How to Get Your Prayer to Work

by H.B. Charles, Jr. February 16, 2017

Why pray? 

There are two fundamental reasons why you should pray. First of all, you should pray because the word of God commands it. Secondly, you should pray because it works!

God is willing to hear and is able to answer prayer. Prayer is the means God has chosen to provide for his adopted children in Christ. Whatever God is doing in your life, it often happens after prayer! When we work, we work. But when we pray, God works!

Here are five things to think about when praying:

Pray with a heart of sincerity

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns, “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matthew 6:5).

Hypocrites pray! But their prayers are a performance for other people, not worship to God. They do it to be seen by men. And when others see them praying, they get want they wanted. God does not owe them anything! Your prayers won’t work if your heart is more concerned with what man thinks about you, rather than what God knows about you.

Jesus commands, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who sees in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). The secret to prayer is secret prayer. Secret prayer does not mean you should not pray corporately or publicly. It means that you must guard your sinful heart from praying to the wrong audience!

Pray in the name of Jesus

Jesus declared to his disciples, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). This is a standing promise for believers today. But it is not a blanket promise that permits you to write your own ticket with God. The name of Jesus is our means of access to God.

If you go to God in your own name, you will only receive what your name deserves. (For the record, you do not want God to give you what you deserve!) But when you go to God in the name of Jesus, you receive what His name deserves.

To pray in the name of Jesus is pray in the authority of His name. It is to pray with the approval of His name. It is to pray for the acclaim of His name. Paul exhorts, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17). Everything we say and do should be done in the name of Jesus with thanksgiving to God.

Pray according to the will of God

John teaches, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15). The will of God is the governing principle of answered prayer. The Lord only answers prayers in accordance with his divine will.

The Lord’s Prayer instructs us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Prayer is not about getting your will done on earth. It is about getting the will of God done on earth. The most dangerous prayer you can pray is, “Your will be done.” It is also the best thing you can pray. The safest place in the world is in the will of God.

I agree with Maurice Watson: “I don’t want to be in the suburbs of God’s will. I want to be downtown, Main Street, in the will of God.” But how can you know the will of God? The will of God is revealed in the word of God. If you want to know God’s will, don’t look up. Look it up! “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Pray by faith

Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). This is not a blank check to get anything and everything you want from God. Faith is the fuel of prayer. No matter how fully loaded your prayers may be, your prayers will not go anywhere if you do not pray with confidence that God hears and answers prayer.

Hebrews 11:6 asserts: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” To pray in faith is to stand on the promise that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.

Dependence upon God is the key to effective prayer. The words you say, requests you make, and promises you claim are meaningless if you do not pray in a posture of dependence. This is why we pray better when trouble comes! But it should not take a crisis to get you to recognize your need for God. Humble dependence upon God is the way of life for the true believer.

Pray to the glory of God

Asaph wrote: “And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15). Spiritual devotion will not exempt you from troubled days. But you can call on the Lord in the day of trouble. The Lord will hear your call and do something about your situation. He will deliver you. But deliverance is not the goal of prayer . The purpose of prayer is the glory of God.

Learning to pray is a simple as learning to ride a seesaw. When you ride a teeter-totter, only one person can be up at a time. Pray works the same way. The Lord does not answer prayer to lift you up. The power to answer prayer belongs to God alone. And the glory for answered prayer belongs to God alone.

The glory of God should shape how we pray, not just our response to the answers we receive. What we pray and how we pray should be consumed with the God’s glory, not our happiness, comfort, or pleasure. Paul exults, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).