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5 Rules for Answered Prayer

By Dennis Pollock


For those who have had a genuine salvation experience through faith in Jesus, prayer is as natural as breathing. There are certainly many Biblical exhortations for us to pray, but for most of us, it comes pretty naturally. A doctor may have to pat a baby's bottom or sometimes give it a slap, but it is normally a pretty simple process to get that newborn baby crying and breathing. And most people will continue breathing freely throughout the rest of their lives, without even thinking about it.


So it is with prayer for those who are alive in Christ. For us not to talk to God would be unthinkable. Sometimes we may fault ourselves for not praying enough or not praying with sufficient faith, or not making specific times for prayer in our daily schedule, but we are never guilty of not praying at all. Dogs bark, fish swim, birds fly, and Christians pray. 


But there is more to prayer than simply opening our mouths and talking to God. There are specific, divine protocols required for effective praying and petitioning our Heavenly Father. What we want is not simply to pray, but to pray efficiently, to actually accomplish things in our praying, and to build up a record of answered prayers that will catalyze our future prayers. In this study I want us to look at five basic protocols, or rules, for getting our petitions answered by God. Petitions are not the only type of prayer, of course. Prayer can involve praise, it can be thanksgiving, and it can even be making small talk with God and enjoying His presence. But today we will look specifically at petitioning our Heavenly Father, making definite requests of God in such a manner that divine, specific answers are more likely to happen than not. Let's get started.


In Jesus' Name


The first rule of prayer is that we pray in the name of Jesus. Our Lord tells us: "Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you." (John 16:23). The apostle Paul wrote: "…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:20). The Bible makes it very clear that praying in Jesus' name unlocks the treasuries of heaven. Some might suppose that this simply means tacking Jesus' name on at the end of our prayer time, but it is far more than that. 


Praying in the name of Jesus involves us being aware that the reason we may expect an answer to our prayers has to do with Jesus Christ. When we are making requests to God, the big question is this: "Why should God answer my prayer? Why should I expect God to move on my behalf?" There is a wrong answer to this question and there is a right answer. The wrong answer is this: "God should answer my prayer because I am such a good person. I am trying hard to live a squeaky-clean life, and surely God sees this and will be proud of me and give me what I ask." 


We should indeed try to live a clean and upright life, but this should never be the reason we expect divine answers to our prayers. None of us are righteous enough to be saved, and none of us are righteous enough to expect that God "owes" us answers and interventions every time we call on Him. 


The correct answer is to expect to receive from God because we pray in Jesus' name – We make our petitions based on His life, death, resurrection, and pristine righteousness. When we pray in Jesus' name we are praying in Jesus' righteousness, and we are expecting a divine response, not because we have been such a good boy or a good girl today, but because Jesus Christ is our righteousness, and Jesus always gets His prayers answered. In John 11, just before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus said to the Father: "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me…" (John 11:41-42). 


When we pray in Jesus’ name, we can expect the Father to hear us, not because we have read five chapters of the Bible today, not because we have gone to church every Sunday this entire year, not because we gave a generous check to a missions organization, but because God loves to answer the prayers of His Son, and when we pray in His name, our prayers become Jesus prayers and His righteousness has become our righteousness.


According to God's Will


A second rule of prevailing prayer is that we must pray according to the will of God. This can get a bit tricky because sometimes we have a difficult time knowing the will of God for our lives. But anyone with very much experience with the Lord will know that there are going to be times when we are praying fervently, but it turns out that we are asking for something God simply does not want to do in our lives. The Bible says: "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." (1 John 5:14) James writes: "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures." (James 4:3).


God is not our bellboy. He does not come running the minute we ask for some outlandish request which He has no interest in granting. Jesus tells us that if we abide in Him, we can ask whatever we desire, but the prerequisite is to abide in Him, and if we are abiding in Jesus, we will ask for things that we know please the Lord and would glorify Him. I could pray all day long for the Lord to make me a professional basketball superstar, but it is highly unlikely that He would grant that request. Yes, all things are possible with God, and yes, it would not be a difficult thing for our Creator to take a 70-year-old man and turn him into an outstanding professional basketball player, but it is highly unlikely that He would ever do this. It's just not His style, and He has other things for me to do, rather than turning me into a world-class athlete. And I'm not going to waste my time praying to become the next NBA superstar.


On the other hand, there are some things that we can be sure are indeed the will of God. The Bible affirms that God will provide for His children, so if I need a job and running out of money, I can pray with confidence that I am praying according to the will of God. Jesus tells us that our heavenly Father gives good gifts to those who ask Him, so praying for anything that is clearly a need and a good thing in my life is valid, and I should pray with confidence. When I was praying for a wife, I did not need to wonder if this was the will of God for me, since God says, "He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains mercy from the Lord." (Proverbs 18:22). Since a wife is a good thing, and since God is a "good-thing provider," I prayed boldly and without any fear of failure. God declared it was not a good thing for a man to be alone, so I prayed for my "good thing," and God brought Benedicta into my life.


Pray with Faith & Perseverance


And that brings us to protocol number 3 – once we determine that what we are praying for is a good and necessary thing, we are to pray with faith. James writes: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…" (James 1:5). We are not simply to ask; we are to ask with faith and with no doubting, believing that God hears our prayers. Jesus says, "Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." (Matthew 21:22). We are not merely to throw our prayers up toward heaven and hope that they may do some good. We are to pray with faith for good things and to believe that our loving Heavenly Father hears us and that His answer is on the way.


A fourth rule of prayer is that we must pray with perseverance. We cannot pray and expect to get an answer immediately. Occasionally this may happen but most of the time it will not. Jesus told a story about a judge who had a woman continually coming to him to settle a legal matter. He kept telling her no and she kept coming back to him, asking him over and over to rule in her favor. At last, the judge, out of exasperation, relented and ruled in favor of the woman, saying, "Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me." (Luke 18:4-5). And Luke tells us that the point of this little parable was that "men always ought to pray and not lose heart." (Luke 18:1). Just because God does not move someone to knock on your door with the answer to your prayer the very same day you begin to pray, does not mean He is not going to answer you." It is by faith and patience that we inherit God's promises, and the word patience strongly suggests a waiting time.


A fifth rule of prayer is that we must pray with thanksgiving. Prayer is not just begging God for things. It involves entering His gates with thanksgiving in our hearts and entering His courts with praise. This means that mingled with our fervent petitions and desperate cries for divine intervention, we also include declarations of gratitude for His past and present mercies. In Philippians we are told: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." (Philippians 4:6). We make our request with words of gratitude for all the many blessings God has already bestowed upon us. This puts us in the proper frame of mind to receive more blessings from God. 


Applying these five rules of prayer when we approach our Heavenly Father will result in us building up a record of many answers to prayer throughout our lives. And prayer victories today mean we will approach God with faith tomorrow. Why should God not answer my prayers since He has answered me so many times before? This is what we Christians do. We pray; we pray in the name of Jesus; we pray for good things that are promised us in God's word, we pray with faith, we persevere in prayer, and we pray with thankfulness. And God hears us.




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