In order to receive answers to prayer, we must first place our faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. Because God is holy, our sins have separated us from Him. But when we repent and believe that Christ died on the cross to pay our sin debt in full, we enter into a relationship with God and can then converse with Him and be certain that He hears us.
The bottom line of all prayer is that access to the Lord is only available through Jesus Christ, the one mediator between God and man. (1 Tim. 2:5). Those who pray without this relationship are speaking to the one they imagine God to be, but not to the one true God. Jesus came to open the door for us to have a relationship with the heavenly Father and access to Him through prayer. The promises regarding answered prayer only apply to those who have been forgiven and reconciled to the Lord.
One of the reasons our prayers go unanswered is because of mistakes we make in our prayers.
We want to help God answer our prayers. After laying our petitions before the Lord, we don’t leave them with Him, trusting that He will answer them in the best way at the right time. If the answer doesn’t come as soon as we’d like, our faith in Him begins to waver, and we try to fix the situation ourselves. In reality, feelings of helplessness are good because they remind us that God alone has the power to intervene and the wisdom to know what’s best. The acid test of faith is being willing to keep our hands off the situation until God deals with it. Our attempts to help Him only result in confusion and compounded problems.
We focus on our requests rather than on God. Sometimes, in our deep concern over the issues we bring to the Lord, we lose sight of Him. Our thoughts are focused on the needs and not on the One who can meet them. We must remember that we are talking to almighty God and should therefore center our thoughts on His character, power, and promises, expressing our confidence, gratitude, and praise to Him.
We pray without the Word of God. In John 15:7 Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” When Scripture fills our hearts and minds, our thoughts and prayer requests align with God’s will, and our faith grows strong. But if we neglect God’s Word, there is no light to guide our path or to give us understanding and assurance (Ps. 119:105). Together, prayer and the Word of God should be our priority. As we open the Word, we find guidance regarding how to pray, and as we pray, our understanding of Scripture increases.
Sometimes it’s all too easy to fall into these ineffective patterns of prayer. But with a little effort, we can change our prayer lives, and therefore experience greater answers to our prayers. So stop trying to do God’s work for Him. Instead, pray in faith, knowing that He is and always will be in control, put your focus on Him, and pray according to the guidance of Scripture. Then watch as your heavenly Father works in great and mighty ways in your life.
This article was originally published on June 19, 2016, and is adapted from the Sermon Notes for Dr. Stanley’s message “Your Convictions About Prayer” which airs this weekend on TV.