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How should we pray?
So we know God hears us?
HOW SHOULD WE PRAY? And how can we be sure God hears us when we pray?
The Bible gives us wonderful examples of prayer, and many guidelines for praying. In fact, Jesus Christ Himself gave a superb model prayer to His disciples when they asked Him how to pray. That famous prayer, known and loved by Christians around the world, has become known as the Lord's prayer.
What is prayer?
In essence, prayer is simply talking to God. You can speak out loud or pray silently. You can pray anywhere at any time. You don't have to kneel or stand, or have your hands or body in any special position. You can pray for others, for yourself, or for circumstances. You can ask God in prayer for healing, for wisdom in making a decision, and for governments and higher authorities.
In fact, you can pray for anything that will not go against God's will. Our prayer should always be that God's will is done, not ours, in whatever we pray for. Effective prayer seeks the outcome that God wants, no matter how much we would like to arrange things for Him.
It is important to recognize that God's knowledge is far above ours, so praying that you will accept God's decision in any matter is a powerful prayer. Even Jesus, when He was on earth, prayed that the Heavenly Father's will would be done instead of His own (Matthew 26:39).
Prayers can be short or long. They can be as simple as saying “Lord, give me wisdom in knowing how to handle this situation”, or they can be quite long if you are praying for a lot of things that involve many people.
Does God hear every prayer?
God may hear every prayer, but He is unlikely to answer every prayer.
A gambler who knows he shouldn't be losing all his money on horse races may not get the response he wants if he asks God to let him win a lot of money so he can celebrate by getting drunk.
A more effective prayer would be for him to ask God to help him give up gambling so he can do some good with his money and advance the cause of God.
How to pray
When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray He gave a sample prayer that began “Our Father …”. Christians nearly always follow this pattern of starting a prayer by addressing it to God, Lord, Our Father in Heaven, or some similar phrase that acknowledges God as our Creator and heavenly Father. (You pray to God, not angels or anyone else.)
You don't need a special formula for prayer. Psalm 62:8 says “pour out your heart before him”. Tell God what you want in your own words. Respect Him, thank Him, but talk to Him as a friend.
The Bible also says:
* Avoid vain repetitions (Matthew 6:7), which means don't keep repeating exactly the same words of a prayer over and over, because your words can lose their meaning.
* God said that if His people would humble themselves and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, then He would hear them, forgive their sins, and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). Ask God to forgive and cleanse you for wrongs you have done, and to hear your prayer.
* Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).
People sometimes don't receive the answer they want from prayer because they “ask amiss” (James 4:3) — that is, they ask for selfish reasons. Your motive in praying must be that God will get the glory from the answer.
* Pray persistently (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
* “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). Whatever you ask in prayer, pray that God will take it and change it as necessary so that it accords with His will.
When closing a prayer that is prayed in public, it is common to hear Christians say something like, “This I ask in Jesus' name. Amen.” This is because Jesus said “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). But again, there are qualifications to asking in Jesus' name, because God surely will not grant opportunities for more sin just because someone says they are asking in Jesus' name.
Jesus Himself closed the Lord's prayer with a simple Amen in one version, and nothing at all in another version. Closing with “in Jesus' name” or with “Amen” is helpful to those around you to know that you have finished your prayer, but should not be seen as God's invariable requirement.
What goes on behind the scenes when we pray?
People often don't understand why their prayer seems to go unanswered or takes so long before it is answered. Why does this happen? A rare and amazing insight into this is provided in the Book of Daniel, chapter 10.
Daniel was a wonderfully courageous man who was determined to do the right thing even under threats and even if it meant he would be severely punished by those who didn't share his beliefs. God rescued him in amazing ways because of his faithfulness, even though Daniel said he would do the right thing even if God didn't answer his prayer.
In one case, Daniel had been praying and fasting and had received no answer. Then God sent an angel to him to explain that God had heard Daniel's prayer from the first day, but some action on the part of the king of Persia was required before the prayer could be answered. Although the incident is not detailed, it seems that the forces of Satan were fighting with God's angels to try to influence the king in some decision that affected the outcome of Daniel's prayer.
Daniel kept praying, not knowing that any of this was going on in the background.
Likewise, we may pray for a family member to come through a serious operation and to receive Christ as their Savior, but there can be a series of things that have to be influenced before this takes place. The surgeon needs to be alert and not distracted. The ambulance officer may need to wake up on time after working most of the night, and a whole series of things involving many people may need to fall into place before the answer to the prayer comes about.
God can make everything happen of course, but the angel's explanation to Daniel implies that there may be lengthy fights between good and evil that need to be resolved before we see an answer to some prayers.
Does God hear the prayers of unbelievers?
There is some disagreement among Christians about whether God answers prayers from people who are not saved and born-again. In the Gospel according to John we read, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him” (John 9:31).
The ideal position of course is to make sure you are one of God's children by ensuring you are saved (Romans 10:9-13). But we know God hears the prayers of sinners when they humbly pray for God's mercy (Luke 18:13).
The Bible also says that if we ask anything according to God's will, He hears us (1 John 5:14). So it may be that if an unbeliever prays for something that is in accord with God's will, God would not reject the prayer. This is especially so if the unsaved person asks God to forgive them of their sins and to be Lord of their life.
What if you stumble over the words?
Christians have a saying: “Better to pray awkwardly than not to pray at all.”
The fact is, God knows what's in your heart and mind, so He knows what you are praying for better than you do. God's Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness, and when we don't know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit intercedes for us to make our prayer effective.
Remember that the Bible tells us to pray constantly, so we should follow God's command.