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CALL TO PRAYER: It’s a ‘first response, not a last resort’

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s Call to Prayer is adapted from a question-and-answer article with H.B. Charles Jr., senior pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Church in Jacksonville, Fla., that appeared in the LifeWay Christian Resources magazine Facts & Trends. Charles is the author of the book, “It Happens After Prayer” (released by the Lift Every Voice imprint of Moody Publishers).

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) — Life’s inevitable difficulties and disappointments can discourage believers from praying, but our response should be to pray anyway, and keep praying.

(Q&A conducted by Matt Erickson, managing editor of Facts & Trends.)

Q: What were your goals for “It Happens After Prayer”?

CHARLES: First, I wanted it to be a book about prayer filled with Scripture, not stories. Testimonies of answered prayer are inspiring but don’t have the authority of Scripture. Power in prayer comes from a mind and heart saturated with biblical truth, wisdom and promises.

I also wrote this book to motivate the reader to pray. Some books beat you up about your lack of prayer. But that’s not the tone of Scripture. The Word of God woos us to pray. And I wanted to write a book that had that same feel.

Q: Why should we pray?

CHARLES: There are at least two biblical reasons why we should pray. First, we should pray because the Word of God commands it. Prayer is an act of obedience. It is a sin not to pray. Second, we should pray because it works. God hears and answers prayers. It is the means by which our heavenly Father provides for His children.

Q: What’s the most important lesson we can learn about prayer?

CHARLES: It happens after prayer. It really does. God hears and answers prayer. There are things we need God to do for us that will not happen until we pray. Sure, there are a lot of things we can do to help the situation after we pray. But there is nothing we can do to help the situation until we pray. When we work, we work. But when we pray, God works.

Q: Why should we keep praying when nothing seems to be happening?

CHARLES: I was on a red eye flight with a little girl overwhelmed with the experience of her first flight. She asked her mom, “Why are we just sitting in the air?” Of course, we were not. It seemed that way to the girl. But there was someone in the cockpit speeding us to our destination. Prayer is the same way. It may seem nothing is happening. But God is at work. Don’t stop praying!

Q: What kinds of prayers does God love to answer?

CHARLES: In It Happens After Prayer, I write [on the basis of Nehemiah 1] that God answers sincere prayer. Prayer that is our first response, not our last resort. God answers reverent, God-exalting prayer. God answers honest, confessional prayer. And God answers believing prayer.

Q: How can prayer help us deal with anxiety?

CHARLES: You cannot pray and worry at the same time. Prayer is the remedy for worry. Philippians 4:6-7 teaches us to pray our worries away. Nothing is worth worrying about. But everything is worth praying about. We should take our worries, one by one, to God in prayer. And God promises that His peace, “which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Q: What are some spiritual priorities for prayer?

CHARLES: In his New Testament prayers, the apostle Paul teaches us to pray with spiritual priorities. Most of his prayers aren’t centered on physical, material or financial matters. It’s not wrong to pray about those things, but matters of the heart are more important, so we should focus most of our prayers there.

For instance, we should pray that God’s name be hallowed before we pray about our daily bread. To pray with spiritual priorities is to pray first and foremost for God’s will to be done in God’s power (see Colossians 1:9-14). When we pray that way, we will see that it really does happen after prayer, and we will be even more motivated to keep praying.