The power source of Christian prayer is our personal relationship with Jesus which takes away the obstacles that get in the way of connecting with God through prayer. Having a personal relationship with Jesus gives us access to God that we don’t have on our own.
The basics of getting to know Jesus personally
Here is the basic outline of why knowing Jesus is so essential. God loves us and wants to be connected to us in a loving relationship. However we are imperfect and often do things wrong both intentionally and unintentionally that separate us from God and his best plans for our lives. Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to earth to bridge our worthiness gap by dying on the cross in order to pay the price for our mistakes, sins and shortcomings and to empower us to live new lives. When we accept his gift to us through an acknowledgement of our need for help, Jesus applies his power to us and begins a personal relationship with us. We’ll fill in this outline in a later section in this article on “How to get to know Jesus personally.” I’ll also share some of my own personal experiences.
The ways Jesus enables us to pray
When we know Jesus personally, here are some of the many amazing things become possible for us:
Jesus becomes our advocate with the Father when we pray. “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (I John 2:1 NIV)
Jesus sends the Holy Spirit who aids us in our prayers. “And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth.” (John 14:16 NIV)
Jesus invites us to pray for using his name. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:13 NIV)
Perhaps you have heard someone end their prayer by saying, “I pray these things in the name of Jesus.”
This is based on a passage in John where Jesus says, ”And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:13 NIV) This of course isn’t a collection of magic words that guarantee that what we ask will happen exactly as we’ve requested. Instead it shows the unity between God and Jesus and how personally they hear our prayers and send answers that will bring us and others into a greater awareness of who they are.
Jesus promises to be present with us in our times of need. “And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NIV)
Jesus promises that when we pray with other Christians he is present with us. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18: 20 NIV)
Jesus promises that we will learn to hear his voice when he is speaking to us. This is very important in prayer so we can receive answering thoughts from God. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10: 27,28) As the Good Shepherd he says “He goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” (John 10:4 NIV)
Jesus teaches us how to pray. “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” (Matthew 6:9 NIV)
Jesus enables us to be connected to him like a branch to a tree and as a result of the life–giving power and energy we receive, we can produce many good things. “I am the vine, you are the branches . If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV)
Jesus gives us incredible love and because we are loved, we can have confidence that when we pray that he cares and that he will respond in a way that has our best interests in mind. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you …greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15: 9,13)
Jesus reveals things to us. This is extremely important in prayer in prayer because we often need new vision and insight into our situations. “Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15 NIV)
Jesus enlightens and helps us see things more clearly. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV)
Jesus is the one who satisfies all of our inner hungers and thirsts. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:15 NIV)
How to get to know Jesus personally.
Here are the secrets of getting to know Jesus personally that establishes our close prayer connection with God.
Our feelings of unworthiness
Our disconnection from God is caused by how superior God is compared to us. When we find ourselves in the presence of someone who is much greater, purer, more intelligent and more powerful than ourselves we immediately realize that we are way out of our league with nothing in common that connects us.
On a smaller scale, imagine that we had met with Mother Teresa who ministered to the dying, poverty stricken untouchables in India. In a face- to–face encounter with Mother Teresa we would suddenly feel self –serving and self –centered and lacking everything that matters. The light of Mother Teresa’s purity of spirit and her ability to love the unlovable would shine a spotlight on our feeble charity and lack of devotion.
Multiply that by a million times and we approximate the way we would feel if we were to somehow meet God. Once in God’s presence, we know in an instant that we are completely unworthy of anything at all. The Bible records how Isaiah felt when this happened to him. Isaiah sees God Almighty sitting on the throne and describes this horrified reaction, “‘Woe is me!’” I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips…and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’” (Isaiah 6:5 NIV)
Our efforts to solve our unworthiness don’t work.
Once we understand that we‘re not worthy of being connected to God in prayer, we attempt to solve our problem on our own in a number of ways.
Comparing ourselves to others. The first way we try to solve our unworthiness is by rationalizing that we are fairly good by comparing ourselves favorably with someone who isn’t as good as we are. This doesn’t work because not only is it untrue (there’s always someone somewhere in the world better than we are in any arena) but also because elevating ourselves because of a false sense of pride is actually a flaw in itself.
Trying to fix our faults. Another way is to take the opposite approach. We feel unworthy with good justification. We might feel guilty about selfish and immoral things we’ve done, guilty that we’ve ignored God for years and now we’re coming to him when we’re in a jam, or guilty because we’re the ones who got ourselves into trouble to begin with and we deserve the consequences. We know we have faults, so we decide that the answer is to try and fix them before we can ask God for anything. This prevents us from praying because we never are able to improve enough. Or we might try a bargaining approach, telling God we will be a different person in the future if He rescues us now. This doesn’t work either.
Low self esteem. It’s possible to be so down and depressed that we don’t need to glimpse God’s majesty to feel unworthy. We keenly experience our own dismal feelings of being hopelessly flawed and worthless. Our darkness is so great that we can’t pray because we doubt that God exists and if by chance God does exist, He wouldn’t care a thing for us. This sort of oppression can spring from many sources, such as grief, abuse, persecution, ridicule or unbearable life situations. In our inner brokenness we lose our ability to believe that we matter to anyone, much less to God.
Jesus solves the problem of our unworthiness
The good news is that although we can’t solve our unworthiness problem, God solved it for us by sending Jesus into the world to redeem our broken communion with God. Why? Because God loves us and created us to love him and to enjoy his company.
The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (Jesus) that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16,17 NIV)
Jesus accomplishes what we can’t do. He lived a perfect life and died as our substitute to remedy all the reasons that we are unworthy to be connected to God. When God raised Jesus from the dead, everything changed. We can join our life with Christ. The Bible describes Jesus as our advocate who connects us with God. (I John 2:1) When we pray, God recognizes us as someone worthy of approaching him because we are in a relationship with Jesus, the Worthy One.
Making a decision to know Jesus
A personal relationship with Jesus starts during a moment of personal understanding about the remedy that God has provided for our unworthiness through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The moment of understanding can come as a result of a number of different life circumstances. What they all have in common is that we move from an intellectual/historical knowledge about the facts of Jesus’ life and we recognize that we need and want the saving power of Jesus for ourselves. We realize our faults, sins and shortcomings and instead of hiding them, we open up to Jesus about them and ask him to apply his power to forgive us, heal our inner brokenness and make us into a new, different person.
Here are some examples of the life pathways that lead up to a moment of understanding.
Chasing happiness and still feeling empty. For some people, the moment of starting a personal relationship with Jesus begins after they have tried pursuing everything in life that they thought would make them happy. But instead of feeling happy and content, they’re shocked at how dissatisfied and empty they feel inside.
Having regrets about wrongdoing. Some people start a personal relationship with Jesus when they have regrets about their misdeeds – the people they have hurt, the bitterness they have nurtured and the lies they have lived. In extreme cases, misdeeds can land us at rock bottom where we’ve lost everything and are desperate for the fresh start only God can give.
Searching for love. Some people start a personal relationship with Jesus because they have never felt loved. They have tried searching for love in all the wrong places and haven’t found that anyone who loves them and won’t use, abuse, betray or abandon them.
A natural progression of small steps in the right direction. Some people start a personal relationship with Jesus after a long, slow series of gentle leadings as part of a Christian home, church or community. A moment comes when they realize that the secret of Christianity isn’t a set of good moral standards to be followed or the right words to know, but rather a personal choosing of Jesus and following Him.
A time of huge personal need. Some people start a personal relationship with Jesus when hit with a life crisis beyond their control. They are good, competent people who, before this crisis, had been able to take care of themselves and their families with their own strength and resources. Suddenly they are faced with a situation that is out of control and they realize their need for God’s strength and intervention.
Witnessing God’s power at work. Some people start a personal relationship with Jesus when they witness God’s power at work. Often they see a person they have always known as tough, selfish or unpleasant to be around undergo a radical change and become a different person after starting a personal relationship with Jesus. Some people might experience or witness a healing of an illness or the mending of a broken relationship that is outside of the normal boundaries of expected outcomes. Some people may experience a dramatic rescue from a life and death situation. Some people even have an encounter where they feel that they have received a direct word, sign or touch from Jesus.
In all cases, the individual realizes that they are on a life path that isn’t working and they want to accept God’s invitation to start a new life journey with Jesus.
The initial prayer that starts a personal relationship with Jesus.
Because prayer is the act of communicating with God, prayer is the means that is used to begin a personal relationship with Jesus. We simply start by saying yes to Jesus and his saving power.
Based on the principles that are found in the Bible, Christians have used a short prayer that helps express our need for Jesus and our desire for his help. Here’s a simple version of the prayer of conversion or the sinner’s prayer as it’s sometimes called.
Dear God, thank you for loving me. I am not worthy of your love and I‘m sorry for my sins and shortcomings. I want to change. I accept Jesus as my savior who died on the cross to take away my sins. I want Jesus to come into my life. I want to have a personal relationship with him and I want to let him be in charge of my life. Amen.
This prayer is just an example. It’s not the words so much as the intent that matters.
Begin living by the facts in the Bible about your personal relationship with Jesus
The emotions experienced after praying a prayer of decision to begin a personal relationship with Jesus vary widely from person to person. The emotional impact depends on a lot of things, including your personality, the setting and the reason you’ve come to Jesus. For instance, if you have come with great guilt and regrets, you might respond with tears that help wash away your feelings of guilt. If you’ve come at a time of a major life problem, you might feel an overwhelming sense of peace. If you’ve come on a step by step journey, you may feel a warm sense of gratefulness and love. If you’ve come searching for life meaning, you may feel an excitement about embarking on a new life where you can make a true difference in the world.
Whatever you may or may not feel, it’s not the feeling that validates the experience. Your experience is validated by the facts in the Bible that tell us that this is the way to become worthy in God’s sight and the way to begin a personal relationship with Jesus. Feelings fade and change. Facts do not.
Here are the facts in the Bible about your personal relationship with Christ:
God loves you and has a plan for your life.
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord…” (Jeremiah 29:12 -14 NIV)
We are all unworthy
“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that comes by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.” (Romans 3:22 – 25 NIV)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
We can’t make ourselves worthy – God does it.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8 NIV)
Your unworthiness has been solved by Jesus
“God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us…Not only is this so, but also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:8,11 NIV)
You start your personal relationship with Jesus by asking for it.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20 NIV)
“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believed and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame…the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (Romans 10: 9 – 13 NIV)
You start a new life when you begin a personal relationship with Jesus.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them…” ( 2 Corinthians 5 :17 -19 NIV)
Begin learning how to develop and grow your relationship with Jesus
Just like any relationship, partnership or friendship our relationship with Jesus grows and develops over time. Our relationship develops in a number of ways. We learn more about Jesus through the Bible and through other Christians. We learn to we talk with Jesus through prayer and share our innermost thoughts and secrets. We learn to look for and hear his guidance. We learn how to take action on the assignments Jesus gives us to venture out and serve others and develop positive traits such as trust, faith and hope. We learn to use his power and help to master our bad habits and be better people. We learn how to be thankful people, to spend time in worship and enjoying the God’s presence. We learn how to connect with other Christians in meaningful ways, to love and help each other in our life journey. And we learn how to tell others about the good news of what a difference having a personal relationship with Jesus makes in our lives.
Here are the most vital tools you need to use to grow your relationship with Jesus:
Meet together with other Christians.
Find a church and join a small group or a study group where you can get to know others personally. In such groups you will be able to worship, receive love and prayer, hear stories of how God is working in other people’s lives, find support when you go through hard times and enjoy the company and friendship of like-minded people.
Read and study the Bible.
If you haven’t read or studied the Bible before, a good place to start is the book of Mark, which tells about the life of Jesus. Then read the other accounts written by people who knew Jesus – Matthew, Luke and John. After that read about what happened after Jesus’ resurrection in the book of Acts when Christianity grew and spread through the testimony and efforts of ordinary people.
We learn to pray by doing it. Find ways of praying that work for you and a time to pray that works for your daily schedule. The key is to develop regular prayer habits so you can really sit down and explore your life with Jesus. If you don’t develop regular prayer habits, your prayer times will become one-sided and not very satisfying. The more time you spend, the more interactive your prayers and the closer you will feel connected to God and disconnected from your worries and problems.
Having a personal relationship with Jesus makes us feel loved, accepted and empowered. This love makes us want to bring more people into God’s circle of love. After His resurrection, Jesus empowered his followers to act as his ambassadors to the world. (2 Corinthians 5:20) The Bible also tells us “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6: 2 NIV) There are endless ways in which we answer these calls in small and large ways each day. We cannot know whether our faith, trust and love are real until we start applying them to very specific actions that test them and cause them to grow and mature.
My personal story
Before my moment of decision to start a personal relationship with Jesus I had been going to church since I was a baby. I knew Bible stories, observed my parents’ good, honest and dependable way of life, and sang all of the songs about how much Jesus loved me. I went to church camp and youth group and Sunday school. I memorized Bible verses. I tried to please my teachers and parents. I studied and did my homework. I played by all of the rules. Well, I didn’t keep my bedroom clean, but what child does?
When I was a teenager a group of teens and adults came to our church to lead a renewal weekend. It was during a talk by a teenage boy that I began to wonder if I was missing something. The young man’s upbringing wasn’t a thing like mine. He said that his father was an alcoholic. One night, when the father came home in bad shape again, God had given the young man the courage to hug his father and tell him that he loved him and that God loved him. I was puzzled, because as a people pleaser, I would never consider approaching someone who might reject me. I knew I didn’t have that kind of power in my life. I was a nice, good person, but I wasn’t a courageous person.
After the young man finished speaking, a man joined him at the podium and said, “This is my son and I’m here tonight because of the love of Jesus that my son showed me when I didn’t deserve it.”
I was stunned. The man went on to share some of the ideas that are mentioned in this article about how Jesus lived the perfect life and died that my sins would be forgiven. The man gave an invitation to come forward to the altar by saying, “Come forward and accept as much of Jesus as you understand right now.”
My heart began thumping and I felt an urgency to get up and move. I got up out of my seat and went forward and knelt down at the altar as a simple action that showed that I wanted to accept Jesus as my savior.
It’s been many years since that time and I can honestly say that having a personal relationship with Jesus that made it possible for me to interact with God through prayer made all of the difference in my life. In college, I was veering off in the wrong direction dating the wrong guy. A simple, “Lord help me” prayer in the prayer chapel on campus gave me the courage to break up with my boyfriend believing that God had someone special for me. Interesting that courage was what I had so admired in the testimony when I accept Jesus into my life, and Jesus had given me the courage to change my own life. A few months after that prayer I met my future husband Gordon at a church on the edge of campus and we’ve been married for over 40 years now.
The top 5 ways to increase the power of your prayers
This article is one of 5 in a series of the top ways to increase the power of your prayers. To read the other articles follow the following links:
Copyright Karen Barber 2016. All rights reserved.