4 Key Points of Effective Prayer
Jesus said, ”If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22). It sounds so simple: Belief + Prayer = Receive. If it is that simple, why does it sometimes seem like prayers are not answered? The answer lies in understanding four key points of prayer.
#1 - Believe That You Have Received
In Matthew 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-24, Jesus was hungry and looked for fruit on a fig tree. Finding none, He pronounced that the tree would never bear fruit again. Either immediately or a short while later (the Gospels differ on the timing), the fig tree withered. It is after these events that Jesus told the disciples to have faith in God, petition Him in prayer, and believe to receive.
Jesus said, ”Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24). A key point here is that, not only must you believe that God exists and that He is powerful enough to grant your petition, but you must also believe that you have received it. Not that you will receive it, but that you have received it!
Part of receiving is actually expecting the answer, even visualizing it. In Ephesians 1:3, Paul wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” What if God answers our prayers immediately in the heavenly realms, when He hears them, and we only have to wait to see the manifestation of His answer in the natural realm?
#2 - Submit to God's Will
Another key point is that all prayers must be in line with God’s will, and then we know that a prayer was answered! (Again, the prayer was answered because we have received it—past tense, already done!). We know this because of the certainty given to us in 1 John 5:14-15:
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
Just like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39), all prayers must be offered in submission to the Father’s will, trusting that not only has He already answered the prayer, but has answered it in His perfect way (not our way).
How do we pray in line with the Father’s will? How can we know what God’s will is, so that that we can pray for it? The answer is the Holy Spirit. We lift our petitions to God and know that the Holy Spirit will take them and perfect them to be in line with the Father’s will, as explained in Romans 8:26-27:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
The Word tell us that, when we do take the time to pray, the Spirit intercedes and makes our prayer perfectly in line with God’s will. How can we know what God’s will is for each person and each circumstance we pray about? When it comes to prayers for someone’s salvation, we pray specifically, but what about prayers for someone’s health or upcoming job interview? How do we know what we should be praying for?
Prayers should have less detail when the details are really just our solution to the problem or circumstance. More often, prayers should be more general, simply lifting up to God a person or situation, and asking God for His presence, comfort, peace, and perfect will to be done. Pray in confidence, knowing that the prayer is heard and already answered (according to 1 John 5:14-15) because it was fine-tuned and perfected by the Holy Spirit before it reached the Father’s throne (Romans 8:26-27). There is deep peace in praying in this manner.
#3 - Walk in Obedience
The third key point for prayer explains why we can believe that we receive when we pray. In 1 John 5:15, we have the promise that “we know that we have what we asked of him”, but you have to look at another scripture to clarify why this is true. 1 John 3:22 tells us that we “receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him”. We receive because we obey. Taken together, these scriptures tell us the process is:
- We Obey and Please God
- We Ask According to God's Will
- God Hears
- We Receive
Why do we obey Him? Because we love Him, as Jesus said in John 14:15: ”If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
#4 - Yield to God's Timing
The last point for prayer relates to timing. On earth, we say “Timing is everything”, and this applies to prayer, too. If we pray and believe we have received it, then it is done! All that is left to do is to wait for God’s answer to manifest itself here in the natural realm. Depending on God’s will, we may have to wait for the answer a long time, a little while, or no time at all if the answer is immediate. For some prayers, the answer may not be apparent to us until we get to heaven, but even then a blessing comes well before.
The blessing is that, during the time of waiting, God is growing our patience and faith. Rather than worrying or stressing, we should be thanking God for the patience and faith that He is strengthening in us as we wait on His perfect timing. This makes another saying, “It was worth the wait”, take on a whole new meaning!!
Prayer: Freedom in the Presence of God
There is great freedom in praying to God using these four key points as a guide. The freedom lies in praying and then letting it go, knowing the prayer was received (because God heard it), His perfect will is being done in His perfect timing, and we are being blessed with increased patience and faith while waiting.
More importantly, the purpose of prayer is not primarily to receive answers from God. The call to pray is the call to persistently, regularly enter into God’s presence:
“Whenever we insist that God should give us an answer to prayer, we are off track. The purpose of prayer is that we get a hold of God, not the answer."
~ Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost for His Highest”, Feb 7th entr
Believe when you pray that you are in the presence of God. Receiving His presence is the best answer to any prayer.