeting to glorify Himself in meeting our needs.

Three Powerful Realities

Letís notice here three powerful realities:

  1. Christ was present and actively working
  2. Christ was applying the Word of God as it had been preached
  3. Christ was present and applying His Word in answer to our prayers

This prayer meeting turned out to be a refreshingly unusual experience for most of the group. Should prayer groups (where Christ is actively at work) be rare? Or should we normally meet in expectant faith claiming that He will be present, actively in charge, changing each one of us and bringing us all into harmony with His Father and thus into heavenís harmony with one another?

Dr. C. John Miller, founding pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, had a prayer meeting where Christ was usually actively in charge. So many came for this exciting prayer meeting that they had to move from the basement to the sanctuary to hold the crowd. Christianís lives were being changed. In fact, they came wanting to be changed and they were not disappointed. It was not unusual for prayers for the lost to be answered and for the new believers to begin attending prayer meeting.

The prayer meeting lasted about an hour and a half. Part of the time everyone was together and part of the time they divided into small groups. Much of the counseling needed by burdened members was taken care of in the small groups.

This dynamic prayer meeting was a key factor in the growth of New Life Presbyterian from a small home Bible study to a congregation of 600 members. The church also sponsored two daughter churches.

A Prayer MeetingóKilled and Revived!

Pastor Millerís prayer meetings were not always alive through the active leadership of Christ. Some years earlier he had pastored a church where the prayer meeting died. He came to the shocking conclusion that he killed it!

How did he kill it? By thinking his preaching and his hard work were all that was required for success. He did not regard prayer and the active work of the Holy Spirit as absolutely necessary.

Humility: A Prayer Essential

Then he went through a struggle with an overwhelming sense of defeat in 1970. He came out of this struggle deeply humbled and keenly aware of his need to constantly rely on the active work of the Spirit through constant prayer about everything. He especially prayed for the prayer meeting, for those who would be leading, as well as for those he expected to attend. Then his prayer meeting came alive with the presence and active leadership of Christ.{1}

Pastor Miller led his flock to become the living church gathered in prayer around Christ. (Christ dwells not only in individuals, but also in the midst of His people!) (Eph. 2:18-22). Thus a group of believers become a living temple, a house of prayer (Isa. 56:7; Mt. 21:13; Mk. 11:17; Lk. 19:46). BUTóto make Christ at home in our midst we must humble ourselves

For thus says the High and Lofty One
Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy;
I dwell in the high and holy place,
With him who has a contrite spirit,
To revive the spirit of the humble,
And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
-Isaiah 57:15

When we become truly humble we realize that we are limited creatures who are absolutely dependent on God for life, breath, and all things. Furthermore, we know that we are sinful creatures compared with our sinless Savior. Thus we are absolutely dependent on Godís free grace for salvation and any favors we might receive from His hand. Humility brings a recognition of total dependence on God that leads to prayer as the only way to live and get things of eternal value done.

Christ is our example. He humbled Himself when He became a genuine man and lived in constant dependence on His Father and He took the sinnerís place on the cross. He did nothing on His own initiative apart from His Father (John 5:19, 30; 8:28-29; 12:48-50). Prayer was the way He lived and got things of eternal value done. On at least one occasion He spent all night in prayer (Lk. 6:12). Fifteen times in the gospels we find Jesus in prayer. He arose long before daylight and went out to a solitary place to pray (Mk. 1:35). He won the biggest battle of His life in Gethsemane in prayer (Lk. 22:40-45).

Humility leads to prayer as a constant necessity because the humble know that apart from Christ we can do nothing of eternal value (John 15:5). Peter and all the apostles learned this the hard way when they failed to stand up for Jesus when He was on trial. This was a deeply humbling experience. After they were restored we find them giving prayer and ministry of the Word top priority in their lives (Acts 6:4). Prayer is mentioned 38 times in Acts and is found at every important turn of events.

You face a choice

We all face a choice. We must make Christ at home in our midst by humbly gathering around Him in prayer or go our own way in our own strength and accomplish nothing of eternal value!

In the next four sessions, we will examine more closely:

Research for Instructor:

1. To be sure that you fully understand and can explain the "Four Keys," re-write each one in your own words.

2. Can you explain what these terms from the Four Keys means:

3. In your concordance, look up the following words:


Points for Discussion:

  1. How will recognizing Christís presence in our midst make a difference in our prayer life?
  2. How does Christ change us when we pray?
  3. Right now, are you in a state of humility or pride?
  4. What are the ingredients of a prayer meeting where Christ is allowed to take charge?
  5. How do we go about letting our prayer meetings be the active work of the Holy Spirit?
  6. What are the heart attitudes of those who enjoy a Spirit led prayer meeting?
  7. How does the life of Christ illustrate what our posture should be toward the Father in prayer?
  8. What are some evidences that Christ is in charge of our prayer meetings? That self is in charge?
  9. Can you repeat the Four Keys of effective prayer?


{1}Taken from Outgrowing The Ingrown Church, by C. John Miller (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan Publishing House, 1986, pages 94-97), copyright ã 1986, by C. John. Miller. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

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