How to Pray Effectively
Pray responsibly. God won't do for us what we need to do for ourselves. When I was a student, I would sometimes pray furiously for God's help at examination time—especially when I wasn't adequately prepared! I managed to pass my exams, but not because of any "pray-instead-of-study" prayers!
Pray in harmony with God's will. The Bible says, "If we ask anything according to God's will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the request which we have asked from him."2 Our growth and maturity is one of God's high priorities. So prayers offered in harmony with this principle, and with all of God's will, will always be effective. Prayers outside His will are not. The key to all effective prayer is learning to pray the right prayer.
Pray with the right motive. As God's Word says, "You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."3
Pray persistently. Not all prayers are answered quickly. I have prayed for some things for years before getting an answer. If our prayer is legitimate, we may need to be as persistent as Jacob, who once said to God, "I will not let you go until you have blessed me."4 Jesus Himself said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."5 The principle is to keep on asking and seeking until we receive God's answers.
Pray specifically. Recently I had a need for office equipment and asked God to show me how to get the needed funds. That night I was unable to sleep so I got up and worked on balancing my finances. To my amazement, I found a mistake in my favor and was able to order the equipment the next day!
The key to all effective prayer
is learning to pray the right prayer.
Pray believing. Faith, too, is essential for effective prayer. As Jesus said, "Whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive," and "according to your faith will it be done to you."6
Pray sincerely. "Do you want to be made well?" Jesus' asked the lame man at the pool of Bethesda.7 That seems like a foolish question but Jesus wanted to know if the man really meant business. Being healed would require an entirely new approach to life. He would have to get a job and take care of himself instead of lie by the pool hoping that someone would help him in. If we want God to answer our prayers we have to want the answer enough to be willing to pay the price. If we want to grow in faith, love, patience, perseverance, and maturity, we need to realize that all of these are acquired through experience, often painful experience. As the Bible says, "Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character."8 Sometimes we want the goal without the work to get there.
Pray in Jesus' name. Jesus said, "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to [God] the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it."9 Jesus is our intermediary to our Heavenly Father.
Finally, come to God on His terms. Effective prayer is dependent on our having a right relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. When we are living in a right relationship with God and learn to pray according to His will [which is what will truly be best for us] we can be certain that God will answer. As Jesus put it, "If you stay in [right relationship with] me and obey my commands, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted."10
Prayer is a wonderful gift from God to His children. It is an incredible privilege to talk with our Creator and Heavenly Father. But we should always pray with a certain degree of mystery and amazement because we never know just how and when we will receive His answer.
1. John 16:33. 2. I John 5:14-15, (NIV). 3. James 4:2-3, (NIV). 4. Genesis 32:26-28, (TLB). 5. Matthew 7:7-8, (NIV). 6. Matthew 9:29, (NIV). 7. John 5:6. 8. Romans 5:3-4, (RSL). 9. John 14:12-14, (NIV). 10. John 15:7, (TLB).
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