How to Get Answers to Prayer
One of history’s most famous quotes regarding prayer, comes from Christ’s sermon on the mount, where He said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).
Jesus clearly promised that praying to God makes a difference, and that such persistence can eventually obtain results. But as He and his Apostles elaborate in scripture, answers to prayer involve other conditions and contingencies that must also be considered. The following are five such principles toward obtaining answered prayers:
1. Become a follower of Christ
Fortunately, it's not complicated to become a Christian. Jesus promises that He will turn no one away who calls upon Him for salvation. “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). If you have never experienced the new birth that Jesus described in John 3:3, we provide a good explanation here that describes how to receive Christ's great gift of salvation and His forgiveness for sin (John 3:16, Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9-10).
2. Submit Your Life to God’s Will
The idea of submission to God’s will, goes beyond the concept of a casual association. Jesus explained that a profession of Christ, without devotion to God’s will and desires, is hollow and insufficient to take anyone to Heaven. He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
Those who seek to please the Lord will not only comply with His command to love one another, but will also attempt to put Him and His will at the forefront of their lives. When believers strive to submit themselves to His desires, and make it their priority to pursue the values of God's kingdom and righteousness, not only will they receive answers to prayer... but Jesus said they can expect a natural flow of blessing and provision “added” into their lives. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). (See also Psalms 37:4-5)
3. Ask in His Will
People often waste their time and energy trying to persuade God to bless something, or grant a request, that He simply has no interest in. This has often caused needless frustration and disillusionment, as persons can’t figure out why their prayers go unanswered. God is not the genie of a magic lamp, who’s purpose is to comply with your whims and wishes. Rather, He is God Almighty, your Creator, the King of Kings... and it’s your purpose to serve Him, and honor His wishes... which are consistently pure, holy, and always in the best interest of His beloved children.
The better idea is to find out what God wants for you... and it will not be hard to persuade Him to answer those kinds of prayer requests. If you “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” it will involve spiritual devotion, prayer, study of God's word, and pursuing a Godly lifestyle, that will help bring clarity to His will, and guidance for your life.
4. Ask in Faith
To get results from your prayers, you must pray in faith... not only believing that God hears you, but by taking possession of His promise by faith. “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). Such faith is not matter of “pretending” something is real, but is a confidence that, though yet unseen, God has heard and answered our prayer... or as John said, “we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:15).
The Bible defines faith in an interesting way, saying that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” (Hebrews 11:1). On one hand, faith has tangible characteristics of “substance” and “reality,” yet is “unseen” and “intangible” to our natural senses. This sounds quite mysterious and contradictory, until we look further to the 3rd verse, and can see what the writer is trying to convey. Essentially, faith has the same characteristics as the Word of God... that although an invisible substance, its powerful force created the entire universe and all visible things. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).
Consequently, faith, which “comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17), is a combination of our agreement with God's Word... and shared the same awesome potential. In other words, faith is as powerful as God's Word, because that's really what it is... it's the Word of God deployed by means of our prayer and faith.
When I think about this, I become especially inspired and excited, because God grants us this awesome gift of faith so that we can apply the promises of His Word to our life, to the needs of our neighbors and loved ones, to advance the kingdom of God... and to pray for “His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
5. Keep Believing and Remain Persistent and Patient
However, as I began growing in God's Word, learning to pray, and receiving answers to my prayers... I could see that prayer and faith works somewhat different that I originally thought. While there are indeed fervent, anointed prayers that prove especially effective at given moments (James 5:16), most of our success in prayer seems to comes from prolonged durations of faithful persistence. This means to keep praying and believing, day after day... to continue standing on God's promises despite the absence of any encouraging signs... or even in the face of adversity or discouragement.
What I learned was that faith is not measured by it's amplitude, but together with it's frequency. In other words, the effectiveness of prayer is not usually the result of a single burst of faith, but is most generally a combination of the day-to-day persistence and consistency to pray and believe. If you are committed to the “long haul” of prayer, you'll eventually get to your destination... just don't give up. As someone once said, “whenever you’re determined to pray no matter how long it takes to get an answer, it generally doesn’t take long.”
One of the greatest teachings about persistent prayer, comes from the Lord's parable of the widow and unjust judge. “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, Get justice for me from my adversary. And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. Then the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8).
The great lesson of this parable is seen in the Heavenly Father’s contrast with the unjust judge. Our God, of course, is not unjust in any way, but is in fact the “righteous” judge of the entire universe... who's desire is not to resist your petitions, or drag his feet from bringing His intervention. As Jesus said, if even an earthly magistrate will eventually tire and acquiesce to such persistence, how much more eagerly will our Lord respond to your enduring perseverance and faith?
The need for patience is something seldom appreciated in today’s fast-food, instant download society, however this and similar passages remind us that it is a necessary part of the faith process... and that our determination will eventually be rewarded. God is truly “a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).