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Keys to Answered Prayer

A Bible Study by Rob Vanya

Introduction

    The instant we are born into the family of God we know we need to pray. But developing a consistent and fruitful private prayer life seems to be the most difficult part about living for God for many Christians.
    We attend church regularly, give our tithes and offerings regularly, get involved in Sunday School work, sing in the choir, help clean the church facilities, etc., etc., etc.
    But far too few of us discipline ourselves to getting really serious with God in regular prevailing prayer.
     Prayer does not come natural to us. Our carnal nature, although it is supposed to be crucified with Christ, constantly tries to rise up in us. That carnal nature does not want to pray. It does not like to pray. As the Master so aptly says: “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
    We know we should pray, but we are just not naturally inclined to pray. Kneel down to pray and notice how difficult it usually is to pray with any degree of sincerity for any length of time. Usually, all sorts of distracting, irrelavant thoughts creep in and interfere with your prayer time.
    Not only are we not naturally inclined to pray, we do not naturally know what to pray about. “We know not what we should pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26).
    Then too, we have a powerful enemy — Satan — who tirelessly fights our every attempt at prayer.
    With all these forces working against us, it is no wonder many Christians never develop a consistent, fruitful prayer life.
    Oh yes, most of us do pray to some extent. But we might as well face reality — our praying is certainly not as consistent and effective as the kind of praying we read about in our Bibles. When Elijah prayed the fire of God fell on mount Carmel. When the first Christians united in prayer “the place was shaken where they were assembled together.” Does God express His power so wonderfully when we pray? We must honestly admit that for the most part He does not.
    Still, we know we need to pray. And God commands us to pray.
    So, pray we must. And pray we can. Like any other spiritual endeavor, praying is a learning process. That is why the disciples said to Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray."
    If one is serious about learning, then one must study. If a man really wants to be a doctor, then he spends many long hours studying the profession.
    The Bible, the only authoritative book dealing with prayer, contains basic principles of prayer. If we are serious about learning to pray, then we need to study these principles and apply them in our everyday lives.
    I list these Biblical principles numerically out of necessity, not because any one principle is more important than any of the others. Like parts of an engine, all of these prayer principles are equally important; all are interrelated and all work together toward a common goal.
 

1. Pray the Word.

2. Be consistently obedient. (I Jn. 3:22)

3. Look for the opposite to happen at first.

4. Be persistent.

5. Believe that your faith is good enough.

6. Be simple and sincere. Sincerity is more important that style.

7. Train yourself to maintain a confession of faith.

8. Be consistent; develop a regular habit of private prayer .

9. Stop babbling and rambling and do more listening.

10. Admit your helplessness. (2 Chron. 20:5 & ff; especially v. 12).

11. Ask Jesus to pray in you. (Heb. 7:25 and Ro. 8:26)

12. Believe you receive the answer when you pray, before there is any evidence in the natural realm. (Mark 11:24) (the burnt offering in I Ki. 18:33)

 

 
 

Principle 1: Pray the Word


    To “pray the Word” is, of course, to base one's petition on the written word of God.
    God loves to hear His people say, “Lord, I base my prayer on Your word,” and then quote His word to Him by chapter and verse.
    In fact, God is obligated to answer only those prayers that are based on His word.
    “I will hasten my word to perform it” (Jer. 1:12). “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Num. 23:19).
    “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us” (1 John 5:14). The only way to ask something according to His will is to base it on His word. His word is His will in written form.
    His angels are assigned as our ministering spirits (Heb. 1:14). They work in our behalf to bring our prayers to pass. However, our ministering angels are specifically instructed to only “do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word” (Ps. 103:20). So, God's angels only work to answer the prayers we make that are based on the written Word of God.
    I have been a Christian for many years and have joined many other Christians in many prayer meetings. Consequently, I have heard many Chirstians pray. I was not eavesdropping. It is unavoidable to overhear others praying during a public prayer meeting.
    In prayer meetings I have observed sincere Christians "going through the motions" of prayer and yet never voicing specific petitions based on specific scripture. I listened to one man praying for nearly an hour and the whole time he just said things like, “Thank you, Jesus,” and “Glory to God.” Such praying might make the one praying feel good, but I wonder if such praying motivates God to action. It bears repeating: God will answer only those prayers that are based on specific scripture.
    For proof, let's look in the Bible at some examples of God answering the prayers of His people who based their petitions on His Word.
 

    Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
    Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:
    And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.
    And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.
    And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.
    And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.
    And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.
    And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.
    And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.
    And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:
    And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.
    And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.
    And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time.
And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.
    And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.
    Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
    And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God. (1 Kings 18:22-39)

    There are two very different types of prayers described in this “showdown” between Elijah and the false prophets.
    The false prophets prayed. They were very earnest and sincere when they prayed. Certainly they were fervent and emotional when they prayed. They prayed long — from morning to noon and then all the way into the evening. They prayed loud. They were demonstrative. They jumped on the altar. They went so far as to cut themselves until blood gushed out — probably as a show of sincerity and desperation.
    But evidently being desparate, fervent, emotional and sincere made no difference whatever. Their prayers were not answered. “There was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.”
    Elijah also prayed. His prayer was short — less than a minute — simple and to the point. God answered Elijah's prayer with a mighty demonstration of power.
    Why did God answer Elijah's prayer? It was not because Elijah was special. It was not because God loved Elijah above others. Elijah himself reveals why he confidently expected God to answer his prayer: “I have done all these things at thy word.”
    Why did Elijah build an altar of 12 stones? Why did he put wood in order and cut a bullock in pieces and lay that sacrifice on the wood? He was following instructions from the word of God. God answered Elijah's prayer only because his prayer was based on God's word.
    Now, let's read from 2 Cron. 20 — the account of Jehoshaphat praying for God to deliver the nation of Judah from pending destruction.
 
    It came to pass after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle....
     ....And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
    And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the LORD: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.
    And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court,
    And said, O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?
    Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?
    And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary therein for thy name, saying,
    If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help.
    And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and mount Seir, whom thou wouldest not let Israel invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them, and destroyed them not;
    Behold, I say, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of thy possession, which thou hast given us to inherit.
    O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee...
    ....And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.
    And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.
    For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another.
    And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped.

    Like Elijah, Jehoshaphat simply based his prayer on the written Word of God. Jehoshaphat merely reminded God of His promises and quoted His Word to Him.
    There are many similar accounts in the Bible of people asking God to perform miracles and basing their requests on promises God had made.
Whenever King Solomon offered the prayer of dedication at the completion of the temple of God in Jerusalem, he finished his prayer with these words:
     “Now then, O LORD God of Israel, let thy word be verified, which thou hast spoken...”
    Those simple words are so powerful and important that it would be wise to commit them to memory and use them regularly in prayer.
    Quote the scripture you are basing your prayer on and then tell God, “Now then, O LORD God of Israel, let thy word be verified, which thou hast spoken...”

    But, there is another important principle that must be applied in conjunction with the principle of praying the Word in order for us to confidently expect God to honor His Word at our request:
 

Principle 2: Be consistently obedient.


    1 John 3: 21 and 22 shows the connection between obedience and answered prayer.

     Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.
And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

    God, in His wisdom, places automatic “checks and balances” in His word.
It is true that God is obligated to fulfill the many wonderful promises He gives us in His word. But it is equally true that there are conditions that we must meet before we can expect Him to answer our prayers.
    A minister was once teaching on faith and prayer. He was showing from the Bible how God promises to answer prayer and he was encouraging his listeners to boldly expect God to answer their prayers.
    After the meeting a teenage girl — who must not have been paying full attention to the message — approached the minister and asked him to pray with her for something.
    “What would you like to ask God for?” he asked.
    “I want God to provide me with a motorcycle” the girl answered.
    “A motorcycle. Why?”
    “Well, I have wanted a motorcycle for a long time. It would really be a fun way to get around. You said God would answer our prayers, if we base our request on His word.”
    The girl directed the minister to John 14:14 in which the Lord said “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”
    “You must not have been listening too carefully to all of my message,” the minister said. “I did say that God will answer our prayers. But I made it very clear that we have conditions to meet. Do you know for sure that it is the will of God for you to have a motorcycle?”
    “Well, I'm not really sure. I haven't really thought about whether or not it is the will of God.”
    “I also referred to 1 John 3:22 in my message: ‘And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.’ Are you keeping His commandments? Are you doing those things that are pleasing in His sight?” the minister asked the girl.
    The girl looked down shaking her head. Needless to say, they did not pray about the motorcycle.

    Parents who really love their children do not just give their children anything they ask for all the time regardless of how their children behave.
Likewise, we cannot expect God to just give us anything we ask for, regardless of our behavior.
    God answers prayers for His obedient children.
For example, He promises in Exodus 15:26 to heal us, but only if we meet very clearly stated conditions:

    If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee.

    God's promise to heal is based on four conditions: listening diligently to His voice; doing what is right in His sight; giving ear to His commandments and keeping all His statutes.
    So, we must always keep in mind that God does fulfill His promises, but only for His children who “keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”
    That does not mean God expects us to be flawless or perfect and never make any mistakes.
    It simply means we are to consistently learn His word and do our best to keep His commandments. “As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:30, 31).
 
 

Principle 3: Look for the opposite to happen at first.


    Whenever a child of God prays about something, almost invariably things will begin to happen that will make it look as though it is not God's will to answer the prayer.
    In fact, when you express a specific prayer request, don't be surprised if exactly the opposite of what you want to happen begins to take place.
    If you pray and ask the Lord to save someone, you can count on that person acting more mean and ungodly than he or she ever has.
    If you pray and ask for healing, don't be surprised if your physical symptoms grow worse.
    If you pray and ask for financial blessings, look for your financial condition to get worse.
    The familiar story about God delivering His people from Egypt clearly illustrates this principle.
    For many years the Hebrews and Egyptians apparently lived peacefully together in Egypt. The Hebrews proved to be beneficial to the Egyptians. The Hebrews were honest, hard-working people and thus became a ready supply of cheap manual labor for the enterprising Egyptians.
    But a new Pharaoh took office — one who did not know Joseph and thus one who felt no obligation to deal kindly with the Hebrews. (Joseph had saved Egypt from almost certain collapse during the reign of the previous Pharaoh).
    The new Pharaoh began to worry about the alarming rate at which the Hebrew people were multiplying.

    And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:
    Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.
    And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour:
And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage... (Ex. 1:9, 10; 13, 14).

    The Egyptian taskmasters became more and more cruel in their dealings with the Hebrews and more and more unreasonable in their expectations from the Hebrew workers.
    The people of God prayed earnestly for deliverance.
    God heard their prayers. He selected a leader, Moses, and told him,
I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;
And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey ... Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. (Ex. 3:7, 8, 10).
    So Moses relayed the good news to the children of Israel. And just to prove Moses' authority and to reassure the people that He had indeed heard their prayers, the Lord worked some miracles through Moses “in the sight of the people” (Ex. 4:30).
    And the people believed: and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped (Ex. 4:31).
    But guess what! Things got worse for the children of Israel.
When Moses went before Pharoah and told him God was going to deliver His people, Pharaoh hardened his heart and issued a decree to increase the workload of the Hebrews.
    Needles to say, the Hebrews got very upset with Moses and his assistant Aaron.

    And they met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way, as they came forth from Pharaoh:
    And they said unto them, The Lord look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us.
    And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou has sent me?
    For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all. (Ex. 5:20-23).

    Paraphrasing, Moses was saying, “What's the deal, God? I thought You said you had heard our prayers and You had come down to deliver us. But things are only getting worse, not better.  You said You would deliver us, but the exact opposite is happening. We are not being delivered. In fact, Pharaoh is making our cruel bondage worse than ever.”
    Have you ever talked to God that way?
I have. I have prayed; felt sure God heard me and just knew it was the will of God to answer my prayer. Then things happened that made it look as though God never heard my prayer and my prayer would never come to pass. I questioned God. “Why is the exact opposite of my prayer coming to pass?” I asked Him. “I thought I was praying in the will of God, and yet it is not coming to pass. What is the deal, God?”
    Then I read again the familiar story of God promising to deliver the Hebrews and how the exact opposite of what they wanted to happen began to happen, even though God specifically said, "I am come down now to deliver you."
    I also remembered other Bible stories about things happening that made faithful people of God think they would never have their prayers answered, even though they had received assurance that God heard their prayers.
    I began to see that one of the simple principles of prayer is that no matter what we ask for in prayer, the exact opposite quite often begins to take place.
    I have asked the Lord why it is that way. He answered my question with a question: "Why did it take a while for Me to lead My people out of Egypt?"
The only answer I could give was, "Because Pharoah fought to keep them from leaving."
    "Exactly right," the Lord said. "And just as Pharoah fought so hard to keep the Hebrews from leaving Egypt, there is a devil who fights continually to keep My people from receiving from Me."
    The story of Daniel and his encounter with an angel (Daniel 10) also clearly illustrates how the devil fights to keep us from having our prayers answered.
 

    In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar; and the thing was true, but the time appointed was long: and he understood the thing, and had understanding of the vision.
    In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks.
    I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.
    And in the four and twentieth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel;
    Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz:
    ....And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent.
    And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling.
    Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.
    But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.
    Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.
    And when he had spoken such words unto me, I set my face toward the ground, and I became dumb...
    ....Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come.
    But I will show thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince.

    Daniel chapter 10 gives us some idea of the war that is being fought behind the scenes in the spiritual realm when we pray. Notice several important points:     Just as God heard Daniel when he first prayed, He hears us when we pray. But just as there was an enemy fighting to keep Daniel from receiving his answer, there are evil spirits fighting to keep us from having our prayers answered.
    This leads us to another very important prayer principle.
 

Principle 4: Be persistent.


    The classic story that illustrates the importance of being persistent in prayer is found in Matthew 15: 22-28:
 

    And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
    But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
    But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
    Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to dogs.
    And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
    Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

 

 

    The woman of Canaan did not deserve to receive anything from God. Jesus made that clear with His stinging remark “It is not meet (appropriate) to take the children's bread, and cast it to dogs.” And yet, the woman of Canaan did receive her miracle from God.
    She got what she wanted because of her faith — Jesus called it great faith — and because of her persisence. She had an unyielding stubbornness. I know stubbornness is generally considered a negative quality, but there is a kind of stubbornness that God admires — the kind that tenaciously latches on to God's promises and will never let go.
    When she first prayed, Jesus ignored her. When she appealed to the disciples, they too turned away. When she went back to Jesus, He not only would not grant her request, He referred to her race as “dogs.”
    In spite of being ignored and repeatedly rejected, in spite of being insulted, the woman of Canaan just would not take “No” for an answer.
Too often, we give up too easily. We will ask God to do a certain thing and when we don't get an immediate answer we start to waver and wonder whether or not it is the will of God for us to have it.
    Jesus lets us know from the story of the woman of Canaan that He admires someone who will be stubborn and persistent in prayer.
    It might be helpful when you pray to say “Lord, I am going to be like that woman of Canaan. I will not take ‘No’ for an answer. I will not give up until You grant me my request.”
 

Principle 5: Believe that your faith is good enough.

    We know instinctively that prayer involves faith. The very act of prayer is an act of faith, because we are calling on a God who we cannot see. So, we have to have faith in order to pray, and we must exercise faith in order for our prayers to be answered.
    A familiar story in Matthew shows the correlation between faith and receiving from God:

    And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou son of David, have mercy on us.
    And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.
    Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you (Matt. 9:27-29).

    Obviously, there is an unalterable law governing prayer: what we receive from God depends on our level of faith. As Jesus told the blind men,  “According to your faith be it unto you.”
    The devil knows how indelibly faith and prayer are linked together. So, one of the Devil's most effective hindrances to prayer is to make a believer feel he or she does not have enough faith to activate the miracle working power of God.
    Once when I was going through a severe trial I found myself thinking that God would bring me through if only I could get a certain “faith-filled” minister to pray for me. I felt like my faith was somehow not good enough.
    I have also often found myself thinking: “If only I had as much faith as Brother (or Sister) So-and-So. If only I had that kind of faith, then surely God would work miracles for me also.”
    But one day I heard a minister preach from Romans 12:3: For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
    For some reason I had the notion that God had a few specially chosen “prayer warriors” — those blessed with an abundance of faith. The chosen few with loads of faith could pray and see God work miracles for them.
    On the other hand, I imagined most saints were like me — not blessed with a whole lot of faith. Us “average” saints, who are not called to the ministry, just did not have enough faith to beleive God for great miracles. That was the notion I maintained.
    But when I took a closer look at Romans 12:3 I discovered such reasoning was unscriptural.
    In Romans 12:3 Paul calls it “the” measure of faith — not “a” measure of faith. That means that God gives to every child of God the exact same measure of faith. That means every believer has the same measure of faith as did the great Apostle Paul, Simon Peter and others that we read about in the book of Acts.
    There is a simple analogy that I believe clearly shows how God gives to every believer the same measure of faith.
    Imagine two persons: one a scrawny, 13-year-old, buck-toothed boy. Picture him as a real wimp — skinny, pale, thick eyeglasses; the kind of kid that peers would consider a first-rate sissy. There's nothing seriously wrong with this imaginary wimp. He is not disabled or physically handicapped. He's just not the macho type. He's what some would call a “90-pound weakling.”
    Now imagine person number two as a real brute — a full-grown man in his prime. Imagine him as the muscle-bound athletic type; a hard core body builder; a real macho type dude who could easily lift with one hand the aforementioned scrawny 13-year-old kid.
    Now, imagine Mr. Macho, with his broad shoulders, bulging bisceps and confident strength standing next to the 90-pound weakling.
    Who has more muscles? Is it the strong man or the wimpy kid?
“What a dumb question,” some would answer. “Obviously the strong guy has more muscles than the wimp.”
    Wrong. The strong guy does not have more muscles than the wimp. The wimp has just as many muscles as the muscle-bound weight lifter.
    True, the weight lifter does have more fully developed muscles than the kid. But the weight lifter does not have any more muscles than the kid.
    In like manner, the measure of faith that God gives a believer at conversion is similar to muscles. Every believer receives the same sized measure of faith, just as all people have the same number of muscles when they come into the world.
    The skrawny kid has the same number of muscles as the strong man and could, through discipline and excercise, develop his muscles so that he too could lift great weights.
    And like muscles, faith can be developed and made stronger.
I have heard believers pray, “Lord give me more faith.” That is a waste of words. God is not going to give anyone any more faith. I don't need more faith, any more than I need more muscles. I just need to use the faith I already have and constantly make my faith stronger with a steady diet of the word of God. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2).
    So, we need to stop feeling inadequate in regards to faith. My faith is good enough to receive from God. Your faith is good enough to receive from God. Do you know why your faith is good enough? It's because it is not really your faith, it is God's faith.

    Ephesians 3:12 — In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
    Acts 3:16 — And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
    Galatians 2:20 — I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

    If you ever find yourself feeling as though you don't have enough faith or feeling like your faith is just not good enough to receive from God, then say these words before you pray:

    “I do have faith. God gave me the measure of faith when I was born again. I received the same measure of faith that God gives all His children.
God is no respecter of persons. He has no favorites. He does not give preferential treatment to a few of His specially chosen ones.
    I have the same measure of faith as did Daniel, Moses, David, Elijah, the great Apostle Paul and all the other great men and women I read about in the Bible.
    God hears and answers my prayers just like he heard and answered their prayers.
    He has given me the same faith he gave them. My faith is good enough to receive from God because it is not really my faith, it is God's faith.”
 

Principle 6: Be simple and sincere.

Sincerity is more important that style.

    Another common hindrance to having our prayers answered is a concern over proper style.
    When we pray, so often we worry about using just the right words. The devil would have us think the language of prayer is a certain mysterious “spiritual” sounding talk that can only be mastered by deeply spiritual saints who spend hours each day in prayer. That, of course, is a lie.
    Using the right words is important. God must have words to work with: “I create the fruit of the lips” (Isaiah 57:19). But equally important is how we use the right words. In other words, our attitude when we pray — whether or not we are truly sincere — is just as important as what we say when we pray.
Some of the most astounding answers to prayer we read about in the Bible came as the result of prayers simple enough to be understood by small children. Consider, for example, the account of Simon Peter's sea-walking adventure.
 
    And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
    But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
    And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
    And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
    And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
    And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
    But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
    And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? (Matt. 14:23-31).

 

 

    Peter's three-word prayer, “Lord, save me,” is perhaps the shortest, the simplest prayer recorded in the Bible. Under the circumstances, Simon didn't have time to say much more. The man was sinking. Even if he were a good swimmer, he knew he was doomed because he was going down in a violently stormy sea.
    Simon was a simple fisherman. He had little, if any, formal education. In fact, the religous leaders of that day considered Simon Peter an “unlearned and ignorant” man (Acts 4:13).
    But the Lord answered Simon's simple prayer: “Lord, save me.” The “unlearned and ignorant” Simon could not pray with flowery and eloquent language. He used the only words he knew — plain words, simple words. That, apparently, is the lanuage God understands.
    Consider also Elijah's prayer during the showdown with the false prophets on mount Carmel.
 

    And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.
    Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
    And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.  (1 Kings 18:36-39).

 

 

    Even if Elijah talked very slow his prayer took less than a minute to say.
His prayer consisted of two sentences. Most of the words were very simple and were either one or two syllables long.
    Not only were Elijah's words short and simple, the six things he asked for were simple. He asked God to let it be known that 1. He was God; 2. that Elijah was His servant; and 3. that Elijah was acting out of obedience to God's word. He also asked that 4. God would hear his prayer; 5. the people of Israel would know that Elijah's God was the one true God; and 6. that they would realize that God had turned their heart back again.
    Another story that illustrates how sincerity and simplicity in prayer is more important than style is the familiar story of Hannah praying for a son.
 

    And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions:
    But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb.
    And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb.
    And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.
    Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?
    So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD.
    And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.
    And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.
    And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth.
    Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
    And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.
    And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD.
    Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.
    Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.
    And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.
    And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the LORD, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her.
    Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD (1 Samuel 1: 4-20).

    Hannah was so distressed that she could not even express her prayer in intelligible words. To herself she prayed simply these words: “O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.”
    But Eli the priest, who was watching Hannah, could only hear muttering and thought Hannah was drunk. Hannah, of course, was not drunk. She was only pouring out her soul before the Lord.
    Sometimes mere human words are inadequate to express our feelings. That's when “the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
    Even though Eli could not comprehend Hannah, God understood her cry of desperation. He gave her a miracle child — Samuel, whose name literally means “answer to prayer.”
    Yes, the sincerity of our prayer is far more important to God than the propriety or style of our words.
 

Principle 7: Train yourself to maintain a confession of faith.

    One of the most important spiritual laws of prayer is that of confession. By confession I mean the confession of faith, not the confession of sin. We must, of course, confess our sins in order to maintain a good realtionship with God and thus have confidence that God will hear and answer our prayers.

    Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
    But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear (Isa. 59:1, 2).

    We cannot expect God to hear and answer our prayers unless we confess and forsake our sins.
    But there is also much in the Bible about another kind of confession — confession of faith.
    “Let us hold fast the profession (or confession) of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)” Hebrews 10:23.
    There is an important connection between our words and our prayers. In fact, the way we talk after we have prayed (according to the will of God) will determine whether or not our prayers will be answered.
    God expresses His power through words. He creates through words. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:3).
    To create all things God used words. “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light...And God said, Let there be a firmament...And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place...” And thus Genesis chapter 1 describes the Lord's chosen method to create all things.
    Not only did God bring all things into being with words, according to Hebrews 1:3 He upholds and sustains all things through words.
    In like manner, God must have words — faith-filled words — in order to create for us, in order to bring our prayers to pass.
 

Hosea 14:2 — Take with you words, and turn to the LORD...
Isaiah 57:19 — I create the fruit of the lips (which simply refers to the words we speak).


    We can, by wavering and using words of doubt and unbelief, undo our own prayers. That is exactly what the nation of Israel did after God had delivered them from Egyptian bondage.
    The children of Israel prayed earnestly and fervently for God to deliver them from their cruel Egyptian taskmasters.

    “And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.
    And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
    And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them” (Exod. 2:23-25).

    God appeared to Moses and assured him that he had indeed heard the cries of His people and would answer their prayer for deliverence.

    And the people believed: and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped (Ex. 4:31).

    God did His part. He said He had heard their prayers and would deliver His people.
    He manifested His awsome power with the plagues that humbled the Egyptians. Then He opened the Red Sea for His people to pass through. After they were safely on the other side, He used the same Red Sea to drown the pursuing Egyptian army.
    Yes, God did His part and delivered them. And He wanted to lead them into Canaan so they could establish their own nation — a safe and secure home for themselves and their descendants.
    But unfortunately the children of Israel canceled their own prayers. The many obstacles they encountered in the wilderness did not undermine their prayers. The giants they saw when they first spied out the promised land did not negate their prayers.
    It was their own words that snared them.
    When food became scarce they said to Moses, “ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
    When God rained manna from heaven, they complained about it and said they would rather have the food they once ate in Egypt.
    They murmered and complained when Moses tarried so long in prayer on mount Sinai.
    In fact, the children of Israel found fault with everything God and Moses did after their deliverance from Egypt.
    Then, when the search party traveled through Canaan to spy it out they brought back an evil report:

    “We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great...We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we” (Numbers 13:27, 28 and 31).

    This evil report triggered an all-out mutiny against Moses.

    And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.
    And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!
    And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
    And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt (Numbers 14:1-4).

    Finally, God could endure it no longer.

    How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.
    Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you:
    Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me,
    Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein... Num. 14:27-30).

    The Lord clearly shows the connection between confession and prayer with His words: “as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you.” Although they had prayed for deliverance and provision, God could not answer those prayers because of their words of unbelief. Their murmurings, their words of doubt and unbelief cancelled out their prayers for deliverance.
    What God does for us — whether or not He answers our prayers — depends on the way we talk.
    That's basically what Jesus told His disciples one day after Peter marvelled because His words caused a fig tree to die.

    And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
    For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
    Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them (Mark 11:22-24).

    Jesus simply said that we will have whatever we say.
    If we pray for healing but talk about how the symptoms are still bothering us, then our negative words cancel out our prayer for healing.
    If we pray for financial blessings and continue to say we don't have enough money, then our negative words negate our prayers.
    If we pray for a loved-one to be saved and continue to talk about how ungodly he or she is acting, then our negative words tie the hands of God.
    “As ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you.”
    “He shall have whatsoever he saith.”
    So, we cannot expect God to answer our prayers unless we learn to reinforce our prayers with faith-filled words.
    Unfortunately, however, man does not by nature maintain a confession of faith. The tongue of man is by nature unruly.
 

    Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.
    Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.
    Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
    And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
    For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:
    But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:3-8).

 

 

    It's a fact of life — man's natural mind is negative and thus we usually maintain a confession of fear, unbelief, lack and worry. We are more apt to say we can't than to say we can. We are more apt to believe God will probably not answer most of our prayers.
    We really need God's help in order to keep from undoing our prayers with words of doubt and unbelief.
    After you pray it's a good practice to ask God to help you to bridle your unruly tongue.
    Here is a prayer that you may find helpful:
    “Lord, I have prayed according to your will and I have based my requests upon Your Word.
    Now, according to Psalm 141:3 set a watch before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. Acccording to Psalm 19:14 let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight.
    I believe You have heard my prayer. Help me to not undo and negate my own prayers with words of doubt and unbelief.
    Lord help me to train my unruly tongue to speak Your word. Help me to walk by faith and not by sight.”
 

Principle 8: Be consistent; develop a regular habit

of private prayer.

    If we are to expect God to answer our prayers with any degree of consistency, then it logically follows that we, too, must be consistent with our praying.
    There are many kinds of prayers. In the Bible we read about public prayers, such as the account of King Solomon offering the prayer of dedication at the completion of the temple of God in Jerusalem. (2 Chron. 6 and 7).
    The first Christians joined together in united prayer. “And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is...” (Acts 4:24).
    There is strength in numbers and certainly God is pleased when His people join their hearts and voices in united prayer.
    But there is another prayer principle as certain and unalterable as any of the laws of nature: a child of God can never develop a truly fruitful, intimate and fulfilled relationship with God without developing a regular habit of private prayer. There is a fellowship, a communion of two-way communication between one's spirit and the Spirit of God, a delicate and blessed intimacy that one can have only by getting alone with God in regular private intercession.
    True, a child of God can be touched and greatly blessed by the Spirit of God when joining in group prayer. But one can never find the abiding intimacy that God longs to have with His people without regular private prayer.
    True, God can work miracles in response to His people uniting their faith in group prayer. “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mat. 18:19, 20).
    But only in private intercession can a beleiver truly bare the soul. In a group, we naturally are resevered about pouring out our innermost feelings. We naturally balk at praying about our “hang-ups” — things like harmful habits we might be trying to overcome. But in private prayer one can freely speak one's mind without concern for what someone else may think.
    In private intercession we get away from the cares of life. We tune out the incessant clamor — the many voices and noises always calling for our attention.
    We shut out the world and get shut in with God.
    It is only then that we are still long enough to allow God to dig deep and expose and thoroughly purge hidden sins.
    During such times we can pray as did David: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me.
    “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow...Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
    It is such regular private intercession that marked all the men and women of the Bible who were greatly used of God.
    Moses regularly turned aside from his responsibilities as Israel's leader to get alone for private prayer.
    Daniel also was a busy, high-ranking government leader who consistently set aside time to seek the Lord in secluded intercession.
    Simon Peter, the Apostle Paul and the others used of God to establish His Church were all given to much private prayer.
    But the Lord Himself, of course, gives us the best example of consistent private intercession.

    And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.
    And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone (Mat. 14: 22, 23).

    But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities.
And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed (Luke 5:15-16).

    And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed (Mark 1:35).

    And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
    And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
    And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed (Luke 22: 39-41).

    When Luke says Jesus went for prayer “as he was wont” that lets us know the Lord had a habit of regular private intercession. The phrase “as he was wont” simply means that going for private prayer was His custom — He made it a regular habit.
    The Elizabethan translation “Pray that ye enter not into temptation” is somewhat obscure to us today. For this particular verse, the Living Bible has a really clear interpretation: “Watch with me and pray lest the Tempter overpower you.”  Paraphrasing, the Lord was trying to get across an important message to His disciples: “Follow my example of regular private intercession. If you don't, then you will become easy prey for the devil.”

    Notice the places the Lord usually chose for His times of intimate, private intercession. Generally, He went up into a mountain or into a secluded garden area or into some sort of “wilderness place.”
    Going into a wilderness place somehow enhances a believer's time of private prayer. In a wilderness place, there are no telephones to answer, no routine duties to tend to. One gets away from the many little chores and diversions that seem to constantly call for attention.
    In a wilderness place it somehow seems easier to draw close to God. Rather than artificial, man-made surroundings, one looks around and sees only God's natural creations.
    And one need not travel a long distance to find a suitable wilderness place for prayer. One need not drive way out into a forest or go to some secluded beach “out in the middle of nowhere.”
    I live in a big city and yet I have discovered several highly secluded “wilderness places” within five miles of my home where I can go for private prayer. There is a large public park with large sections of undeveloped woods and meadows. At nights, I like to go to a nearby school and stroll around the large playgrounds and pray.
    So, it does not matter where a beliver lives, be it city, town or country, there is an ideal “wilderness place” for intimate private intercession for the soul who makes the effort to search it out.
Believe me — it is worth the effort.
 

9. Don't do all the talking; learn to listen

    Most define prayer as "talking to God." Certainly, we cannot pray without saying something to the Lord. But another part of prayer that is just as important is hearing from God.

    “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev. 3:6).

    Prayer is conversation. It is communion True conversation, true communion is a sharing, two-way process.
    In other words, prayer involves listening to God as well as talking to Him. In fact, learning to listen to God while in prayer is just as important as talking to Him in prayer.
    And yet how do we usually pray? We just ramble right along "bombarding the gates of heaven" with a steady barrage of words. I think we do this because we have the notion that we are not really praying unless we are saying something.
    I've participated in literally hundreds of prayer meetings in which we Christians just talk and talk and talk. Sometimes it reminds me of the Lord's words: "When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."
    Clearly, the Lord is trying to show his disciples that there is more to praying than just talking. But when we pray - off we go, babbling and rambling and jabbering away, without stopping from time to time to give the Lord an opportunity to say something in return. Surely He must find such incessant, one-way blabbering to be awfully boring.
    Do you enjoy holding a conversation with someone who completely monopolizes the talking? Do you think God enjoys hearing us talk incessantly without giving Him a chance to talk?
    So, if we want to be fruitful in prayer, we need to do less talking and learn to listen for His reply.
    As the Word says: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27).
    Notice what the wise man Solomon prayed for on that special occasion whenever the Lord offered him an unprecedented "carte blanche."

    In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
    ...Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
    And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing" (I Kings 3:5, 9 and 10).

    When the wise man Solornon asked God for an "understanding" heart, he was literally asking for a listening heart. The word for understanding" in the original Hebrew language is "hearing, and thus the word is rendered "hearing" in the margin of most reference Bibles.
    Whenever that wise man was given the golden opportunity by the Lord to ask for anything, his first request was simply for a hearing and understanding heart.
    It is obvious from context that Solomon desired a heart to hear and understand the people he was charged with ruling. But I believe Solomon also wanted the ability to hear the voice of God.
    Frequently when I take time out for private prayer I will say something like this:
    "Lord, I enjoy talking to you, but I want our time of prayer to be a two-way communion. So, I invite you to speak freely to me while I am praying. God, just like Solomon, I ask for the ability to hear your voice. Give me an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying. You said, 'My sheep hear my voice,' so God, let me hear you as well as talk to you while in prayer."
    Of course, after praying like this, I must pause from time to time and just be quiet and listen.
    "Be still, and know that I am God." Ps. 46:10.
    The margin of many reference Bibles translates the Hebrew word for "still" as "quiet."
    The Lord is saying that the only way we can know about His complete sovereignty is to simply be quiet and wait for Him to speak. In the flesh I feel as though I am not accomplishing anything when I am quietly listening for the voice of God, but I am learning that hearing God in prayer is just as important as talking to Him.
 

10. Admit your helplessness and

complete dependence on God.

    Let's read about one of the most dramatic answers to prayer recorded in the Bible. As was so often the case, the people of God were in a hopeless situation. They faced certain destruction by enemy armies and there was no way of escape.
    Fortunately, someone had the presence of mind to call on One who specializes in reversing hopeless situations.
    This familiar story, found in 2 Chronicle 20: 1-24, contains a simple but profound nugget of truth that can literally revolutionize one's prayer life.
 
    It came to pass after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle.
    Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side Syria; and, behold, they be in Hazazontamar, which is Engedi.
    And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed, a fast throughout all Judah.
    And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the LORD: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.
    And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court,
    And said, O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?
    Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?
    And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary therein for thy name, saying,
    If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help.
    And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and mount Seir, whom thou wo6idest not let Israel invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them, and destroyed them not;
    Behold, I say, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of thy possession, which thou hast given us to inherit.
    O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against ue; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.
    And all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
    Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the LORD in the midst of the congregation;
    And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's.
    Tomorrow go ye down against them: behold, they come up by the cliff of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the brook, before the wilderness of Jeruel.
    Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against th~m: for the LORD will, be with you.
    And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the LORD, worshipping the LORD.
    And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with a loud voice on high.
    And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.
    And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.
    And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moeb, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. ~
    For the children of Ammon and Moeb stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another.
    And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped.

    Notice in particular how Jehoshaphat prayed in verse 12: "We have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither hnow we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee."
    In simplest terms, the king was admitting that he and the nation of Israel were completely helpless and entirely dependent on God.
    It is usually hard for us to surrender so completely to God and place ourselves wholly at His mercy. Because of an inherent independent, sel-freliant nature we rarely trust in God to be our exclusive source and provider. If God and God alone provides, then we earn no credit and can claim no glory. And there is the rub — we, by nature, do not like to be in a position where we get no credit and no glory.
    It's just not our style. We like to be recognized for our talents and abilities. We like to imagine that human talents and human abilities are equal to any difficulty. We like to fancy ourselves as being strong, self-reliant, self-sufficient creatures. By nature, we want to work out all our problems on our own. It's hard for us to say, "I just do not know what to do. I am helpless." We instinctively feel it would be an admission of weakness to turn to God and trust Him exclusively.
    Obviously, it took no human talent or ability for Jehoshaphat to call on God, saying: "We have no might...neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee."
    But there is a spiritual principle that is as constant and unchangeable as any law of nature: human talent and human ability have no value in prayer. Human talent and human ability can never influence God to answer any prayer.
    God responds to our prayers based on a simple, child-like admission of helplessness and dependence on Him.
    Jesus exalted such child-like dependence in a familiar passage, Mark 10:13-16.

    And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
    But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer (permit) the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
    Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as  a little child, he shall not enter therein.
    And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

    So, if we want God to answer our prayers and work miracles for us the same way He did for Jehoshaphat, then we must learn to humble ourselves in child-like helplessness and dependence like Jehoshaphat did.
    Learn to pray: "Lord, I have no might, no human talent or ability within myself to resolve this difficulty. With child-like dependence on You and you alone I admit that I do not know what to do. But my eyes are upon Thee and Thee alone as my exclusive source."
 

11. Ask Jesus to pray in you.

    It seems quite unfair. God, in His Word, repeatedly commands us to pray. Yet His Word plainly states in Romans 8:26 that :"we know not what we should pray for as we ought." How can God expect us - nay, command us - to pray, when we do not by nature know how to pray or what to pray for?!
    The same passage, Romans 8:26 and 27, that so plainly states we do not know how to pray provides the answer.

   Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
   And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

    In simplest terms, although we do not, by nature, know how to pray, thank God we do not need to know how. We need to simply learn how to let the man Christ Jesus, who ever abides within, to become our high priest and intercessor.
    We can ask Jesus to pray in and through us.
    One company invites us to: "Go Greyhound, and leave the driving to us." In like manner, we can turn to Jesus, and leave the praying to Him.
    That is basically the message Paul was trying to convey when he wrote: "The the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities," and the "Spirit itself maketh intercession for us." In other words, the Holy Spirit - which is the Lord Jesus abiding within a believer - makes up for our shortcomings. He makes up for our spiritual ignorance, our inherent inability to pray. He can do the praying in our stead.
    How much more effectively we could pray if we could just quit straining and struggling and trust the man Christ Jesus to be the intercessor. While it is painfully true that we indeed "know not what we should pray for as we ought," it is equally true that the Lord Jesus does know how to pray.
    He knows how to pray according to the will of God because He is God. He is at once, simultaneously God Almighty as well as a man. That is the truth conveyed with such scriptures as John 10:30, John 14:9 and I Tim. 3:16 -

    "I and my Father are one."

    "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."

    "God was manifest in the flesh."

    What a wonder. As God, He knows our needs and has the power to answer our prayers. Yet as a man, He can identify with us and help us pray: "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).
    He is our perpetual prayer partner. He ever liveth to make intercession for us, according to Heb. 7:25. But He is not ever living to make intercession for us away off in some distant heaven. He is ever living inside His people. He makes intercession in and through His people.
    "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (lPet.. 5:7 and 9).
    It's a good practice to begin your private prayer time by saying something like this:

    "Jesus, I admit I am spiritually ignorant by nature. The Word plainly states I do not know what to pray for and I do not know how to pray. But the Word also states Your Spirit makes up for my shortcomings. Your Spirit can intercede in and through me.
    "So I now step out of the way and I ask that You do the praying through me. I call on that great High Priest who ever lives to make intercession, that perpetual prayer partner to make intercession through me according to the will of God.
    "Jesus, you know who needs prayer and what the needs are. Tell me who to pray for. Give me the right words to say. Teach me to pray. Pray in me."
 

12. Believe you receive the answer when you pray, before there is any evidence in the natural realm. (Mark 11:24)

    One of the most important scriptures concerning prayer is Mark 11:24, in which Jesus says: "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
    While teaching Bible studies dealing with prayer I will invariably refer to Mark 11:24 and will ask the simple question: What does Jesus say we will receive in this scripture?
    One common answer given is something like this: "He says we will receive whatever we desire." Another common answer is: "He says we will receive anything, provided we have enough faith."
    Both answers are wrong.
    In Mark 11:24 Jesus says we will receive only what we believe we receive when we pray. In other words, I must believe that God has heard and answered my prayer the very moment I make my request known. I must believe I have received the answer to my prayer when I pray, not sometime in the future whenever I have evidence that things are different in the natural realm.
    Let's put it as simply as possible.
    I wake up one morning very ill. All the symptoms point to a serious cold, perhaps the flu: fever, body aches, heavy congestion, coughing, sneezing, that run-down, puny feeling.
    I know I have a scriptural right to ask the Lord to heal me, so I pray accordingly: "Lord, Your word says in Matthew 8:17 that You-took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses. It says in I Peter 2:24 that by Your stripes we were healed. You have already paid the price. You have already done the work. I now simply ask you to confirm Your word by taking away this infirmity."
    If I am praying at 8 a.m. on July 21, then this is how I might conclude my prayer: "At this moment in time, at 8 a.m., July 21, I believe I receive from the Lord Jesus Christ healing of the flu."
    But what should I do if there is no change in the natural realm? What if the symptoms remain the same, or even grow worse? Should I just believe that God has ignored my prayer? Should I just accept the flu? Should I say, as I have heard so many good Christians say, "I guess it's just not the will of the Lord for me to be healed of this flu?"
    Absolutely not. I should boldly declare, "I believe I have received what I prayed for. I believe I have received healing. I do not care how I feel. I am not healed by symptoms. I am healed by Jesus' stripes. He said believe I receive the answer to my prayer when I pray, so I believe I was healed at 8 a.m."
    On the surface, such a confession may appear to be a lie. After all, how can I say I have something when I physically do not have it?
    I can say I have it because I actually do have it. I may not see it in the physical realm. But it does exist. It exists in the invisible realm of the spirit.
    Just because something is not yet manifested in the physical, natural realm does not mean it is not real.
    There is a spiritual realm. The spiritual realm is just as real as the natural realm that we are so familiar with.
    Effectual praying is simply a matter of reaching out with the hand of faith and appropriating things from that vast, invisible spiritual realm.
    Effectual praying is simply a matter of believing that God hears us and brings to pass whatever we have prayed for even before we have any sort of physical evidence that it is done. He brings it to pass first of all in the invisible realm of the spirit. It is later manifested in the natural realm, provided we do not negate our prayers with our own doubts and unbelief.
    Notice carefully the Lord's words in Mark 11:24, "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
    The phrase "believe that ye receive them" is in the present tense.
    However, the phrase "ye shall have them" is in the future tense.
    Clearly, the Lord meant that we are to believe that what we pray for comes to pass first of all in the invisible, spiritual realm. It first comes to pass (present tense) in the spiritual realm, and then it later becomes a reality in the physical, natural realm (future tense).
    I think a good way to learn Mark 11:24 is accordingly:

    "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them (first of all, in the invisible, spiritual realm), and ye shall have them (in the natural realm)."

    There are many stories in the Bible that clearly illustrate this principle of how things exist first of all in the spiritual realm and then are later manifested in the natural. One of the best examples is the familiar story of God renaming Abram to Abraham and promising to bless Abraham with many children.
 

    And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
   And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
   And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
   "As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
   "Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
   "And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee" (Gen. 17:1-6).

 

 

    Most marginal reference Bibles indicate that the name Abraham means "Father of a great multitude."
    God gave Abram a new name: Father of a great multitude.
    From a physical, natural standpoint Abram was definitely not someone to be called the father of a great multitude.
    He was 100 years old. He had no children. His wife, Sarai, was 90. She was barren - unable to conceive and bear offspring.
    Yet God calls that childless old man who is married to a barren woman the father of a great multitude.
    God plainly declares to that childless old man "a father of many nations have I made thee."
    The phrase "have I made thee" is past tense.
    In other words, God called Abraham the father of many before Abraham was the father of any.
    God put it in the past tense as though it were already an accomplished fact.
    On the surface it may appear that God was lying, or perhaps that He was playing "make believe." Such was not the case.
    God told Abraham that He had made him the father of many nations simply because in the invisible, spiritual realm Abraham was indeed already the father of a great multitude. Abraham was not aware of it, but his children already existed. They existed first of all in the spirit, and then were later manifested in the natural.
    In Romans 4:17, Paul states that whenever God called Abraham - the childless husband of a barren woman - the father of a great multitude, He was calling those things which be not as though they were.
    Paul's statement of "calling those things which be not as though they were" goes hand in hand with the Lord's words in Mark 11:24 "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them."
    Both statements are similar ways of describing how God desires us to believe our prayers are first of all answered (present tense) in the invisible, spiritual realm, and then are later manifested in the physical, natural realm.
    Again and again in the Bible we read about this principle of calling those things which be not as though they were.
    In Jeremiah 1:5 the Lord says concerning the prophet Jeremiah: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations."
    God calls Jeremiah a sanctified, ordained prophet before the man was even born. Yet it was many years later before the man even began his ministry to Israel.
    Revelation 13:8 refers to the Man Christ Jesus as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Yet we know that the Lord Jesus was not crucified until thousands of years after the creation of the world.
    When the Hebrews marched around Jericho, "Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord hath (past tense) given you the city."
    There had been no battle. In fact, not one shot had been fired. Yet Joshua said the Lord had already given Jericho to the Hebrews.
    In 1 Kings 18 we read about the showdown on Mount Carmel-between God's prophet Elijah and the false prophets of Baal.
    In verse 24 Elijah says "the God that answereth by fire, let him be God."
    After Baal's prophets failed to get any sort of response from their imaginary God, Elijah took charge.

    And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.
    And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:
    And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.
    And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. (1 Kings 18:30-33).

    Notice carefully: Elijah said whichever God answers by fire should be worshipped as the true God. Then he told his helpers to pour water on the burnt sacrifice. There was no fire, and yet Elijah talked as though the sacrifice were already on fire and needed to be doused with water. He was calling those things which be not as though they were.
    In Judges 6 we read about an angel who called those things which were not as though they were.
 

    "And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joasn the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
   And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.
   And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.
   And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? (Judges 6:11-14)."

 

 

    Notice how the angel called Gideon a "mighty man of valour." Yet in the natural Gideon was anything but a mighty man of valour. In the natural Gideon was a coward. He was furtively threshing his wheat, hiding from the Midianites. He was afraid because the Midianites were constantly raiding and plundering the Jews.
    If God had been governed strictly by appearances, then He would certainly have never chosen the cowardly Gideon as the one to bring deliverance for Israel. Nevertheless, God instructed the angel to call Gideon a mighty man of valour before there was any indication that he would ever be mighty or show any sort of valour.
    In Luke 13 we read about the Lord Jesus teaching in a synagogue.
 

   "And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.
   And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.
   And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. (Luke 13:11, 12)."

    Jesus said to the woman "You are (present tense) loosed from your infirmity" when she was still bowed over and from all outward appearances was clearly still suffering from the infirmity.
    In other words, He said she was healed, yet physical evidence clearly indicated she was still afflicted.
    From these and other Biblical accounts of calling those things which be not as though they were, we can see that God evidently operates quite differently that we humans do.
    We are so often governed and dominated by physical evidence, but apparently God is not. For that, we should all be thankful.
    God operates by an unalterable law - the law of faith. According to His law of faith, He first of all hears and answers our prayers in the invisible realm of the spirit. And then our prayers later become a reality in the natural realm.
    That is why He says to believe we receive what we pray for when we pray, not whenever we have proof in the natural realm that God is changing things.
    For instance, if you have prayed for a friend or a loved one to be saved, then there is no need to ask God over and over to answer your prayer. Such praying is similar to the vain repetition that Jesus warned us against.
    You only need to ask Him one time. Then, turn the petition into praise.
    Be like Joshua, who said "Shout, for the Lord hath given you the city" when there had not yet even been a battle.
    It takes no faith to praise God when the walls have crumbled and Jericho has surrendered. But true faith praises God for answering prayer before there is any change in the natural realm.
    Picture the one you are asking God to save repenting and asking God for salvation.
    Picture that one attending Church, singing and worshiping - living faithfully for God. Praise God for his (or her) salvation.
    Don't be moved by what you see, feel or hear. Walk by faith, not by sight.

   "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them (first of all, in the invisible, spiritual realm), and ye shall have them (in the natural realm)."

    Here is a suggested format for putting this scripture into action:

   "God, I believe that I receive the things I pray for when I pray - the very moment that I make my request known to You.
   I believe that at that moment in time You bring it to pass in the realm of the spirit. I thank You in advance because I know it will also become a reality in the natural realm.
   Even though nothing has changed in respect to outward appearances, I believe I receive what I have prayed for.
   I count it done.
   I imitate You. I call those things which be not as though they were."