Is There A Secret to Consistently Answered Prayer?
(audio version )
God is a merciful God who listens to the cries of his children and desires to see their lives transformed by his saving grace. As a loving Father, he truly wants to see his children be productive, healthy and living to their full potential. As such, he calls us to pray ... to talk to him and to bring our needs, our desires and our wants to him. He loves when we bring the needs of others into his throne room and he lavishes his good gifts as a result. However, not every prayer we pray or every need we bring to our loving father is always answered in the way we would want and this can be confusing. How could this loving God refuse his children anything that they would request?
I have had the blessing of being the overseer of an internet prayer ministry since 1997 and since its inception, I have invited prayer requests from around the world and have rejoiced with those who have reported God's hand miraculously changing circumstances, saved lives and bringing loved ones to a personal relationship with Christ. I have sat under excellent teaching on the subject of prayer and intercession and have learned much through practice, through observation and through trials and many errors along the way. I must state right off that I have yet to find in the bible any money-back guaranteed methodology or a step by step guide on how to pray 'the' prayer that will see results every time.
I suspect God has a good reason for not making it quite that simple. God desires a heart to heart, soul to soul relationship with every man, woman and child on the face of the earth. From Genesis to Revelation He demonstrates his undying passion and determination to woo us to him. He knew that if placed a "Dummies Guide to Getting What You Want From God." into our hands that our eyes would only be fixed on the formula and the guide and our eyes would not be fixed on his face.
God, as a loving Father truly has our best interests at heart. He wants us whole and healed. He longs for us to know his love and to spread that love to others. It is not his will that we go hungry, be in chains of mind-numbing debt, be homeless, or lack the necessities. He created us and knows every dream, longing, and desire that is in our hearts. His heart breaks at our heartbreaks. He longs to set every captive free, captives of injustice, addictions, bitterness, and loneliness. He finds no pleasure in seeing suffering upon the earth. As a loving father, he desires to give us good gifts. Gifts undeserved but tokens of his love for us.
God created us to be in fellowship with him. He asks us to pray so he can commune with us and we can commune with him. He does not call us to pray because he derives pleasure from seeing his children beg, plead, and bend over backward in order to get an answer from Him. It is no joy to him to see his children reach about in the dark, hoping that somehow they 'stumble across' the right words to pray and get the right combination. Prayer was never meant to be a stab in the dark. The bible is full of examples of his heart. His character, his ways, and effective prayers of those who learned to know God. There are several articles on this website on the subject of prayer and I invite you to read the menu on the left or to return to the main menu to learn more.
I have learned a few things as I've walked with the Lord for the past 30 years but I am the first to admit I still have much to learn. One of the keys is to know the heart of the one to whom I bring my requests. If I have a strong foundation built on the truth that God is good, God cares and God's desires for me and for my loved ones are better than anything I could ever imagine, then I am definitely on the right track.
I definitely do not have all the answers but I humbly offer some insights that I have garnered over the years. It is my hope that some of the pointers below might spur you on to discover more of God's ways in your own life adventure of prayer.
1. Surrender to the fact that God's ways are not our ways.
Isaiah 55:9 For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God has a unique vantage and the ability to see the overall picture that we can never fully see ourselves unless he gives us his perspective. We are finite creatures and cannot see the future and our understanding of the past and present are often clouded. When we are in crisis and in deep pain, we can hardly see beyond our own nose. The deeper our emotional, physical or spiritual pain, the more difficult it is for us to see beyond our own turmoil. When we throw ourselves on God's mercy, we don't have to rely on our own understanding.
The best way to really get to know God's ways is to get to know Him. The best way to get to know God is to spend time with Him, in prayer and in reading his words to us that can be found in the bible, find a bible believing church, and be in fellowship with other followers of Him. It is no use to ask God to do something that would go against his character or go against his highest desires for those we bring before him He does not hide his character from us -- and he has freely given us many avenues to learn of the ways of His heart. If we are praying what is already in His heart to do upon the earth, how can he not answer?
For example. A young woman desperately wants a certain Mr Right to notice her and to fall in love with her. She truly believes he is 'the one' and she comes before the Lord, demanding that God change the heart of 'the one' to fall in line with her own desires. After all, she's just SURE she's meant to be the one for him and he'll make her happy all the days of her life. Why, every time she sees him in Church, her heart just goes all a flutter and that has to be God, right?
God, in his mercy, as a loving Father, rarely answers such a prayer in the way that the young girl might want. He can see that this young girl needs to mature before she'd be ready to enter into a loving, committed relationship. However, if the girl were to ask the Lord to bring His highest good and purposes into the life of this young man, even if those purposes might lead that young man away from her rather than to her, God would delight in responding to a prayer born from such unselfish love.
Another example: A wife walks away from an abusive marriage, seeking separation. The husband declares to God that divorce is a sin and that it is his right that God bring his wife back to him. I believe the Lord's heart is for reconciliation but God sees the overall picture and knows that a work must take place in the husband's heart before he would be able to cherish the gift of his wife's heart within that reconciliation.
2 Be patient and trust that Lord will bring forth His highest good into the situations that we bring to him, as we remain faithful, seeking his direction, and learning his ways. God in his infinite mercy will sometimes bring instant and immediate responses to our prayers on occasion but I have found that persistent, consistent prayer is needed more times than not. Surrender anxiety to him, he already knows how anxious and worried you are over the situation. Often, God needs to bring about a heart change in an individual or situation that can only be brought forth through a longer process than we would like. While God does not ask us to fast in order to 'twist his arm', he will call us to pray and fast, after all, his son gave the ultimate sacrifice in order to see the greatest miracle of all --- the salvation of mankind.
3. Be willing to do your part. If you have find yourself in financial debt because of poor spending habits, credit card addictions or poor financial planning, humble yourself and sit under the counsel of those who have learned wise business practices through bible study and life experience. If you have sinned, admit your sin, accept the Lord's forgiveness and do what you can to bring restitution. It is not our place to try to force others to forgive us; we can only offer our true apologies and do all we can do to bring restitution. However, our God is truly the God of second chances and he can bring healing to our hearts. There is no scripture that says, "God helps those that help themselves." God is more than willing to come alongside us and help us as we reach out to Him for help. He only asks us to ask.
4. Remain in a position of trust and relationship with the Lord even when the answer to your prayer request appears to be utter silence, 'no' or 'wait'. This can truly be the most difficult obstacle of all. Deep disappointment, frustration, and confusion are natural responses when situations become worse, lives continue to be shattered, and our prayers seem to go unheard. However, those who have learned to press on through those emotions and still declare the goodness of God see the most victory in their prayer lives. They have learned to know the heart of God and know that He is good, despite their immediate circumstances. The story of Lazarus speaks of this principle. Mary and Martha obviously had a previous relationship with Jesus and expected him to move on behalf of their ill brother. When not only did Jesus delay his arrival but also their brother died in the meanwhile, their hopes were crushed. As they received Jesus' presence in the midst of their grief, God was able to work a miracle.
As you can see, there are no short cuts in learning how to pray effectively. However, God is more than willing to walk alongside us every step of the way, encouraging us in fledgling baby steps and inspiring us to go deeper with Him as we learn.
© 2007 Katherine Walden
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