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Get Your Prayers Answered

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Get Your Prayers Answered

People pray to get what they want. Success requires knowing how to approach God.

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A man asked Jesus Christ, “Teach us to pray,” in Luke 11:1. This request can seem strange given that prayer had been a widespread practice for thousands of years.

It remains common today, with a Pew Research poll finding that 77 percent of adults pray, half doing it at least once a day. Daily prayer is common across various religions, with 90 percent of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 85 percent of Mormons, 80 percent of Black Protestants and 79 percent of Evangelicals doing so. Even 20 percent of people with no religious affiliation—aka nones—engage in daily prayer.

Despite such widespread practice, most faiths do not offer guidance on how to appeal to God. How can we know we are doing it correctly?

Some of us learned to pray by observing older family members as a child or while attending church for the first time. Others settled on prayer practices based on devout characters on television, in movies or in books. The rest of us just did our best, all the while hoping that our prayers would be answered.

Yet Jesus’ answer in Luke 11 showed there is a right way to entreat God. Knowing that answer can change your life. It reveals there is a way to pray that gets you what you want and a way that does not.

This idea of right versus wrong prayer was at the heart of the man’s request to Christ.

When it comes to prayer, you do not have to just kneel and hope for the best. Instead, you can go to the source—God through His Word—and learn exactly how to ensure your prayers are answered.

Foundations of Prayer

Prayer is a personal dialogue with God, based on faith in His existence and the confidence that He will respond (Heb. 11:6). Prayer involves genuine reflective time with our Creator.

Knowing how to pray in a way that is pleasing to God is important.

Many see prayer as a self-serving tool. When not taught any better, they reduce God to a divine genie waiting to grant them their every wish. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who pray, wondering if their prayers bounce off the ceiling, never reaching their intended audience.

Take a moment to consider your current prayers, including your motivations and the words you choose. Knowing this, how well do your supplications resemble the following?

In Matthew 6, a parallel account of Luke 11, Jesus taught His disciples how to pray: “When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (vs. 5).

Jesus started with an example of people praying the wrong way to establish how to do it properly. Even 2,000 years ago people picked up many bad habits when it came to talking to God. Today is no different.

Christ continued: “But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly” (vs. 6).

This shows that prayer is personal and should usually be kept confidential. While there are occasions when praying with others is appropriate, such as during a Church service, before a family meal at home or a couple praying with each other or their children, prayers are usually meant to be done in private.

With few exceptions, we should not pray in public where others can see and hear.

You may be surprised by this but remember Jesus said the point of prayer is not to “be seen of men.” It is not that we should be embarrassed about our faith, it is just that prayer should be an intimate exercise.

If our goal is for others to see us as godly based on our public, demonstrative prayers, then we are seeking rewards from people and not from God.

Truly ask yourself: Am I praying or telling people of my prayer habits to impress them? If so, try a different approach and focus on what God thinks, not others.

Resuming in verses 7-8, Christ said: “When you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not you therefore like unto them: for your Father knows what things you have need of, before you ask Him.”

First note that God says that even “heathen” or unbelievers pray. Just because people pray it does not mean they are necessarily close to God. Next note that God said not to repeat vain or empty words when talking to Him. This stands in stark contrast to billions in mainstream religions memorizing and repeating themselves while praying!

Remember, prayer is a personal conversation with our Creator. Imagine someone fully capable of coherent speech choosing instead to stutter and repeat himself constantly. You would eventually get fed up and not be interested in what they had to say.

Talking with God is no different. A person choosing to repeat themselves over and over is not pleasant for Him either.

Matthew 6:9-15 gives a general outline of prayer for those needing guidance. It is a model we can personalize and expand based on our specific circumstances or issues in our lives. Approach this model with caution, however, as merely reciting it word-for-word would violate the very principle of avoiding the “vain” or empty repetition Christ warned against.

Just as the Bible is a rich and diverse text that should be seen as God talking to us, we should be equally rich and diverse in our conversations with Him.

Besides being done privately, we should pray in a posture of surrender, following examples found in scripture. Psalm 95:6 says “let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord…”

In I Kings 8:54, Solomon knelt before God “with his hands spread up to heaven.” Other times, believers are described as prostrating or lying face down before God in prayer the way Abraham did in Genesis 17:1-3 or Moses and Aaron did in Numbers 20:6.

Of course, there are times when speaking with God in a kneeling or lying position is not possible, as it might draw unwanted attention. The Bible also gives plenty of examples of people communicating with God without assuming a specific posture.

Regardless of your position, when you pray, remember that you are entering God’s presence. When talking to Him, confidently ask for your needs and desires, as well as the needs and desires of others (Heb. 4:16). Most of all, your requests should reflect a desire for God’s will to be done, rather than your own. God’s knowledge, understanding and wisdom exceeds ours. He knows what is best.

Does God Answer All Prayers?

Should we expect all our prayers to be answered? On its face, Matthew 7:7-8 appears to say yes. Jesus stated, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.”

While this verse suggests that everyone can get whatever they ask for, other verses explain that answered prayer is conditional.

Consider. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear” (59:2). Iniquity is a fancy word for sin or breaking God’s commands (I John 3:4).

When God hides His face from a person, it means He is not answering their prayers.

The apostle John wrote: “Now we know that God hears not sinners: but if any man be a worshiper of God, and does His will, him He hears” (9:31). A sinner is someone who habitually practices sin. A worshipper of God, however, is someone who puts Him and His ways first in their life.

God does not expect us to be perfect. Instead, He wants us to prioritize Him and do our best to turn away from bad things and ask His forgiveness when we occasionally misstep. Asking for forgiveness should be a part of our daily prayer (Matt. 6:12).

Isaiah wrote, “Seek you [all people—including sinners willing to change] the Lord while He may be found, call you upon Him while He is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (55:6-7).

God clearly desires to forgive our mistakes and answer our prayers. He is more than willing to give us what we want, but with conditions.

The condition for answered prayer is that we must obey God’s Word. This is counter to the common misconception that God is so forgiving and benevolent that He will always do what we ask, no matter how we behave toward Him. This is not the God of the Bible.

While we cannot earn His kindness or deserve His generosity, it is unreasonable to expect God to fulfill our requests without us doing our part.

As our divine Father, God always wants what is best for us. He motivates us to do the right things by setting a standard and rewarding us when we follow it. He plainly stated this approach to the ancient Israelite people as an example for Christians today: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live” (Deut. 30:19).

Choosing life leads to God answering our prayers.

This quid pro quo is built into the Matthew 7:7 promise: “Ask, and it shall be given you…” God will do His part so long as we do ours.

I John 3:22 confirms this by saying, “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”

We do not receive something for nothing.

The Formula for Answered Prayer

We saw in I John 3:22 that receiving what we ask of God is based on commandment keeping. The excuse that people use not to keep the commandments—that Christ nailed them to the cross—does not work since John wrote this about keeping the commandments years after Jesus’ death and sacrifice for mankind!

God rewards obedient children and chastises disobedient ones—both are acts of love. This should not surprise anyone with children or those who had good parents.

Resist any temptation to balk at the requirement to obey God. The Bible is blunt on the matter: “He that turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (Prov. 28:9).

Do not make it complicated: If you refuse to listen to God, He refuses to listen to you!

But the opposite is also true. God’s arms are open to help anyone willing to heed His instruction, regardless of their past. He is very forgiving and is eager to bless and answer the prayers of those prepared to change their ways and obey Him.

Yet there is another important condition for answered prayer. The apostle James used the word fervent to describe it. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (5:16). This takes answered prayer to the next level by combining obedience with genuine heartfelt sincerity.

Recall that Christ warned against using vain repetition. The Pharisees of Matthew 6 were criticized for their long prayers that sounded eloquent but lacked depth. Likewise, repeating empty words and phrases was another telltale sign of insincerity.

God wants us to thoughtfully pour our hearts out in prayer. He will answer the requests of obedient followers. If our prayers are sincere and follow the model given in Matthew 6 and Luke 11, then they are noteworthy to God.

To learn even more about how to give proper, effective prayers, read our free article The Keys to Dynamic Prayer.

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