One sign of the Lord’s favor is answered prayer. Jesus promised that if we remain in him and his words remain in us, that we can ask him for what we want and it will be done (John 15:7). He also said that whatever we ask in his name, he will do (John 14:14). These are startling promises from the Lord Jesus Christ.
I’m afraid that many people have a short relationship with prayer. Somewhere along the way they hear that you can ask God for things and he will answer. They try asking in prayer for a few things that they truly want. They do not get what they want. As a result, they determine that prayer doesn’t work and that is the end of their serious efforts at prayer.
A person that has had an experience like this with prayer may say that prayer doesn’t work, but they are wrong. The truth is that their prayer doesn’t work. Jesus’ prayer works. His disciples were so amazed by Jesus’ prayer that they asked him to teach them to pray. We can learn a lot about effective prayer from Jesus.
Jesus did not offer a principle or a formula to make prayer work. Prayer is asking God for something and God is a person with certain characteristics and traits. Children learn over time what kinds of answers to expect from their dad when they ask him for something. They know because they have lived with him and they have learned to understand his character. After asking him for things many times, they learn to predict pretty well what his answer will be to most of their requests.
In the same way that children should not expect their dad to give them things that go against his nature, followers of Jesus should not expect God to give things that go against his nature. The Bible teaches us that sometimes we ask with incorrect motives and so God simply says “No” to our request.
Some people are disappointed to find out that God will only say “Yes” to things that he agrees with. Their idea about prayer was selfish all along and the notion of submitting to God’s will is out of the question for them. Others are sincerely confused because they felt certain that God would agree with their request. Perhaps they asked for a loved one to be healed or they needed a job in order to pay bills. How could God say “No” to such good things?
Jesus said that we must pray in his name and that his words must remain in us. Only then can our desires be expressed in prayer and answered by the Lord with his “Yes.” This goes beyond simply knowing what God will do and limiting our requests to his character. Jesus is talking about having a heart that actually desires the things that God will do. Only a change of heart will enable us to have the powerful prayer life that Jesus describes.
Jesus also said that answered prayer will bring glory to God. In simple terms, to glorify God means to make him look good. When our prayers are answered it makes God look good. He is glorified. So prayer is not only something that benefits us, it also does something good for God. If we really love the Lord and want to bring him glory, then this is another reason to learn how to pray.
The Bible tells us to pray continually! (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Prayer can be woven into all parts of our lives, touching all that we do. A single prayer can be very simple, but a life of prayer should be rich and complex. One of the best ways to get better at prayer is to pray more. Please pray.
May God’s Spirit give us a heart that desires his glory,
Brother Richard Foster, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR