Prayer is seriously powerful business. So often, though, we treat it as a perfunctory task to be checked off our daily to-do list. How can we shift our attitudes from boredom and obligation to joy and expectation?

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male announcer: “In Touch”
with Dr. Charles Stanley,

celebrating 45 years of God’s
faithfulness and sharing

the gospel worldwide.

Next on “In Touch,”
“Prayer that Moves God.”

Dr. Charles Stanley: Do you
often wonder why your prayers

are unanswered?

You know some scriptures, and
you talk to God, but somehow

so many of your prayers
go unanswered.

There must be some reason.

Have you thought about why?

Have you looked at your life
to ask the question: Is there

anything in my life that would
cause God not to answer

my prayers?

Wonder if you’ve thought
about this.

Have you thought about the God
to whom you are making

your prayers?

You say, “Well everybody
believes in God.”

Well, everybody doesn’t believe
in the one true God.

And many people pray to a god
and they expect God to answer

their prayers.

And somehow they
don’t get answered.

And so, you give up on praying
and you then, you think:

“Well the Bible’s
not really true.”

The Bible’s very true from very
beginning to the very end.

So, I want you to listen
carefully to this message,

because it just may be that
you’ll discover one of those

reasons your prayers
are unanswered.

Listen carefully.

So, turn if you will to
Acts chapter twelve.

This is a familiar passage and I
want us to read a few verses,

but we’ll take probably
most of this chapter.

Beginning in verse one, the
scripture says, “Now about that

time Herod the king laid hands
on some who belonged to the

church in order to
mistreat them.

And he had James the brother of
John put to death with a sword.

When he saw that it pleased the
Jews, he proceeded to arrest

Peter also.

Now it was during the days of
the Unleavened Bread.

After the Passover, and when he
had seized him, he put him in

prison, delivering him to four
squads of soldiers.”

Now four squads
would be sixteen.

They were there, “To guard him
and to bring him out before

the people.”

“So, Peter was kept in the
prison, but prayer for him

was being made fervently
by the church to God.”

Now remember that.

It was “Made fervently by the
church to God.”

Would you say that you pray
fervently, or do you just say,

“Well, I don’t know whether
it’s fervently or not,

but I just pray.”

Well, let’s look at what’s going
on right here and maybe discover

something about your
own prayer life.

So, this Herod he
had James killed.

And that seemed to satisfy the
Jews who hated the Christians.

And so, then he thought that
worked, so he had Peter

arrested and put in prison.

So, Peter is now in prison,
and his death is imminent.

It’s very evident that he
intends to kill him–that he

intends to bring him out
before the people.

And kill him with a sword
as he did, James.

And he figured that that
would satisfy the Jews

by killing Christians.

And so, the result is that the
Christians gathered together.

The scripture says in
Mary’s house.

And there they gathered together
to pray for Peter.

Now remember, probably James was
killed without any warning.

And so, here’s Peter, their
leader, who is going to be

killed–they know he’s
going to be killed.

And so, they’re praying, but
they have to be struggling

to some degree with that
because James had already died.

And they know how a prisoner is
imprisoned by the Romans.

And so, they’re praying and
praying for God to release him.

And so, I want us to just read a
few verses here if you will and

look if you will verse six: “On
the very night when Herod was

about to bring him forward,
Peter was sleeping between two

soldiers, bound with two chains,
and guards in front of the door

were watching over the prison.

And behold an angel of the Lord
appeared and a light shone in

the cell; and he struck Peter’s
side, woke him up, saying,

“Get up quickly.”

And his chains fell off
his hands.

And the angel said to him, ‘Gird
yourself, put on your sandals.’

And he did so.

And he said to him, ‘Wrap your
cloak around you and follow me.’

And he went out and continued to
follow, and he did not know what

was being done by the angel was
real, but thought he was seeing

something–having a vision.

When they had passed the first
and second guard, they came to

the iron gate that leads into
the city, which opened for them

by itself; and they went out
and went along one street,

and immediately the angel
departed from him.”

So, so what happens?

“When Peter came to himself, he
said, ‘Now I know for sure that

the Lord has sent His angel and
rescued me from the hand of

Herod and from all that the
Jewish people were expecting.”

Now, I want you to think
about something.

There are two words here that
really got my attention when

I read this and I read it
many times.

If you’ll go back to the fifth
verse, notice what it says.

“So Peter was kept in the
prison, but prayer for him

was being made fervently,”
listen, “fervently by the church

to God.”

And those two words just jumped
off the page to me: “To God.”

If I should ask you, “Who is
the god you are praying to?

More than likely, most of you
seated here and most of you who

are believers could say, “Well,
I’m praying to the one true God.

That when I pray, He’s the
one I think about.”

But I want you to think about
the people who pray who don’t

necessarily pray to
the one true God.

And what I’ve discovered
is this.

When I talk to somebody who does
not know the Lord Jesus Christ

as their Savior and they talk
about praying, I’ll say,

“Well, who do you pray to?”
“Well, I just pray to god.”

“Well like, like who,
who is this god?”

“Well, he’s the god I pray to.”

And the more you talk to them,
the more you listen,

here’s what you discover.

Many people have mentally
created their own god.

And this god agrees with them
about what they want to do,

where they want to go, how they
want to dress, what they want to

drink, or what kind of sexual
relationships they’ll have.

In other words, this god
just fits them perfectly.

And so, they say,
“Do I believe in God?”

“Yes, I do.”

“You pray to Him?”
“Yes, I do.”

“What do you say to him?”

“Well, now you’re
getting personal.

I’m not going to tell you
what I pray to Him.”

They can’t, because
he’s not God.

He is a god that they’ve created
in their minds, but listen.

They will never tell you He’s
holy, He’s righteous,

He’s a God of
judgment, He hates sin.

They’re not going to say that.

They’re going to talk about the
god who has patterned his

desires after their desire,
the way they live.

And so many people when
they’re praying, they’re not

praying to God.

So, somebody says, “Well,
what kind of God does

a Christian pray to?”

I’ll tell you.

He’s–listen carefully, in case
you have one of those homemade

gods, this is a real God.

[congregation laughing]

He is–He is the God who
created this world.

He’s the God who destroyed
this world by flood.

He’s the God who gave us
the Ten Commandments.

He’s the God who broke down
the walls of Jericho.

He’s a God who gave to
David the Psalms.

He’s a God who’s given to us
the prophets like Isaiah,

Jeremiah, and Daniel.

He is the God who has given to
us the Lord Jesus Christ,

the Son of God and our Savior.

Now, if that’s not the god
you’re praying to, you got

a homemade god and it
doesn’t work.

He’s a holy God.

He’s a righteous God.

He’s a perfect God.

He’s a God who hears
and answers prayers.

He’s a God who loves us

He’s a God who forgives us of
our sin, but He’s a God who

does not tolerate sin because He
knows that sin is a destroyer

of the very people He loves.

If you don’t have that God,
you don’t have God.

You have a homemade god.

You have one that suits
you–listen to this: who has

no power to promise you
anything, nothing.

We can say, because of the
scripture: “Absent from the

body, present with the Lord.”

What can you say about your god?

I can tell you what you say.

“Well, I guess I just,
everything just goes to nothing.

I just disappear.”

No, you don’t.

“Well, I guess, God is
a God of love.

He treats everybody the same.”

No, He doesn’t.

You can come up with all kinds
of excuses about your god,

but you do not talk
about judgment.

You do not talk about

You do not talk about
a day of judgment.

You do not talk about standing
before a holy God and give

an account for your life.

And I notice you don’t
talk about hell.

You may talk a little bit about
heaven, because you believe

that everybody’s going there.

Is that really true?
No, it’s not.

And so, your god is god to you,
but your god can’t do

anything for you.

He has no power whatsoever
because it is a god

of your imagination.

The God who is the one true
eternal God is the God we

just described
a few moments ago.

He’s the God who gave us the Ten
Commandments and the Beatitudes

and all the awesome scriptures
we have in the Bible.

Now, the reason I ask you what
god you’re praying to is because

if you’re not praying to the one
true God, it’s not making any

difference in your life.

Now these Christians hearing
about Peter’s imprisonment,

they got together.

And they began to pray and
to intercede for him.

And it’s interesting when you
look at this passage and think

about what was getting ready
to happen, that even in their

prayers they had to be
struggling a little bit.

I think I would have been if
I’d been one of them.

And so, from all human
perspective, every human

perspective, Peter was going to
be killed tomorrow–that is

tomorrow is D-Day for Peter.

Death for Peter.

And so, they got together at
Mary’s house and began to pray.

And they were crying out for God
to do something unusual, to do

something awesome for them,
because he meant so much to them

and for him to be killed would
have been a total disaster

in their thinking.

And especially, in what was
happening in the church.

So, we saw a few moments ago
what happened.

So, Peter’s in prison.

God sends His angel,
takes him out and then he,

goes to Mary’s house.

He knew that’s where they were
all praying–knocks on the door.

And this young lady
comes to the door, the scripture

says, “When he knocked at the
door at the gate, a servant-girl

named Rhoda came to answer.”

When she recognized Peter’s
voice, you’d think she would

have–she would have opened the
door and went, run back, and

say, “Here’s Peter.”

No, what she did, she
heard him and she,

she didn’t even open the door.

She just ran back and said,
“It’s Peter.”

And what did they say?

“It can’t be Peter.

It may, may be an angel
but it can’t be.”

He’s still standing out there
knocking, trying to get in

and they’re in there
deciding it can’t be him.

I mean, they’d been praying
fervently for God to set him

free, and He sets him free, and
they’re still back there saying,

“No, it can’t happen.

So, that’ll give you
some wandering faith.

And so, they said to her,
“You are out of your mind!”

Now look at this.

They’ve been in there praying
and crying out to God.

She says, “He’s at the door.”

They say, “You’re at the–
“You are out of your mind!”

And so, she kept insisting.

And so–but Peter
continued knocking.

Now I wonder what
he was thinking.

“And when they had opened
the door, they saw him

and were amazed.

So, God answered their prayer.

What I want us to look at here
and I want us to say this again

and again because I don’t want
you to–I don’t want you

to miss this.

The Bible says they
were praying to God.

Now let me ask you, how
many of you pray to God?

How many times have you gotten
on your knees and began to talk

to God about what you
were concerned about?

And then you went from praying
about your husband, your wife,

or children or your finance,
whatever it is, next thing you

know, you’re praying about
something else.

Next thing you know you’re
praying about something else.

In fact, in fact, you’ve prayed
all over the world, and then you

get up and walk away.

About two hours later,
somebody says, “Well you pray?”


“What did you pray about?”

“Well, mm, I prayed
about a lot of things.”

When you pray to God, you’re
going to know what you

prayed about.

Now listen carefully.

What happens is in our mind
we fix our mind upon God

to pray to Him.

And we quote Him a verse.

“God, You said if I ask anything
in Your name, that You’d do it.”

I’m as–Jesus’s name,
praying to You.

And so, you start praying and
next thing you know we’re off

to something else, and God
gets lost in the whole issue.

And finally, the way we put
a period to it, we say,

“In Jesus’s name, amen.”

We don’t even know
what that means.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

So, so much of our praying is
not profitable because we

don’t pray to God.

I’m praying to God
about my finances.

I’m praying to God about
my husband or wife.

I’m praying to God
about my children.

I’m praying–in other words,
He must be uppermost

in our praying and our thinking.

Otherwise, we drift off into all
kind of things, as we said

before and sometimes can’t
even remember what it was.

But God is uppermost, foremost.

I’m praying to the heavenly
Father about this.

And I’m not going to go praying
along and get off on something

else, and forget to whom I am
praying and what He is like.

God is honored when
we come to Him.

He’s honored when
we talk to Him.

And He’s willing to hear
and answer our prayer.

He says, “Call unto Me.

I will answer you and show you
great and mighty things which

you do not know.”

If He can part the Red Sea,
knock down the walls of Jericho

and if He can give us the Ten
Commandments, He can answer

any prayer we pray that fits His
will and His plan for our life.

And so, so I want you to notice
something else here, about them.

It says, the scripture says, “So
for him prayer was being made

fervently by the church.”


You know what that means?

There’s some enthusiasm; there’s
some feeling; there’s some

belief fervently.

Let me ask you a question.

Do you love your
children fervently?

Sure you do.

Fervently means
my heart is in it.

When I’m talking to God
fervently, that means I’m–

I want to quote Him a scripture.

And we quote scripture in our
prayer, not to remind God

of anything, but to do what?

To remind us of what He’s
promised us when we come to Him

praying to Him.

And so, the prayer fervently–
For example, when Jesus was

facing the cross, the scripture
says He was praying, in Luke the

twenty-second chapter, He
was praying fervently.

That is, He was agonizing.

And I wonder when is the last
time you could honestly say,

“I prayed fervently for him.”

That means you put your
whole heart into it.

It means you, probably, maybe
were weeping in their behalf.

That you were saying, “God, I’ll
do whatever You say, do whatever

it takes to help them
through this situation

they’re going through.

God, in Jesus’s name.”

And so, fervently means your,
it’s whole-heartedly.

And oftentimes we say to
somebody, “I’ll pray for you.

We don’t, I–we shouldn’t say
that if we don’t mean it.

Now, if I tell somebody
I’m going to pray for them,

I’m going to pray for them.

I want to do something to, to
remind me that I told them

I’d pray for them.

And so sometimes I say,
“Make a list.

Now watch this.

If you want God to do something,
many things, coming to Him

one time’s not going to cut it.

It’s not.

Because some issues and
situations God has to have time

to arrange the situations in
order to answer your prayers.

So, if you just pray once and
say, “Well, God didn’t answer

my prayer.”

You didn’t give Him an
opportunity to answer your

prayer the way He wants to
answer it; in the way that

He gets the most credit;
and that you’re blessed.

And you’re reminded next time
you have a request, that’s

the way you come to Him.

He says, “Call unto Me and I
will answer you and show you

great and mighty things
which you do not know about.”

You don’t even understand.

And so, if I say to you,
“Do you have a list?”

Let’s put it this way.

If you are dead serious about
your prayer life and about

the people you’re praying for,
you’re going to do something

that reminds you to keep
praying until God changes

the circumstance.

And that’s why I have a list.

You say, “Well
what kind of list?”

You just put at the top
of it Prayer List and write it

down there.

You can put the name down and
the good thing that I found out

a long time ago was to
put a date down by it.

This is the day I started.

It may be three days when
I can put another date down,

answered prayer.

It may be three months, six
months and I’ve prayed

for people longer than that.

And some people I’ve prayed for
and prayed for and prayed for,

I still can’t put
a date down by it.

But l–watch this.

But at least I’m reminded, and
least I can still pray for that

person for God to change them in
some way or provide something

in their life.

The issue is am I praying
with fervency?

Because I love this person;
because I care.

Not going to pray
for everybody the same.

You’re not going to.

The closer people are to you,
the more you’re going

to probably pray for them.

The more sincere your prayers
are going to be.

Or the more intense, intensely
you’re going to pray for

somebody that you genuinely
love, or somebody that

you see heading in the
wrong wrong direction.

And there’ve been people
I’ve said, “Don’t do that.

Don’t do, I’m telling
you don’t do it.”

They, and they head out in that
direction, I pray God let them

stumble, let them fall, let them
hurt, whatever’s necessary.

Block them.

Just block them from
ruining their life.

It’s not going to be any profit
to me to pray for God to block

something for them.

I want to see God work
in their life.

And so, He says we’re
to pray fervently.

And then the third thing I
wanted you to notice here

is simply this.

And that is prayer that moves
God may be made by those

in agreement with each other,
in agreement with each other,

and in the will of God.

For example, if I have a big
burden on my heart about

something, I’m going to talk to
somebody sitting right here,

for example, and I’m going to
say to that person, “Here’s the

thing I’m really concerned about
and lets you and I pray

about this together.”

There’s something–watch this,
there’s something

about agreeing.

“If any two of you shall agree
on earth as touching anything

of the Father’s will,
He gets involved.”

And so, there’s something
about praying together.

And let’s put it this way.

The deeper your hurt, the more
your pain, the more likely

you’re going to ask
somebody to pray with you.

Not just pray for you,
but to pray with you.

And if I should ask you today:
How many of you have

a prayer partner?

What say, “I don’t need
anybody praying for me.”

Yes, you do.

We all need somebody
to pray for us.

We need somebody to pray for us
to warn us if we’re heading

in the wrong direction.

And I’ve had people come up
to me over the years and say,

“Well, now are you sure
about thus and so?”

And a godly–if a godly person
says to me, “Are you sure that

that’s the right thing to do?”

Here’s what I’m going to say.

I’m not going to, I’m not going
to be prideful and egotistical

and say, “Well,
absolutely I’m sure.”

No, if you question that, I’m
going to say, “God, I want You

to clarify this in my mind to be
sure I’m heading in the right

direction, asking the right
thing for the right purpose

and the right
motive,” and so forth.

God is so willing to grant us
the needs, the desires of

our heart, when we come to Him
with a clean heart; an open mind

willing to listen to Him;
willing to be obedient to Him.

So, the most powerful thing
you and I do is to pray.

We’re to pray to God.

We’re to pray with
fervency, with heart.

We’re to pray in His will; what
He wants and what He desires

for our life.

And one of the best things we
can do–watch this, it helps us

and it helps somebody else–is
to have someone we pray with.

Watch this, because we all
need to be held accountable.

A person who wants no
accountability is into something

they shouldn’t be into.

That’s why they don’t want
to have to give an account.

Accountability is
a safety zone for us.

What I say, where I go,
who I go with, what I spend.

In other words, I want
to be accountable.

That, that’s safe.

Somebody, I, says,
“I want freedom.”

You want freedom to
destroy your life?

Freedom to get in debt.

Freedom to have relationships
with people you have no business

having relationships with.

Accountability is a safety net
for every single one of us.

And God knows we all need
to be safe–safe, walking in

His will and in His way.

So, the church in these days,
they were smart.

They all got together and
prayed for Peter’s release.

And much–

Much to their surprise,
he was released.

And what happens?

Peter lives a long time
after that.

Now, I’d simply ask you this.

If you had to describe
your prayer life,

what would it be like?

Well, I say my prayers at night.

Well, let’s get this: what do
you mean say your

prayers at night?

I understand what you’re saying,
but if you just pray at night

before you go to sleep, I can
tell you right now, you’re going

to get in trouble.

Because, first of all, you may
be about two-thirds asleep

before you start praying
so you don’t even know

what you’re saying.

In other words, you might as
well say the prayer that

I remember my mother taught me
very early in life before

I knew what was going on.

“Now I lay be down to sleep, I
pray the Lord my soul to keep.

If I should die before I wake, I
pray the Lord my soul to take.”

I think that’s better than
nothing, but it isn’t the best

kind of praying.

Now we laugh about it, but
prayer is serious business.

Pray to Almighty God through His
Son, Jesus Christ, who died on

the cross and shed
His blood for your sin.

Praying to be saved to Almighty
God through His Son, Jesus,

serious business.

Praying for our needs,
serious business.

Praying for one another,
serious business.

Praying for the nation,
serious business.

Prayer is serious business.


Not only serious,
it’s powerful business.

Praying with fervency makes
change in people’s lives and it

can make change in a nation.

And God’s people need
to be praying.


And Father, we thank You that
You’re pleased when we pray.

Willing to hear us, willing to
answer us, willing to strengthen

us, willing to build our faith
up, willing to teach us

how to love You.

And we pray today in
Jesus’s name right now.

Any person seated here; any
person listening, wherever they

might be; if their
prayers are to count,

help them to understand.

First of all, they must make
a personal commitment of

their life to Jesus Christ for
the forgiveness of their sins,

which opens the door to prayer
and makes it possible.

And before that happens,
that’s null and void,

that is only talk.

And so, we pray that somebody
today would be saved,

maybe many people
would be saved.

But Lord God, that You’d have
your way in their lives and

in each one of us, who calls
ourselves Christians, who names

the name of Jesus.

That You would guide us.

That all of us would be praying
people, is my prayer

in Jesus’s name, amen.