Because I teach on prayer, people often ask me to pray for them, saying “I know you have an inside track with God.”
It might surprise you to know that I don’t. God will listen to your prayers just as quickly as to mine, or to anyone else’s—if you know the key.
So what’s this “key” to getting prayers answered?
That may not sound right to some, but here’s what I mean.
Whether you’re a believer or not, if you fall from a tall enough building, you’ll be killed. The Law of Gravity works for everyone.
Whether you’re a Christian or not, if you don’t pay your bills, you’ll soon be bankrupt. The laws of finance apply to all of us.
Even though you’re a believer, if you ignore the basic principles of prayer, you won’t get answers. God created prayer to operate based on certain principles, just like the rest of life.
Jesus’ disciples understood that. They once asked, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1.)
What did they want to be taught? Specific principles about successful prayer, which both John the Baptist and Jesus taught regularly.
How Prayer Works
And here’s one of those basic principles we often overlook—your prayers filter themselves through your spirit. There aren’t any “generic” prayers. Your prayers approach God from within you, and filter themselves through your attitudes and expectations, not anyone else’s.
That’s why it’s important for your thinking to be right. If you contaminate the attitudes of your inner life, your prayers will be shredded before they ever reach God’s throne.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying you have to be perfect. But you do have to be willing to learn certain key attitudes if you want your prayers to be effective.
So what set of attitudes does one need in order for prayer to be successful?
Principles of Successful Prayer
(1) BE SPECIFIC. Instead of just praying, “Lord, bless me today” have goals in mind.
When blind Bartimaeus cried to Jesus, “Have mercy on me!” the Lord asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51.)
That’s a strange question to ask a blind man! But Jesus wanted him to be specific. And when he told Jesus, “I want to see” he got his prayer answered.
We understand the disaster of a ship without a rudder, a car whose steering fails, or an airplane that loses its guidance system. But too much of the time we’re cruising through life without any specific direction. And if that’s how you’re praying, you won’t see many answers.
(2) PERSIST. When you complained that your prayers weren’t being answered, was it because you quit too soon? Remember, when Jesus’ own disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray” he immediately taught a lesson on persistence.
He told of a man who had visitors late at night needing a place to sleep. The man had no bread to feed them, so he went next door to borrow some. His neighbor wouldn’t give him the bread at first, but because of his persistence he soon got it (Luke 11.)
And later Jesus told them another parable “to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1.)
Understand this principle; if you quit too soon, your prayers will fail.
(3) PRAY IN FAITH. Here’s one of the most common mistakes in prayer—assuming that prayer will work despite one’s attitude. When your prayers become a whining “pity party” God won’t listen. That’s why Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years and lost their inheritance (Numbers 14:22-35.)
But when your prayers drip with optimistic faith, mountains move. Jesus taught the principle in Mark 11: 22-25—“whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
In other words, what you believe about the future influences it in that direction. (That works for both fear and faith; fear the worst and it will happen, but have faith in God for the best and it will happen.)
So since faith is “being sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1), you must see the outcome before it happens, and you must believe God will answer before He answers.
That’s why James, the Lord’s brother, said the man who prays without faith “should not think that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Jas. 1:7.)
So, how would you describe your prayers? Like this? – “God, I don’t know why you don’t answer me. I try and try, but I still have a terrible life. I try to live right, tithe, go to church, but everything is still against me. I don’t know why I bother…”
Obviously, that’s not a prayer of faith. A mountain-moving prayer of faith sounds like this—”Thank you God that you’ve given me everything I need for life and godliness through Christ—I can do all things through Him who gives me strength…”
What’s the difference, and how can you pray with more faith? Notice the next principle.
(4) PRAY SCRIPTURE. Here’s an ancient method for praying with more purpose and faith—pray the Scriptures.
Even Bible characters prayed the Scriptures: the prophet’s prayer in Daniel 9:1-19
was based on Jeremiah 29:10-14. And King Jehoshaphat’s prayer of faith in 2 Chronicles 20:6-12 grew out of Solomon’s dedication prayer for the new temple in 2 Chronicles 6:14-42.
It’s fairly common in the Bible to see people pray by using Scriptures that were written before their day.
So how can you do that? By scanning the word of God for the prayers found in it—they number around 600! (Write to us at the address on the front and ask for a free listing, 40 Days With The Bible’s Great Prayers.)
If you’re overwhelmed by the Bible, start with the Psalms, and make each prayer fit your situation. This will increase your faith, since “faith comes from hearing the message… the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17.)
4) RESPECT PEOPLE. Remember, your prayers approach God from within you, and filter themselves through your attitudes and expectations—and that’s also true of your attitude toward other people.
Jesus himself said “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him…” (Mark 11:25.)
If you want your prayers to be powerful, get rid of the bitterness that comes from past hurts. Consciously forgive, in prayer, anyone who has harmed you.
If you don’t treat your husband or wife with proper respect, it will hinder your prayers (1 Peter 3:7.)
In fact, Jesus said that we should be willing to pray for even our enemies, asking God to bless them and forgive them (Matthew 5:43-47.)
So be careful in your relationships. Lack of respect for other people can quickly put the brakes on your prayer life.
Use these keys to success in prayer, making your prayer life a tool in building a better world.