Getting Prayers Answered: Is Your Heart Ready?
Why do some people get their prayers answered — and I don't? Have you ever wondered this? Many of us wish we could have a clearer sense of God’s personal involvement in our lives.
When you’ve had problems, you may have talked about it with a pastor or priest or Christian you respect and asked for prayer. Maybe you thought, surely that person can get an answer from God; they’re much more spiritual than me.
But every Christian can experience the power of God working in their life. God loves every one of His children and sacrificed His own son for their redemption. If you have placed your faith in Jesus, you can be certain that you are His child.
So why don’t all Christians experience answers to their prayers?
Having prayers answered is not a matter of luck or guesswork. Nor is it about following a formula to ensure God brings about the exact change we want. God is not a vending machine where, if we insert the right coinage, out pops what we want. He is the loving heavenly Father who knows what is best for us and asks us to trust Him. He loves to answer the prayers of His children when they are learning to depend on Him.
On the one hand, we can’t earn answers to prayer, and everything God gives us is an undeserved blessing. However, following these six principles creates in us the readiness and character needed to experience many answers to prayer.
1. Repentance is necessary
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
We should not expect to have our prayers answered if we are harboring sinful habits and attitudes. Continuing in bitterness, resentment, sexual sin, or other destructive behavior causes our hearts to harden. We are then unable to receive the blessings God wants to give us. The power of God remains inactive in our lives.
But the wonderful news is that "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Through repentance, we become ready to hear God’s answers to our prayers.
2. Righteousness is necessary
"The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." James 5:16b
Following this statement, James gives the example of Elijah, whose prayer was answered. Elijah prayed that it wouldn't rain, and it didn't rain for over three years! Then, when he prayed for rain, it poured. Righteousness does not refer to perfection; it refers to a steady and consistent walk with the Lord where we try not to let anything come between us and God. God had first place in Elijah's heart. Is He at the center of your life?
3. Forgiveness is necessary
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:2
If we are holding anything against anyone, we are to forgive that person. This then opens the way to be forgiven by God. If you pray for forgiveness but still don’t feel right with God, check your heart for any bitterness or unforgiveness you have toward anyone. Then pray something like this: Lord, take these hurtful things. I don't want them any more. Cleanse me. I want to experience Your peace, joy, and love. I choose to forgive _________ today. " When you forgive others you will soon experience the joy and peace that God’s forgiveness brings.
4. Obedience is necessary
"And [we] receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him." John 3:22
Obedience is the trademark of a righteous person. It’s more than just conforming to a set of cut-and-dried rules or believing correct doctrines. Obedience is being tuned into the Holy Spirit — following His lead to do what is pleasing in God’s sight. This doesn’t mean we have to comb through every verse in the Bible to make sure we’re following every single rule. Jesus made it a lot easier by summing up all of God’s instructions with just two commands:
Love God: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” Matthew 22:37
Love others: “Love your neighbor as yourself" Matthew 22:39.
Obedience is possible, through the power of the Holy Spirit, as we set our hearts on truly loving God and others.
5. Sincerity of faith is necessary
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Hebrews 11:6
God promises to reveal Himself to those who believe He exists and seek Him honestly and earnestly. If your prayers are to know God more intimately, you can be certain that He will answer.
6. Agreement with others is helpful
"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven." Matthew 18:19
This doesn’t mean God answers the prayers of individuals less often. Rather, this promise is an incredible encouragement that when we pray together with others according to God’s will, He loves to act on behalf of His people.
When I pray, I often claim the promise that Jesus gave His followers: "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (Mark 11:24). When I am drawing close to God, the desires of my heart increasingly reflect His will for me. This gives me boldness to claim this promise for my life and my family as well:
"Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, and he will do this" Psalm 37:4-5.
Whatever you face today, know that God is pursuing an intimate and personal relationship with you. He has wonderful plans to bless you and to make you fruitful in His Kingdom. By centering your life on Jesus, you will experience the power of His Spirit transforming your life. You will see many answers to your prayers!
Check out our whole series on prayer: In Jesus' Name.