We all know people who seem to have a hotline to God. Every prayer they pray seems to get answered. Still, many others are left wondering if God even hears them when they pray. How about you? Do you pray? Does God answer you when you do?
Most people pray – at the very least, a cry of “HELP!” now and then – but many feel their prayers are ineffective. They ask God for health, and sickness comes; they ask for help with their finances, and a financial crisis arises; they pray for the healing of a family member, and the condition appears to get worse. If God wants to communicate with us and help us, why do so many people struggle with receiving answers to prayer?
The source of the problem is identified in the fourth chapter of James, where it says, “You have not because you ask not. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss.” Clearly, the problem isn’t with God; it’s with us. When we don’t get what we need, it’s probably because we have not prayed at all or because we have not understood how to pray.
Faith Brings A Reward
Good communication is always important, especially in your relationship with the Lord. Simply put, prayer is a conversation between you and God. He speaks to you through His Word and the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. You communicate by talking to Him just as you would talk with any close friend.
One of the reasons people don’t pray is unbelief. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” How can you converse with someone you’re not sure exists? And if you believe He exists, do you believe He is able to answer your prayers? You might say, “I know God is able, but I’m not sure He is willing.” You need to take Him at His Word and believe it when the Bible says He will reward you when you seek Him.
When Jesus spoke of prayer, He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you” (Jn. 16:23). Not only is this a great promise, but it also contains two very important keys to prayer. In fact, every prayer you pray should have these two things in common. Always pray to God the Father, and always pray in the name of Jesus. This comes as a surprise to many people because as children they learned prayers that ended with “for Jesus’ sake, amen”. I remember growing up praying, “Bless Dad and Mom and my sisters for Jesus’ sake” and “Bless this food for Jesus’ sake”. But it wasn’t for Jesus’ sake that the food needed to be blessed. It was for my sake! I was the one who had to eat it!
When we pray in Jesus’ name, we aren’t trying to trick God into thinking He’s doing it for Jesus and not us. We’re simply using a key God has given us to have access to Him. Just as your salvation is through Jesus, so is your communication with God. When you pray to God the Father in Jesus’ name, He hears you just as if Jesus were asking.
The Third Key
Here’s the third key to prayer. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God; if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have what we asked of Him” (1 Jn. 5:14-15). You can be confident God hears you and will answer when you pray “according to His will.” But how can you presume to know the will of God?
God’s Word is His will. If it’s in the Bible, you can be sure it’s what God wants for you. In fact, there are over 7000 promises in the Bible and every one of them is available to you! When you have a request, find the promise in the Word that applies to your situation and pray the promise. When you do, you will be praying according to God’s will, and you can be confident that He hears you and will bring it to pass.
God cares about the daily details of your life. Scripture tells us He is “touched by the feeling of our infirmities” and wants us to pray. His Word instructs us to “pray always, with all kinds of prayer” (Eph. 6:18). What are the kinds of prayer, and how do you know if you should pray once and stand in faith or keep on praying until you see the answer?
Kinds of Prayer
The prayer of petition is probably the most common type of prayer. It’s a prayer you pray for yourself. Mark 11:24 says, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” When you pray a prayer of petition, you need to pray it only once. Believe when you ask, and God promises you will have it sometime in the future. Pray, then stand in faith expecting to receive what you requested.
The prayer of commitment is a prayer we often need to pray over and over again. Three times (in one night!) Jesus prayed the very same prayer. He was in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, “O Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I desire, but as You desire.” He kept on committing Himself to His Father’s will. Likewise, we need to surrender and keep on surrendering areas of our lives to Him. When we are anxious or worried, we can keep on committing our cares to God again and again.
Intercessory prayer is prayer for other people. In Luke 11:5-10, Jesus tells of a person going to their neighbor’s house at midnight to ask for bread for a friend in need. He encourages us to be persistent in this type of prayer saying, “Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened unto you.” It is perfectly scriptural to intercede for someone over and over again until you see results. You can’t make unbelievers come to the Lord, but you can pray for their hearts to be softened. If they harden their hearts, you can keep on praying until they respond to God’s moving in their lives. Persistence pays off in intercessory prayer.
Matthew 18:19-20 says, “If two of you agree on earth concerning anything they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” This is the basis for another type of prayer, the prayer of agreement. It requires two or more people in total agreement, believing the same thing, praying together. It is a very powerful way to pray because where there is unity, “the Lord commands a blessing” (Psalm 133:3).
Praying in the Spirit is often mentioned in the New Testament. Jude 20 says, “But you, dear friends, build yourself up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” This is a prayer that goes beyond the limits of our minds as is explained in 1 Cor. 14:14. “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.” When we pray in the Spirit, according to Romans 8:26-27, “the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” If you don’t know how else to pray, it is always appropriate and effective to pray in the Spirit.
Worship is powerful as a form of prayer when it’s put into action as illustrated in 2 Chron. 20:20-24. As Judah headed into battle, King Jehoshaphat “appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise Him for the splendor of His holiness as they went out at the head of the army saying: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.'” A great victory was won as a result of this inspired battle strategy, and not one of Judah’s enemies escaped! The same strategy is available to us today. As we offer praise and worship to God for who He is and what He does, He is moved to work on our behalf. Not only that, but as we worship, our hearts are changed to make us more ready to obey God’s voice.
Prayer is not about overcoming God’s reluctance to help you, but it is about taking hold of His willingness to perform His Word. He is listening and waiting for you to cry out to Him, and He is most willing to answer your prayers. When you pray in faith using Biblical keys, you can have a hotline to God and receive the answers you need!