“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24, ESV)
Have you ever petitioned God for a need in your life, but it seemed He wasn’t listening or just didn’t care? What about all those “ask and receive” verses in the Bible, you may wonder? Are they really true? If so, why isn’t God answering me?
Let’s look at some of the passages in Scripture dealing with prayer to see what we can learn.
Step 1: Ask
In his book Be a Circle Maker, Mark Batterson states, “The greatest tragedy in life is the prayers that go unanswered simply because they go unasked.” It sounds so simple. Just ask. Yet John 16:24 says, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (ESV).
If we have a need in our life, this is our first step. Ask God. We can’t let the prayer go unprayed and then wonder why we never received an answer. E. M. Bounds, who wrote numerous books on prayer, said, “Nothing is well done without prayer for the simple reason that it leaves God out of the account.” When we pray, we are showing our dependence on and trust in God for help.
To activate those prayers we must “ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6, ESV).
(Also read: Matthew 7:7, John 14:14, Philippians 4:6-7.)
Step 2: Align
It is important that our prayers are in alignment with God’s will and Word. If our prayers go unanswered, perhaps it’s time to do a little self-examination. Is there sin in our life that’s hindering our communication with God? Psalm 66:18 warns, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”
What about our motives? Are they pure or self-seeking? Are our requests rooted in envy, rivalry, or selfish ambition? James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (ESV).
It is also important that we approach God with an attitude of humility (II Chronicles 7:14). In this way, we acknowledge His power and greatness.
God hears our prayers when we are aligned with His will. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (I John 5:14, ESV). We determine His will through His Word and by allowing His Spirit to speak to us.
Step 3: Ask Again
Luke 11 tells the story of a man who woke his friend at midnight asking for bread to feed late-arriving visitors. The friend’s household was already in bed for the night, and he did not want to get up to respond to this request. “Yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs” (verse 8, NKJV).
Another example in Luke 18 tells of a widow whose persistence with an uncaring judge finally got her the justice she needed. She kept returning until he finally responded. “Yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me” (verse 5, NKJV). Her persistence paid off.
God may not answer the first time we petition Him. Or the second or the twenty-seond. That’s why we must be persistent in our prayers. Do not confuse God’s delay as being His denial. His timing is perfect, and He will bring it to pass when the time is right. In the meantime, keep on believing; keep on praying.
While there is so much more God’s Word tells us about prayer, these three thoughts will help us understand how to make our prayers more effective. God desires only the best for us and is always working on our behalf. The answer will come in His perfect timing.
Ask, align, and ask again!
“Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness.”
– Martin Luther
(Some of the thoughts in this devotion were inspired by a lesson my pastor taught a few years ago. God’s Word never grows old. Rereading sermon notes is a great way to encourage yourself in the Lord.)