When I look at the universal church’s collective power in prayer, It sadly falls short of what I see in scripture. I am on a quest to have a more powerful prayer life. And why shouldn’t I? God’s people are expected to have a powerful prayer life.

While studying prayer, I noted there are 3 different physical needs that some were asked to temporarily sacrifice for the sake of prayer: sleep, sex and food. Self-deprivation just may be prayer’s secret weapon.


Jesus fed the disciples supper then brought three of them out into the garden and asked them to stay awake to pray (do you know how hard it is to stay awake after a good meal???). (Matthew 14:1-41) Jesus repeatedly tried to encourage James, John and Peter to stay awake for prayer.

Jesus could stay awake all night to talk to God (Luke 6:12). How difficult is it for you to stay awake to pray? Many of us have this common practice of thinking we will pray when we go to bed, but it rarely works out. Maybe it’s because everything we do leading up to going to bed is telling our bodies that we ARE GOING TO BED!

I remember when my teenage daughters were at home, they would have stayed up all night long talking to their boyfriends, if we hadn’t taken up their phones at bedtime. Why don’t we have that same desire to talk to God??? Is it a heart issue more than a need for sleep??? Because girls in love have no problem pulling an all-nighter chatting it up with their love interest.

When you have an urgent or overwhelming matter, consider staying awake to pray.

Paul made an assumption in 1 Corinthians 7:5 that we married folk would agree to set aside a time where we choose prayer over intimacy. Have you ever done this? I can’t think of time I have, and I like to pray!

When David was running and hiding from King Saul, he and his men were offered sacred bread from the tabernacle but had to swear that they were abstaining from sex. Abstinence trumped the refusal of sacred food!

“4 The priest told him, “There is no ORDINARY bread on hand. However, there is CONSECRATED bread, but the young men may eat it[a] only if they have kept themselves from women.” 5 David answered him, “I swear that women are being kept from us, as always when I go out to battle. The young men’s bodies[b] are CONSECRATED even on an ORDINARY mission, so of course their bodies are consecrated today [FOR EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES].” 1 Sam 21:4-5

When you are in an extraordinary circumstance, consider abstaining from sex in order to spend more time in prayer (but only if you and your spouse mutually agree!).

Scripture says “when you fast”, which clearly assumes we will fast regularly. (Matt 6:16,17)

When the disciples could not cast a demonic spirit from a boy, they inquired of Jesus on how He was able to do it. He responded that “This sort cannot come out by anything except by fasting and by prayer.” Mark 9:29.

I have found that when I eat healthier, I am able to fast regularly. When my addiction to food is out of control, I am unable to fast and it weakens my prayer life.

When there is bondage, consider fasting from food.

Jesus was weak after He fasted 40 days, yet He was spiritually strengthened. Jesus encouraged Peter to stay awake in the garden so he would be strengthened (Mark 14:38). David’s men abstained from sex when they needed to be at their strongest.

These are possibly the 3 keys to a Powerful Prayer Life. Will we use them? Are you up to testing them? I would love to hear your experiences!

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Gina Duke is the author of “Organizing Your Prayer Closet: A New and Life-Changing Way to Pray” (Abingdon Press). She would love to have you subscribe to her blog at Look for her on Pinterest – Gina Duke / Churchtown Ministries. You can also follow her on Instagram and Twitter @TheGinaDuke

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  1. Wow! Thank you for this! I have never heard the “no sleep” & “no sex” side of strengthening prayer. Read it! But never understood it this way. Thank you!

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