Believers are to be praying people. So why does it seem like so many of our prayers seem to land in the great void of space and effect nothing in return? Why can we not seem to “move mountains” through our prayers? Why does our praying seem so ineffective sometimes?
I submit to you that there are several things lacking from many believer’s prayer lives.
First, our prayers must be focused on God. When the disciples asked Christ, “teach us to pray,” He replied with the following words:
“When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil” (Luke 11:2-4, KJV).
Notice the majority of the prayer is centered on God, on who He is and what He does. He is heavenly, He is hallowed (holy), His kingdom must come, His will must be done, He is the one to supply our daily bread (needs), He is the one who grants us forgiveness, and He is the one who averts our paths from temptation and delivers us from evil – as we are focused wholly on Him. Nowhere in the recorded prayers of Christ does He focus on what He wanted as a man; rather, the focus was always on what His heavenly Father wanted and what God’s will was for Christ on the earth. God’s interests must be placed first! Our own desires should be mentioned only after we spend time worshipping and praising God for who He is, and they should only be entreated in light of what we know God’s will for us to be.
Second, our prayers must be made with authority – God’s authority, that is. We are to pray with the power of Christ’s name, with the authority granted by His sacrifice for us on the cross of Calvary. It is only through His name that we have this power; we have no other authority in ourselves. Notice His rebuke to the disciples in the Gospel of John:
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves . . . Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:10-14).
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23-24).
It is clear that we are to pray always in the name and power of our Savior Jesus Christ. He alone grants us access to the Father; He alone makes our prayers effective.
Third, our prayers must be persistent. Reflect for a moment on a few parables that Christ shared with His disciples.
“And he said to them, ‘Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs‘” (Luke 11:5-8).
“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming‘ “ (Luke 18:1-5).’
God does not require this persistence of us because He is hesitant to answer; rather, because He wants us to have fervency and urgency in our pleading before Him! We are told to go beyond asking to “seeking” and “knocking” – emphasizing the intensity is to be present in our praying.
If we want to pray as we ought, as Christ’s examples and commands have instructed us to pray, we must incorporate these qualities into our times of communion with God.
We must stayed focused on Him alone rather than our paltry desires or fleeting concerns. We must pray in His name, recognizing that nothing comes of ourselves but all comes through the power of Christ. And we must be fervent and persistent in prayer, continuing until God gives us a clear answer (whether it be according to our own desires or not).
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16, KJV).