As any good Christian will tell you, prayer is really important.
Yet when it comes to giving a practical explanation on how someone can pray effectively, most of us just avoid the question directly by saying “just pray with your heart” or “just pray for what you want”.
I argue that these responses are wrong on the grounds that our hearts aren’t always in the right place just as our desires aren’t always in the right place.
God does well for us when he refuses to grant the prayers that we make unto him out of greedy, emotionally unstable, and lustful intent.
I mean, if he were to give us the things we ask him for when we pray from a mindset of sin, he wouldn’t really be good for us now, would he?
God is good and he always hears your prayers and he would never give you something that would only take you away from him, on that there is no debate.
Therefore, the only way to improve our prayer lives (regardless of how it is now) is to improve the way we pray so that when we do pray to God for help in our lives, we can pray with absolute certainty that what we are asking for is in alignment with the will of God and therefore, we ensure that what we want to pray for is what we should be praying for.
With this in mind, here are the 3 things you can do to improve your prayer life and get the most out of your prayer.
1. Actually do it.
Many of you might be laughing right now but let me explain.
There is such thing as a sincere prayer and a half-hearted prayer.
Now the difference between these two things doesn’t have to do with how you feel as you are praying or even for what it is that you’re praying for in the first place for that matter (though we’ll get to this soon).
The difference between a sincere prayer and a half-hearted prayer is that in one case you actually expect to see your prayer heard and answered and in the other case, you really don’t care either way.
(and the room fell silent).
Why should God care to answer your prayer if you don’t even care about it yourself?
James 1:6 puts it all too clearly,
6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
Sincere prayer can be difficult sometimes because above everything else it requires of us, it demands that we truly have faith that God will deliver unto us what we asked of him.
And I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes, having faith in God is a little bit scary.
We don’t know (can’t ever know) what his true intentions for us are just as we can’t know what’s best for ourselves because unlike him, we are neither all-knowing nor are we all powerful.
But here’s the good part of having faith in God.
The longer you have it, the more you came to be certain that God will always deliver on his promise to you and will never lead into a situation that you are not strong enough to handle.
Isaiah 43:2 tells us,
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
When things get tough in life, only remember this one thing, you will survive because God will protect you.
But if you need something a little bit more tangible, here is a link that gives the testimonies of more than 900 men and women which all serve to illustrate how in their most hopeless circumstances, God was their deliverance.
If faith is something you struggle with (and that’s ok we all did at some point), there’s a testimony here with your name on it.
With all this in mind, always remember to have faith that God will hear your call to him and that because of that fact, you should pray like you mean it.
2. Pray for the right things
As I said before, because God is good, he will never answer our sinful prayers.
James 4:3 makes it remarkably simple to understand.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
Well not really…
The issue here is that most of us don’t know how some of our prayers can be considered good in the eyes of God while some others are considered wrong.
Most Christians simply reason that the only way of knowing that you’re praying for the right thing is that we can consider the prayers that God actually answers to be right and simply consider the ones that he ignores to be wrong.
However, I have found a better way.
To explain, let’s first consider what the purpose of prayer actually is.
Prayer is not for the purpose of God giving us what we want but rather for the purpose of God giving us what we need.
We all agree on this right?
Well, what is the one thing we always need?
You might be tempted to answer food, water, shelter, etc. but the case we these things are that once have them, we don’t need them anymore (we don’t always need them because once we have them, we no longer consider them to be something we need).
Does that make sense?
So then again the question is, what is the one thing that we always need?
Again, you might be tempted to answer the love of other people but again the case is the same, once we have people who love us, we no longer consider it to be something we need because we have it already and thus, it can’t be considered something we always need.
So one final time, the question is, what is the one thing we always need?
The only answer that satisfies this question is the love of God because no matter how much we receive, there will always be a need for more.
Why in this?
The love of God is the only thing that gives our lives any meaning.
Sound a bit harsh, well it’s all right here in Ecclesiastes 2:16-17.
Without God Everything Is Pointless,
16 Neither the wise person nor the fool will be remembered for long, since both will be forgotten in the days to come. Both the wise person and the fool will die. 17 So I came to hate life because everything done under the sun seemed wrong to me. Everything was pointless. It was like trying to catch the wind.
We do not follow God just so he can give us happy lives, we follow God because he gives our lives meaning and purpose.
Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 goes on explain how in a life after God, everything we do comes to have a purpose.
With God Even the Simplest Things Have a Point,
24 There is nothing better for people to do than to eat, drink, and find satisfaction in their work. I saw that even this comes from the hand of God. 25 Who can eat or enjoy themselves without God? 26 God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to anyone who pleases him. But to the person who continues to sin, he gives the job of gathering and collecting wealth. The sinner must turn his wealth over to the person who pleases God. Even this is pointless. It’s like trying to catch the wind.
What I wish to explain is this, that when we pray for a greater presence of God within ourselves (and not for him to solve our problems for us or to give us what we want), we start to see that both our prayers are always answered and our reason for praying in the first place (be that a difficult circumstance in life or a newfound desire we have) will quickly come to be so completely resolved that we will never have to pray for it ever again.
Rather than pray for the things we think we need, we should instead pray to be given more of what we know we need, a greater presence of God with our hearts.
Though may seem abstract in practice, what I mean specifically is that we should pray for things like wisdom, faith, love, understanding, and compassion because things that will allow God to more easily dwell within our minds and therefore guide our thoughts and actions.
Rather than pray for God to end the hardship of our suffering or to give us the things we need, let’s just pray for more of him, because when God resides within us, all of our prayers have already been answered.
Psalm 118:14 says,
14 The LORD is my strength and my defense ; he has become my salvation.
Make this verse your reality and pray for your salvation.
3. Make it a part of your daily life.
Praying for something one time and then never again is the same as praying half-heartedly because if your prayer actually mattered to you, you would have felt inclined to do it more than once.
If someone said “if you ask me for a million dollars every day for the next year, I’ll give it to you”, I can imagine that all of us would be pretty diligent in our asking.
But because God does for us what money can never do (love us and give us meaning to live), I think we can all agree that God is FAR more valuable than money.
And in this lies the real problem.
When we don’t pray often, we lose sight of what’s actually important in life (God and not physical things like money) and that ultimate skews what we believe the purpose of prayer is for.
A person who hasn’t prayed in a long time is most likely to start again because he no longer sees God as his purpose for living but rather as one way his ticket out of a hard situation.
The belief that prayer is just a “make a wish” opportunity comes from people who want to gain more but pray less.
Yes, that is a word play on the popular marketing strategy “get more pay less” because that’s what the practice of prayer has become for most of Christianity, a spiritual discount bin.
Don’t get scammed by the image of prayer that gets tossed around so much in modern living (praying for a new car, praying for more money, praying for more friends, etc.) that was never what prayer was intended for.
One of the most popular counterarguments to the one I just made is found in Mark 11:24 which says,
24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
What many people don’t pay attention to is the verse that comes before it in Mark 11:23 which says,
23 “TrulyI tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.
In other words, if you first have the faith to move mountains, then your prayers will always be answered.
The fact is that it is impossible to have faith to move mountains in the desire for physical possessions such as money, relationships, or fame because the only kind of faith that has the power to move mountains is faith that rests in God alone.
The faith that God will give you things you want isn’t faith in him at all, it’s just faith in you getting the things you want.
You don’t have to be Christian to have faith in that, you don’t have to know God to faith in that, you don’t have to do anything to have faith in that.
Therefore such faith is powerless.
So pray for what we can have faith in and not everything except that.
In praying for the wisdom, love, and understanding that comes from the Lord on a regular basis, we not only ensure that we truly desire those things because we are not praying for them half-heartedly but we are also GARUNTEED to receive them.
How do I know?
The answer is written all over John 3:16.
If God loves us so much that he gave his son so that we could be with him, he surely won’t hesitate to live within us if continuously ask him to.
All in all, my message is this, pray not so that you will be satisfied for a moment, pray so that you will be transformed for life.
Pray that you may know God better and that you may find strength in him because that’s the best thing you could possibly pray for, no explanation required.
God loves you, but he can’t be with you unless you allow him to.
So pray with expectation, pray for the right thing, and pray often.
Do this and I promise you, all your prayers will be answered.
Thanks for Reading!
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