With the best of intentions, many of us actually pay lip-service to prayer. Literally. Can one learn to be effective in prayer? Yes, but not without conditions. Here are 4 keys. ♦
Prayer is one of those socially acceptable topics and practices that can still make people feel uncomfortable. It seems so religious. It seems alright to say publicly that “I’ll pray for you” or “My thoughts and prayers are with you” – just don’t push it too far or you might get labeled a fanatic.
Then again, if truth be told, often people do not pray for you after such statements. Either they forget or they just say they will because they don’t know what else to say.
But people mean well, of course. And everybody prays. My bet is that all people have prayed themselves, at some point in their life, in one of these ways:
- “God, if you’re there, help me get out of this mess!”
- “Dear, God, please protect me!”
- “Dear, God, thank you for this food.”
- “God, thank you for me getting that job.”
But we’ve also, at times, not gotten out of that mess. Or were not protected. Or don’t really give much thought to how God provided the food. Or think that actually my experience and strong interview skills and being at the right place at the right time is what really got me that job.
Perhaps we give prayer lip-service. Literally. We really don’t believe it because we stopped believing in it somewhere along the way after some prayers seem to go unanswered.
Yet I suspect a kernel of belief is in there somewhere.
Suppose that’s your case. You still believe. But prayer is a mystery to you and you wonder if God even hears you. Particularly after all you’ve done. Though you’ve tried and have good intentions.
You want to pray. With power and authority. With confidence and assurance. With vision and purpose. You want to be good at it.
You want to be effective in prayer. Is it even possible?
Of course it is.
4 Keys to Effective Prayer
Every culture in the world has some form of prayer. This is not natural coincidence; this is because all of humanity was created by God. We were created for communication with God, via speaking and listening and inward thinking and sighs and moans too deep for words.
Jesus, the consummate model for prayer as the God-Man, fully human, fully God, was once asked by his disciples how to pray:
Once Jesus was praying in a certain place. After he had finished, one of his disciples told him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” So he told them, “Whenever you pray you are to say, ‘Father, may your name be kept holy. May your kingdom come. Keep giving us every day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive everyone who sins against us. And never bring us into temptation.’” – Luke 11:1-4
I’ll use this as a foundation to lay out 4 keys to effective prayer:
- Be Right With God – The conditions for effective prayer include being in right standing with God. That is, we know Him and have a right relationship of repentance and faith. “Our Father” (Abba in Aramaic) connotes God’s fatherhood relationship with Christ, and likewise one available to us, as His children through belief and therefore familial identity. Interestingly enough, in the whole Bible, I can think of no place where God ever promises to answer the prayers of the unbeliever. But He hears us all and responds to those that seek Him. Per 2 Peter 3:9 He would have that “none should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
- Earnestly Petition God – One need not be dramatic about it, but one needs to be authentic in earnestly presenting our requests and petitions to God. There are no bounds on what we can pray for. Ask for what your heart desires: “Keep giving us every day our daily bread” and “…Ask and it will be give you…” (Luke 11:3, 9). But be mindful: “You ask for something but do not get it because you ask for it for the wrong reason—for your own pleasure” (James 4:3).
- Give It To God – Pray as we like for our own needs and desires, but we need to ultimately give it up to God. His will, not our own. Even Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane asked for an alternative plan before acquiescing to the will of God: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Yet not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42). Likewise we are to ask, then surrender, as His plans involve a larger playing field and override our own.
- Be Expectant of God – One’s faith and confidence should permeate our prayers. We are praying in the authority of the living God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and therefore have dominion and power over principalities in this dark and dangerous world. Certainly, “If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31). We are therefore “more than conquerors” and can operate in and through prayer with great boldness and assurance that God is at work and in control.
Indeed, prayer is serious business. All of mankind should model Jesus. He prayed daily. He prayed alone. He prayed with others. He prayed in brief. He prayed all night. He prayed inside and outside. He prayed to the Father. He knew the Scriptures and the context and history of prayer and God. He did not pray selfishly but with God’s purpose ultimately in mind.
He wasn’t even religious. Just as natural as a child talking in earnest to a loving parent.
Do you pray with confidence and authority?
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:18