Pray Effectively

Does God answer your prayer?

As Christians, we have a great privilege – that of asking God for things in prayer. We miss out greatly when we don’t use this privilege.

Oh, what things we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry,
Everything to God in prayer.

What should our experience be? It should be that every prayer we make is answered. If you and I have a relationship (e.g. a friendship), and I say something to you, and you don’t answer, wouldn’t that be odd? Wouldn’t you immediately wonder if something is wrong, and try to fix it?

It is the same way with God. Why should it be any different? Yet so many believers ask of God, and don’t receive any answer, and think that that is okay! It is not okay.

Do you believe that the Bible is true? We have some amazing promises pertaining to prayer.

Jn 14:14 "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it."

Either the Bible is true or not. If it is true then surely this must be our experience too. Otherwise, something is wrong.

Jn 16:23 "In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full."

When we ask and we receive an answer from God don’t we feel thrilled that God answered us? If things around you are going crazy, and you are wondering what is happening and you ask God if He is on your side and He answers you with an encouraging word, isn’t your joy full?

Mt 21:22 "And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."

Mt 18:19 "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven."

With promises like that, if we don’t ask then one or more of the following is true:

  • We didn’t know of these promises because we never really found time to study the Scriptures.
  • We don’t believe these promises. We think God is like us, saying things that He doesn’t mean.
  • We don’t care enough about God’s kingdom so as to use these promises effectively.
  • These promises don’t work for us because we are not disciples of Christ.
  • We don’t meet the other requirements for answered prayer.

How should we pray?

Here is what Jesus taught about praying to God.

Mt 6:9-15 9 "Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]’ 14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."

Lk 11:1-4 1 It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples." 2 And He said to them, "When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’"

Notice that the words ‘me’ and ‘my’ and ‘I’ are not there in the prayer. Instead, the words ‘Our’ and ‘Your’ and ‘us’ and ‘Thy’ and ‘Thine’ are frequent.

Our – Our Father, not, "My Father" – we must pray not just for our interests but for those of our brothers and sisters too.

If your brother or sister is hurting and it doesn’t bother you do you think that God is going to hear your prayer? If you don’t lift a finger to help your brother or sister in need is God going to help you?

Now I’m not talking of helping a brother or sister who is in need because of his or her own foolishness. Such people need to be left alone just like how the father of the prodigal son did not send money to his son in need.

God is not just our Father, but the Father of our brothers and sisters in the church. So, if you are deceiving or cheating or taking advantage of your brothers and sisters in the church in any way, God who sees everything takes a note of it. Do you think that He is going to listen to you if you are mistreating or taking from your brothers and sisters in the church more than you give?

If you gossip or speak evil of your brother is God going to hear your prayer or deliver you in your times of need? If you judge your brother or consider yourself superior to him or despise him is God going to pay attention to you?

If you are a leader or elder or pastor and you get income from the church, do you give back in spiritual blessing as much as you take? When you teach, do you do a good job of it, or do you just taken someone else’s sermon and dish it out? When you advice, did you first hear from God or are you just dishing out something standard?

God, whose sense of justice is very exact, is not going to listen to people who trouble or deceive or bother or hurt or take advantage of His children.

Father – approach God as a Father (a provider because He loves us), not as a boss (someone who gives us pay because we are good and we worked for him). Recognize our humble dependence on Him, and not on our own strength. A father is not too busy to help you. A father is not so unconcerned that he doesn’t want to help you. God has the inclination and the time. Don’t ever let the devil fool you into thinking otherwise.

A good father is always trying to optimize things for you, looking ahead and preparing you. So don’t complain about what happens around you – it is the cup that your Father has given you to drink and if you despise what He has prepared for you then you are not pleasing to Him and He is less inclined to listen to you.

In heaven – Unlike our earthly father, God can do everything. God is perfect, unlike our earthly father. God is our King, not our servant.

You can ask God the impossible because He is in heaven.

You come to God with great respect because He is in heaven. Your mindset is that of a lowly one, not one of a great one. You come as a sinner not as a righteous person.

His Name is to be hallowed (or made high) – not ours. Our motive should be to bring glory to God. When you ask for things is it so that you look good or so that He looks good? Is it to show how great you are, or to show how great God is? What are you living for? Are you living for furthering your greatness or for furthering God’s greatness?

His kingdom come – how will the answer to our prayer benefit God’s kingdom?

How does God’s kingdom come? It comes when a sinner repents, and when a sinner conquers sin and Satan. It comes when our flesh is crucified. It comes when our time and money are spent for God. It comes when we stop operating in selfishness but out of love for God. When you pray you need to come to God with that in mind.

His will be done – not ours.

On earth, as it is in heaven – immediately, completely, joyfully. That’s how I must do God’s will.

Our daily bread, not my daily bread. My brother’s physical life is important to me, and I am not in competition with him.

Our debts, not just mine. My brother’s spiritual life is important to me, and I am not in competition with him.

We must forgive those who have sinned against us.

If your sins are not forgiven then God is against you. And He will not listen to your prayer. So it is pointless for you to pray unless you have forgiven everyone in the way you want God to forgive you.

Pray for not being tempted – not just me, but us. When a brother is caught in a temptation what is your attitude? Are you glad that it is not you? Or do you feel the pain for him? Moses felt the pain for the Israelites. That is why he could talk to God as a man speaks to a friend.

We must have the attitude of running away from sin. You can’t pray to God to not lead you into temptation when you yourself rush into temptation. If you are not controlling your eyes and your ears and your mouth and your feet and your hands are you really interested in God’s will being done in you? And then, you can’t pray that God not lead you into temptation.

Pray for deliverance from evil. When a brother is facing a trial what is your attitude? Are you glad that it is not you? Or do you feel the pain for him? Abraham felt the pain for Lot. No wonder that Abraham was called the friend of God.

The attitude in the background is that we are praying to benefit God’s kingdom, that we are working through God’s power, and we desire to make God look great (For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory).

Now and forever – this is how it is now, and this is how it will always be from now on.

Do you have this desire that someday you will be great? That is in opposition to wanting all the glory to be God’s now, and not just now, but forever.

We have heard this prayer so many times, but do we really follow it?

Here is how we pray:

My servant, who sits at my feet, hallowed be my name. My kingdom come, my will be done, on earth at all times. Give me what I want, forgive me my foibles, even though I don’t forgive others their wickedness. Allow me to let myself be tempted in every way and mess up my life. Then, fix my messed up life. It’s not about you, it’s about me – now and forever. Amen.

Your prayer must not be to get glory from men

Mt 6:5-6 5 "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."

God sees what you do in secret. When you hurt your brother in secret God sees that.

Your prayer must not have meaningless repetition

Mt 6:7-8 7 "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."

Note that Jesus doesn’t say that you should not repeat your prayer. He Himself prayed three times in the garden of Gethsemane. He said that the repetition, if present, should be meaningful.

Why is there no need for meaningless repetition? It is because God already knows what you need. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pray at all. God knows what you need, but He will not give it to you unless you ask. Repetition shows that you are really interested and you are going to pray until you either get it or God says, "No."

Persistent prayer gets answers

Lk 11:5-10 5 Then He said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 "I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9 So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened."

Here is where repetition is meaningful.

When you struggle for victory over sin do you pray for it once, or twice, or ten times, and give up? Or do you persistently ask God to help you.

Understand that God will give you what is good for you

Lk 11:11-13 11 "Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"

If you ask for something, and you don’t get it, don’t be put off. God will only give you what is good for you.

If you ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit so that you can do His will, will He not do it for you? But how often do we ask God to do that for us? We ask for other things, and we ask with selfish motives instead.

What hinders prayers from being heard?

If you find that your prayers are not being heard, it may be that something is hindering your prayer. Examine if any of the reasons below are true for you and remove them from your life. Then God will surely answer your prayer.

The following things can hinder our prayer from being heard:

  • Laziness in asking (i.e. not asking at all!) (Lk 11:9-10) (Mk 11:24).
  • Lk 11:9-10 9 So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened."

    Mk 11:24 "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you."

  • Asking with the wrong motive (Jas 4:3).
  • Jas 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

  • Not seeking the kingdom of God first.
  • Mt 6:33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

  • Not being righteous.
  • Jas 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

    1 Pet 3:12 "FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL."

    Pr 15:29 29 The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.

    If you are cheating your employer or your insurance company then you are not doing what is right, and therefore you are not righteous. You may have a little extra money, but God is not going to hear your prayer.

  • Not asking earnestly (Lk 18:1-8).
  • Lk 18:1-8 1 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, 2 saying, "In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. 3 There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ 4 For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’" 6 And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge said; 7 now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8 I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"

  • Unforgiven sin (Ps 66:18) (Pr 15:8) (Jas 5:16).
  • Ps 66:18 If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear;

    If you are back-biting or gossiping or slandering or thinking of taking revenge God is not going to hear your prayer.

    Pr 15:8 8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.

    Do you give money for God’s work? Do you spend time doing God’s work? If you behave wickedly towards others all these things that you do is an abomination in God’s eyes.

    Jas 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

    People often pray for others to be healed, but do they confess their sins first?

  • Holding a grudge against someone or not having forgiven somebody (Mt 18:35) (Mk 11:25-26).
  • Mk 11:25-26 "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."]

  • Not living with your wife in an understanding way and honoring her as a fellow heir of the grace of life (1 Pet 3:7).
  • 1 Pet 3:7 7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

  • A woman should not pray with her head uncovered (1 Cor 11:5).
  • A man should not pray with his head covered (1 Cor 11:4).
  • 1 Cor 11:4-5 4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. 5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.

  • A proud person will not be heard (Lk 18:9-14).
  • Lk 18:9-14 9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

    You have to come to God in Jesus Name and not in your own name / credentials.


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