Four Keys to Effective Prayer
By Jim Wolstenholm
Nearly everyone prays – you pray. But do you pray effective prayer? Does your prayer make a difference? Does your prayer get answered? Effective prayer is answered prayer! When we pray effective prayers, they make a profound difference. While faith that your prayers will be answered is foundational, what else would be considered keys to make your prayers effective?
Effective prayer is God focused.
Jesus started his model prayer with the words: “your kingdom come; your will be done.” When we focus on the will and purposes of God, we align ourselves with his power and his work in the world. Far too often we pray for what we want and not for what he wants. We live with a limited perspective so we cannot see things as they really are. Only God sees things as they really are.
It is too easy to become consumed with our wants and desires. They seem very important to us and sometimes they are. But God, in his mercy and grace, has promised us everything we need if we will seek his kingdom and his righteousness first (Matthew 6:33). We must trust his word and turn our attention to the things he desires for us as we pray. When his kingdom comes and his will is done, awesome things happen because he is awesome!
To focus on God in prayer is truly to start with worship and with the two requests already mentioned: his kingdom and his will.
You must be willing to accept any answer.
In Jeremiah 42 and 43, the people were at a critical point. The governor assigned by King Nebuchadnezzar had just been assassinated. The people were naturally afraid of reprisals so they asked Jeremiah to pray and find out what God wanted them to do. They promised Jeremiah that whatever it was, good or bad, they would be obedient. A few days later, Jeremiah came back to them with the word that they were to stay put and not fear. However, they rebelled at his word. The leaders of the people rounded everyone up and headed to Egypt, where they believed they would be safe.
Sadly, we often pray the same way. We know what we want and we ask God to bless it. Or maybe we ask God to stop us if that isn’t what he wants for us. Too often people believe they are doing what God wants when they have truly been unwilling to hear an answer that they didn’t want to hear!
When you pray, you must be willing to hear the answer you don’t want to hear and then to accept and embrace that answer. Many times in my life, I have had to accept an answer I didn’t want to. When my dad was diagnosed with advanced cancer, I began to pray for his healing but was quickly rebuked by God. I accepted his response and prayed for peace and comfort for my dad instead. A few months later, he joined Jesus in heaven. Although I miss him, I would never want to deprive him of the glory he now knows just so I could spend a little more time with him.
You must be persistent.
If God knows what I want, why do I keep having to ask him for it? Jesus taught us to persist in prayer: to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking on the door. There are some reasons for this.
Sometimes we must wait for the right timing. We are asking for something but the time is not right. David wanted to build a temple in Jerusalem to honor God – a glorious desire – but God said, the timing is not right. Solomon, David’s son, was to build the temple.
Sometimes, we must wait for the decision to be made. When we pray for someone to begin a new life of following Jesus – something we know is God’s will – we must persist until that person is convicted to the point of repentance and a new life with God.
Sometimes, we must wait until our faith is strengthened. The idea of pressing against resistance to build strength is central in health and fitness. It is also central in spiritual fitness! Persistent prayer builds faith. When Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow (read it in Luke 18) he concluded with these words: “However when the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth?” In other words, do you have the faith it takes to persist in prayer until you receive an answer?
You must have a pure heart.
A pure heart is a heart that is fully devoted to God and his purposes. It has been cleansed of selfish desires and motives. Therefore, when we have a pure heart we want God glorified.
A pure heart draws us near to God in ways that are profound and glorious. Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” When we see God, we perceive his glory and power and purposes. In seeing God, we begin to understand the world from his perspective and it fuels our passion and our prayer.
A pure heart turns us away from what we want and towards what God wants! This makes praying the will of God a natural exercise and it also strengthens our resolve and our faith!
Today, you have the opportunity for effective prayer! It takes work and requires endurance. Effective prayer will build your faith and you will see answers to that prayer.
Your challenge is to begin to pray: “Your kingdom come; your will be done.”
About Jim ~
Jim Wolstenholm: I’m a 20 year Navy Veteran and a 18 year pastor. My mission: I help people follow Jesus so they can live the abundant life and change their world.
I blog at https://jimthefollower.com