Monday, July 29, 2013

How to Pray Effectively

That's a great question that I had to address by email, recently.  The answer depends on how we look at prayer and our relationship with God.  This is what I shared in that email to help the person that asked about it.  I’ve only changed the wording slightly to fit a larger audience in this post.  And this isn’t an exhaustive study, but just an overview.  But I think there’s  enough meat here to keep us all praying as God would have us to.

I think of prayer as half of my conversation with God.  Just like with my earthly father.  His response back is often in words by His Word.  But it could be in the form of His response.  We'll get to that.

James 4:3 (KJV)  Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

That verse says that we aren't going to get some things because we ask with the wrong motivation.  Selfish reasons.  But, in that case, God still answers.  But His answer is "No.".  That's one of four possible responses. It could be that "no" we just mentioned, but it could also be "yes", "not now", or "I have something better in mind.". 

Some would say there are times when God doesn't answer.  I don't believe that.  I believe God truly loves us and that you never ignore someone you love.  So, He always answers.  But I think we sometimes miss His answer because we've already determined the response we expect.  And, therefore, totally ignore the real answer.

When we pray, we need to do so without limiting God to our desired result.  God is all knowing.  Which makes two things true.  He knows whether what we're asking for is really best for us.  And He knows what we're going to pray before we do and the heart attitude behind the prayer.  I think God partly requires prayer so that we can see the desires He already knows are in our heart.  And the heart and fervency we hold toward what we pray about.  That includes the response we seek.  Are we looking only for what we ask for?  Or do we mentally and emotionally give ourselves the freedom to accept whatever answer God gives us?  Or are we willing, when we think we're praying correctly, to keep asking when it seems like we're not getting an answer?  The Bible mentions fervent prayer a lot.

There's one other thing.  James 4:2b (KJV)  "ye have not, because ye ask not."

That, again, speaks to our fervency.  How much do we care about what we pray for?  If we only pray for God's will, it could be that we're unsure of how to pray.  But it often shows we really don't care about something as much as we say we do.  I see lots of people saying we should only pray for God's will.  But I think that completely misses why God gave us prayer.  Yes, we should fully accept whatever response God gives us.  But all the real prayer warriors I recall from the Bible asked for specifics.  Even those who prayed for the wrong things or for the wrong reasons asked for specific things.  God just gave them a different answer than the one they wanted.

Prayer is one of my favorite topics.  I really wanted to cover it just enough to allow us to grow in prayer by doing.  So, let me summarize.

God is in charge, so we need to be ready for whatever answer He gives us.  No detail is too small or too big for God -- if it's on our heart, pray about or for it.  We don't want to be frivolous, but we don't want to assume God has no interest in the small details of our lives.  Pay attention to what our prayers contain and what the answers are.  Both are important.  That's effective prayer.  So, what in all this has made a difference in how you approach prayer?

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