“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7 NKJV)
1. First and foremost, your prayer must be sincere.
There are some fantastic story-tellers in almost every community. Heck, there’s probably a great one in every family. Certainly you know someone who always has an audience because everyone loves to listen to them? Everybody enjoys reading books like the Harry Potter series or the Twilight series. Or even the Chronicles of Narnia (Wait, that’s a book?! There are SEVEN of them?!?!?!?! OMG!). But you know that they are making it up. You know it isn’t a true story. That’s the whole point. It’s fun.
What isn’t fun is when you know someone is lying. When someone is telling you a story under the guise that it’s completely factual and you know they aren’t telling the truth. You listen without saying anything but you know they are being fake. God doesn’t want to listen to our fake prayers either. The best example I can think of a fake prayer is when someone prays in front of a group, and usually they get put on the spot: “Will you close us in prayer?” They make up some stuff trying to put together a good-sounding prayer in front of everybody. You’re better off not praying at all than to bow your head and say something that isn’t really from your heart.
2. Make sure you are following God’s will for your life.
Proverbs 28:9 says “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” (NKJV) WOW. I never thought that prayer could actually be a bad thing, but it clearly says that if you are ignoring God’s word, your prayer is an abomination.
Let’s say you ran your own small company and you had 10 employees. Nine of them were great people and did everything you asked them to. The other would not do anything you asked them to do unless they felt like it. When you asked them to show up on time, they got to work 10 minutes late every day. When you asked them to work with another employee to learn a new skill, they sat in their office all day trying to look busy. How likely are you to listen to this employee when they come to you to ask for a raise?
Why would God want to listen to you if you won’t listen to him? If you aren’t doing what He wants you to do, what makes you think he’ll give you what you ask for? John 9:31 says “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” (NKJV) That’s very interesting: “God does not hear sinners.” But aren’t we all sinners? Then will God never hear us? The wonderful thing is: He will hear us. That’s because Jesus died on the cross to cover our sins. Jesus even told us how to have our prayers answered: “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14 NKJV)
3. Believe that your prayer will be answered.
“Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:24 NKJV) Let’s just be honest here: This one is tough. I really don’t have any great advice on how to believe. Either you believe or you don’t. If you jump out of an airplane, it’s because you believe that the parachute will open. If you don’t believe it, you don’t jump. It took me a long time, a lot of bible studying, plenty of prayer, and I still have a hard time believing God is listening to me. Believing is tough. If I told you I had put $10,000 in your bank account, what’s the first thing you would do? Check your balance. Exactly. Because you don’t believe me. In today’s world especially, it’s hard to believe something is true without some evidence. The Bible is the best evidence there is. I cannot stress enough the importance of daily reading. If you’re feeling guilty because you’re not sure if you really believe, know that you are not alone. Even pastors can still struggle with their faith. We are all imperfect. Just keep working on it.
4. Get some other people to pray with you.
We’ve all been asked to join a prayer circle or prayer chain. We’ve all seen Facebook posts soliciting prayer for someone’s family, be it their own, or just someone else they know that needs prayer. Whether we realize the biblical roots of this or not, we all know deep down that having a lot of people praying for the same thing is very powerful. Jesus even said, “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:19 NKJV) Case closed.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask.
“There is no way God will hear my prayer.” I have believed this lie myself. There are two main reasons why we have this thought, and they’re both wrong. The first is that there are much bigger problems in the world like hunger, genocide, the sex-slave trade, the AIDS epidemic in Africa, an earthquake in Haiti, a hurricane in New Orleans. There are other things out there that are way bigger than my fickle little problems. True. But God doesn’t ignore you because of that. You matter to God. The other reason, which is where I tend to struggle more, is the thought that “I am not worthy of God’s audience.” I have sinned so much and so many times that I am unforgivable and there’s no way God will listen to me. We decide not to ask God for something because we don’t feel like we are worthy of His answer. And we would be right. There is nothing you can do to make yourself worthy of God’s grace. “But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” (Matthew 19:26 NKJV) If we come to God with supplication, He will hear us and answer our prayers. Do not be afraid to ask God for something. Even if His answer is no, He is doing what is best for you.