Why does God seemingly ignore so many prayers? What is the key to powerful, effective prayer? When YOU pray, does God really HEAR?
THIS PRESENT world does NOT believe in prayer. But, that should not be surprising — this world does not believe in a real, living GOD! Prayer, to most people, sounds "religious," superstitious, and so sanctimonious! Of those few people who do pray, most of them look upon prayer as a psychological release, an emotional outlet, a "balm for the soul." Prayer, they reason, helps you to "get things off your chest." But a God who literally hears? Never! Monks in Tibet have a very "advanced" system of prayer. While they idly sit beside a spinning "prayer wheel," each revolution of the wheel sends a prayer wafting up to the gods! Tragically, this world has LOST the knowledge of PRAYER! But what about YOU? Do you know how to pray? Are YOUR prayers heard when you pray? Do you pray because you know God commands it? Does prayer seem like a dull routine? Is it boring — tiresome? Many of God's people LACK real spiritual vigor and strength — many are WEAK and lack the POWER to overcome their personal problems and weaknesses! Why? A great part of the answer is NEGLECTED PRAYER!
The Example of Moses...
Notice an amazing example of prayer set by one of the most humble men who ever lived — Moses. After God led His people Israel out of slavery under the yoke of the Egyptians, the children of Israel REBELLED in the wilderness. When Moses climbed up into the fastness of Mount Sinai, to meet with the Creator God, the Israelites plunged into idolatry and sexual lewdness. "Make us a golden image to worship," they clamored to Aaron. "As for this Moses... we wot not what is become of him!" (Ex. 32:1.) God's wrath was stirred' God declared to Moses, "Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have CORRUPTED THEMSELVES" (Verse 7). "I have seen this people," God declared, "and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: now therefore let me alone, that MY WRATH may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation" (Verses 9-10). God was ready to ANNIHILATE Israel because of their wickedness and sensual debauchery! But, without hesitation Moses fell on his knees and earnestly prayed. A WHOLE NATION was about to be destroyed, but Moses intervened and interceded. Moses, in utter humility and deep concern, fervently BESOUGHT God to spare His people, whom He had redeemed from Egyptian bondage. Moses reminded God of His glorious promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and pleaded with Him to turn from His WRATH. God heard this fervent prayer! "And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people" (Verse 14). Moses' prayer CHANGED the entire course of HISTORY! It changed the future of an ENTIRE NATION!
Notice another example from the Old Testament. Elijah the prophet was a man "subject to like passions as we are" (Jas. 5:17). He had human nature. He was HUMAN. And yet, "... he prayed EARNESTLY that it might not rain: and it RAINED NOT on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he PRAYED AGAIN, AND THE HEAVEN GAVE RAIN, and the earth brought forth her fruit" (Verses 17-18). Elijah served God with his whole being. Yet, when his life was threatened by the harlot Jezebel, he fled into the wilderness. He was so discouraged that he asked God if he might die. "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers" (I Kings 19:4). Elijah could also be despondent, discouraged! But he walked with God, talked with God, OBEYED GOD, had power with God. God mightily answered his prayers! Does God similarly answer YOURS? These two examples show clearly that, just as James wrote, "The effectual FERVENT prayer of a righteous man availeth MUCH"! (Jas. 5:16.) Prayer can change the course of HISTORY! It can effect MIRACLES! But so often it doesn't! Why? What about YOUR prayers? The prayers of most people lack real power and effectiveness for a very simple reason — they really DON'T KNOW HOW to pray!
How NOT to Pray
There are many reasons why many prayers are not answered. Let us notice a few! One problem — perhaps the most common problem of all — was revealed by the Apostle James. He wrote, "From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye HAVE NOT" — why? "BECAUSE YE ASK NOT"! (Jas. 4:1-2.) How many really have the faith to ASK GOD for the things they need? Many actually IGNORE God when they have a need — they have not learned to really trust in Him to provide! But, James continued: "Ye ask" — yes, sometimes people will ask — "and receive not" — still they don't receive the answer. WHY? Notice! "... because ye ask AMISS, that ye may consume it upon your LUSTS" (Jas. 4:3). There is the answer! God will not hear SELFISH prayer! If we ask for something selfishly, to consume it on our own desires, we are asking amiss. This is the wrong attitude to have in prayer! Have you ever prayed — from selfish motives? Do you have the well-known prayer "disease" — called the "GIMMEES"? When you pray, do you only want to GET? Notice another example of UNANSWERED prayer. "Two men went up into the temple to pray," Jesus related, "the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess" (Luke 18:10-12). His prayer did not ascend to God. He was merely praying "with himself." God will not hear haughty, proud, SELF-RIGHTEOUS prayer! God does not answer if you pray in a conceited, proud, "holier-than-thou" attitude! Rather, when we approach God's throne, we must be conscious of our own utter UNworthiness — we must enter God's presence with an attitude of HUMILITY! God heard the prayer of a publican who would not even lift his eyes to heaven; but the prayer of a strutting Pharisee went unheeded (Luke 18:13-14). Another reason for unanswered prayer is the "sleepy-time prayer." Tiresomely repeated prayers will not be heard (Mat. 6:7-8). Dull, repetitious prayer shows a lack of respect for God. It is insipid! Speaking of so many people who pray, God says, "They never put their heart into their prayers..." (Hos. 7:14, Moffatt). Sleepy-time, lethargic prayers lazily waft toward the ceiling — and that is all. Is this the way YOU pray?
Faith and Obedience
HOW, then, should you pray in order to RECEIVE GOD'S ANSWER? How can you pray, and KNOW that you will be heard? First, your attitude must be surrendered to God. You must, to the best of your knowledge, be living according to Gods will. Otherwise, SIN can cut you off from God! Isaiah wrote, "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear : but your INIQUITIES have separated between you and your God, and your SINS have hid his face from you, that he will NOT hear" (Isa. 59:1-2) Here is one of the major reasons so many prayers are NOT answered. God will not listen to a person who rebels and DISOBEYS His Word. God will not listen to the prayers of someone LIVING IN SIN! First, there must be REPENTANCE! Sin must be put away. Idols — anything which separates from God, anything we tend to put before God — must be crushed, shattered. When a person searches his own life, and puts away SIN, and turns to God in heartfelt repentance, God promises to hear! (John 9:31; Dan. 10:12.) Are you truly SEEKING God's way? Are you daily repenting of SIN, and putting it out of your life? Have you really surrendered your life and whole being to God? One thing, however, is still lacking. There is yet one thing which — if you don't have it — will cause prayer to be worthless. The Apostle James tells us what it is: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in FAITH, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and TOSSED. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways" (Jas. 1:5-8). Lack of real FAITH is one of the greatest hindrances to powerful, effective PRAYER! As He looked into the future — and noticed the almost complete, total lack of faith in our age, today, Jesus said, "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8.) We live in a materialistic world — a world which has lost the knowledge of the TRUE GOD — a world totally ignorant of His way, His Truth, His glorious promises! Consequently, we live in a FAITHLESS generation! Yet, the Apostle Paul wrote: "But WITHOUT FAITH it is IMPOSSIBLE to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a REWARDER of them that diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6). What is faith?
"Now FAITH IS the substance of things hoped for, the EVIDENCE of things NOT SEEN" (Heb. 11:1). Faith is believing, trusting to receive something which you do NOT SEE! It is not predicated on sight — or any of the five senses! It is SPIRITUAL! If you desire to have your prayers answered, you must have FAITH. You must BELIEVE that God exists, that He is the LIVING God, and that He will hear and ANSWER your petition! Notice the example of Abraham. Here was a man filled with faith. In fact, he is called the "Father of the faithful." For years Abraham waited patiently for GOD to intervene in his life, and provide him with a son. YEARS flew past. But, year after year — still no son! Wouldn't YOU have grown discouraged? — disheartened? But not so, Abraham! "And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb" (Rom. 4:19). Abraham did not even consider outward circumstances. He knew that God HAD PROMISED to provide a son — and he BELIEVED GOD! He did not look to the physical. Physically speaking, the birth of Isaac would have been IMPOSSIBLE! Nevertheless, Abraham believed. "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was STRONG IN FAITH, giving glory to God: and being FULLY PERSUADED that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform" (Rom. 4:20-21). What an example of FAITH! There was NO DOUBT in Abraham's mind — no fear or anxiety about the outcome. He was not worried in the slightest. He BELIEVED GOD! In his heart, he knew that God had PROMISED, and that He could not break a promise! Do YOU have that kind of faith? Or, when your faith is tried, do you fold up like a tent blown in a hurricane? Is your faith STRONG, founded on the bedrock of God's SURE WORD? Or is it a flimsy, empty thing? FACE THE TRUTH, brethren! Do you really BELIEVE God? Do you really CLAIM His promises, like Abraham? "According to your FAITH be it unto you," Jesus Christ said (Mat. 9:29). "... as thou hast BELIEVED, so be it done unto thee," He told a centurion (Mat. 8:13). "THY FAITH hath made thee whole," He told a woman who was healed of a serious blood disorder (Mat. 9:22). Lack of faith taxi render God's power null and void in your life!
The Secret of FAITH
How can you have REAL faith? "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the WORD OF GOD" (Rom. 10:17). Here is why many lack firm faith! They don't study God's Word as diligently as they should — they are not familiar with the many examples of faith contained in the Bible. They are ignorant of God's PROMISES — and they are ignorant of His great POWER to intervene in their lives! Is this your weakness? Then again, many lack faith because they think they must work it up themselves. They struggle, groan, and strive to work up faith in God — but they fall miserably short. This kind of faith — HUMAN faith — will never bring answers to prayer! It cringes in the face of a real TEST of faith. How can you have REAL faith? IT IS A GIFT! "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the GIFT OF GOD: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). Notice — this kind of faith is NOT something you must "work up" — it is something God gives as a gift. This is the faith you NEED! How do you get it? Go to God in earnest prayer — AND ASK! God is willing to GIVE you real faith, as a GIFT, if you will go to Him for it! This kind of faith is one of the attributes of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Ask God to FILL you with His Holy Spirit — the Spirit of FAITH! He will not deny you. "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone?... If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: HOW MUCH MORE shall your heavenly Father GIVE the Holy Spirit to them that ASK him?" (Luke 11:11-13.) Even the FAITH we need comes from God! Humility, selflessness, obedience to God — and faith — are still often not enough, however! Often, MORE is still required!
Some, if God doesn't answer right away — if He doesn't jump when they crack the whip — begin to lose faith. They conveniently forget that, although God promises to answer, He nowhere promises to answer RIGHT AWAY! God does not tell us exactly HOW or precisely WHEN the answer will come. Sometimes it may come in a way we would least expect! That is why Jesus declared "... that men ought ALWAYS to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1). Or, as Goodspeed translates it, "not give up." How many are willing to persevere in prayer, until God answers? How many are willing to WAIT on God to send the answer? How many are PATIENT? James wrote, "... the trying of your faith worketh PATIENCE" (Jas. 1:3). How impatient we human beings seem to be! WAITING on God, in patient FAITH, seems to be one of the hardest things to do! Remember, God keeps the time in His own hands. Don't cease praying about the problem or affliction! God wants us to come before His throne DAY AND NIGHT. He wants us, like Abraham, to ENDURE in faith and not stagger at His promises in unbelief. One of the lessons God wants us to learn is PERSISTENCE — stick-to-it-iveness! We must learn to IMPORTUNE God for what we know is good in His sight (Luke 11:5-9). We must learn to persistently, shamelessly, carry our problems and needs, the needs of others, and God's Work, before His heavenly throne in prayer.
Another problem many have, sometimes due to a lack of faith, is that they are WEAK in their prayers. They are afraid to ask for much — afraid to ask God's richest blessings. They hang back in doubt. They are hesitant and apologetic in their prayers! They are not sure of God's will, so they only ask halfheartedly. Again — what about YOU? God wants you to approach His glorious throne with BOLDNESS — with fervency and urgency! "The effectual FERVENT prayer of a righteous man availeth much," James wrote (Jas. 5:16). "Let us therefore come BOLDLY unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need," the Apostle Paul exhorted (Heb. 4:16). When Moses prayed for Israel, he prayed BOLDLY, courageously! When Elijah prayed, he prayed boldly, with faith and confidence. These mighty men of God did NOT hang back apologetically, in gnawing doubt. They KNEW God's will — and they prayed accordingly! For you to pray boldly — with real faith and CONFIDENCE — YOU must first KNOW GOD'S WILL. His will is revealed in the Bible! You must come to know how God thinks, how He acts, how He looks upon things. You must know His CHARACTER and His holiness, the purpose He is working out here below, and the PROMISES He has made in His Word. Then you can lift up your voice in prayer, and cry aloud BOLDLY! "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, HE HEARETH us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we KNOW that we HAVE the petitions that we desired of him" (I John 5:14-15). Halfhearted prayers never brought about wholehearted intervention! Consider this, the next time you begin to droop, or drowse, in prayer!
Sense of Urgency
When Jesus Christ prayed to the Father, He meant it. He did not approach God merely to "pass the time." His prayers had deep MEANING. He felt them. He was deeply MOVED on many occasions when He communed with God. He was emotionally affected by the urgency of the situation. Christ prayed URGENTLY! In Hebrews we read, "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with STRONG CRYING AND TEARS unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that He FEARER" (Heb. 5:7). Are your prayers meaningful — to you? If not, how do you expect them to be moving to GOD? David was another who was often moved deeply when he prayed to God. Many of the Psalms reveal his depth of emotion and deep feeling. David prayed, "HEAR ME when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and HEAR my prayer" (Ps. 4:1). He cried out, "Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long? Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake" (Ps. 6:2-4). David was often moved to tears when he cried out to God in fervent, bold prayer! "I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears" (Verse 6). Have YOU ever prayed with such depth of emotion, feeling? Have you ever prayed with such URGENCY? Have you ever really wholeheartedly CALLED UPON GOD? This kind of prayer achieves real RESULTS! This is the kind of prayer which is WELL PLEASING in God's sight. God is deeply moved by such earnest, sincere, heartfelt prayer! God says to those who have never prayed this way, "Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with ALL YOUR HEART, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness..." (Joel 2:12-13).
The POWER of Prayer
Notice, now, one of the shortest — and most POWERFUL — prayers recorded in the Bible. Turn to John 11, the account of the death of Lazarus. Lazarus, a close friend and disciple of Jesus, had died four days previously. When Jesus arrived at the tomb, He was moved inwardly because of the unbelief of those present, and their lack of understanding. He wept! Jesus then lifted up His eyes and prayed, standing, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 11:41-42). When Jesus had thus prayed, He THUNDERED, "LAZAR us, COME FORTH"! What a miracle! What an example of ANSWERED PRAYER! Jesus had real FAITH. He literally walked with God! He wants YOU to have the very same FAITH dwelling in YOU! (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 3:9.) This kind of prayer is NOT a "balm for the soul" or a "psychological release." It is REAL! It is effective! IT ACCOMPLISHES MIRACLES! God heard the fervent, moving prayers of Abraham, Moses, Elijah. He heard the prayers of David, Samuel, Hezekiah. He heard the prayers of Jesus, the apostles. He will hear YOUR prayers! He is no respecter of persons (Rom. 2:11). He intervened for others. GOD WILL INTERVENE FOR You! Your personal, heartfelt PRAYERS — on the behalf of GOD'S WORK, on behalf of those who are sick and afflicted, on the behalf of God's ministers — your prayers for help, deliverance, healing, strength to overcome temptation — YOUR FERVENT PRAYERS can accomplish MIRACLES! What about it? Will you permit this article to HELP you? Will you follow this instruction and allow it to make a CHANGE in your life? Are you CONCERNED about prayer? Are you really concerned about God's people, His ministers, HIS WORK in these end times? What about it? Your prayers — yes, YOUR personal prayers — can change lives, save lives, work MIRACLES! Will you go, now, to a private place and really intercede with God, in earnest prayer, according to His Word — not only for your own problems, but also the problems of others, and for the very Work of the Living God? God will BLESS those who do!