Prayer is an important response in times of trouble: when cancer invades your family, when your teenager is breaking your heart, when your church is full of conflict, when your marriage is empty and broken, when the economy is in turmoil, when the Coronavirus is getting close to home. It’s good to pray.

And, we know that prayer is powerful. But, what are the ingredients of a powerful prayer? David, one of the greatest prayer warriors, shows us in Psalm 3.

Face the facts and be honest with how you feel. When David wrote Psalm 3, his son Absalom had rallied a coup to overtake his throne. Thousands of men were searching to kill David. As a father and king, he must have felt heartbreak over this betrayal. He prays:

“How many are my foes? How many rise up against me?

Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him’” (Psalm 3:1-2).

David didn’t stick his head in the sand to the brokenness of his life, and he didn’t ignore the hurt that he was feeling because of it. He saw his situation realistically and admitted how he felt about it: defenseless, despised, doubtful.

Tell God what’s going on in your life and how you feel about it, regardless of how faithless it may sound: My wife has cancer, and I am scared. The economy is in a scary place, and I am worried. The coronavirus is a real threat, and I am fearful. As you pour out your heart to God, trust will grow (Psalm 62:7-8).

Pivot your focus. David moves from talking to listening. He pivots his prayer with this:

BUT YOU are a shield around me, O Lord; You bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

To the Lord I cry aloud, and He answers me from His holy hill” (Psalm 3:3-4).

“But You”—two weighted words that reach beyond the reality of your situation and settles on the One who can handle it. For every emotion that David reveals in verses 1-2, he focuses on who God is specific to that emotion in verses 3-4:

David felt defenseless, BUT God protects.

David felt despised, BUT God exalts.

David felt doubtful, BUT God answers.

This is key. Powerful prayers come when you pivot your focus from your situation onto the powerful truth of who God is.

Move forward in faith. David does it so well:

“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.

I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! Strive all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.

From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people” (Psalm 3:5-8).

David shows us how to take steps of faith in troubling times. Because he poured out his heart and pivoted his focus, he now can move forward in faith:

Because God protects, he sleeps.

Because God exalts, he will be sustained by God.

Because God answers, he will be delivered.

The effects of this prayer are powerful. David is filled with peace and hope. His situation didn’t change, but his focus was now set on the truth of who God is.

This is a helpful prescription for us today. If you feel troubled, pray like David: face the facts and your feelings, pivot your focus to the truth of God, and move forward in faith. It will ignite your prayers in powerful ways.