Successful prayer

Published 8:41 am Thursday, June 8, 2023

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Paul commanded Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 to pray; and to do so on his own behalf and the behalf of others including those in positions of authority. Prayers are important to the Christian because it is our link to God. As we pray, we are reminded of our weakness and the greatness of God. But how are we to pray successfully? Our prayers to God involve several different elements. These elements can produce in us appropriate attitudes that aid in the effectiveness of our petitions to God. Consider some of the characteristics of successful prayer according to God and His Word.
Humility in the life of man is important if our prayers are going to be successful. If we approach God with an arrogant self-righteous attitude, God will be displeased. He desires that we honestly look within ourselves and be aware of our sins. He desires that we be introspective, reverent in attitude, and aware of our sinful condition. If we humble ourselves before God, He will exalt us. One example we have is in Luke 18:9-14. There we see the arrogant attitude of the Pharisee as he prays. We learn from that passages that because of his attitude he was not justified before God.
Private prayer is a very personal thing between God and the Christian. Therefore, those prayers are not to be offered in a way to impress others. While this does not preclude us from offering prayer in public places, it does address our attitude which must be one of humility and reverence toward God and the sanctity of communication with Him. (See Matthew 6:1-6).
We learn in James 5:16-18, that our righteousness can have a direct bearing on the success of our prayers. We cannot live lives that are in violation of God’s law and expect Him to answer our prayers. God expects us to obey him recognizing his omnipotence. There is nothing we can hide from Him.
Paul said, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” Philippians 4:6 KJV. We learn here that as we pray to God, we must express true thanksgiving. This should be done in words, but more important in attitude.
Our prayers are a form of praise to God. We learn in Hebrews 13:15 KJV, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” God desires that we should praise Him in worship, in prayer, and in our daily lives by our actions and deeds. We do so remembering that our praise is an outward manifestation of our love, awe, and dependence on God.
James said that we should pray in faith (James 1:5-8). If we do not have faith that God can grant our requests, what is the reason for praying to Him? God is all powerful and he can answer the prayers of the faithful. Our faith is in His abilities to answer the prayers we utter to Him. Then in the case of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8, we learn we should be willing to continue in our prayers to God. If our need is true, then we should be willing to continue to pray to God and expect an answer. Jesus makes it clear in these verses that a persistent and heart-felt plea to God is appropriate. As we pray, we should be willing to accept the answer that God gives. God will answer with either a yes, a no, and in some cases his answer is wait. We accept His answer because God knows what is best for us. (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). As we pray, we must have honor and compassion for others (1 Peter 3:7). Attitudes of arrogance or failure to respect others will hinder our prayers. (See Romans 12:3-8).
There may be times when we must confess our own faults/sins before we can pray properly to God (1 John 1:7-10). If we are humble and repentant and we desire God’s forgiveness, we will confess our sins and ask for His forgiveness and strength to live a life more acceptable to Him. In return God says He will be faithful to forgive us of those sins.
In prayer we should seek God’s assistance for others. We see this in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, as the well-being of others is in mind. In this verse we are told specifically to pray for all leaders and governments that all men might live in peace and concentrate on serving God. It is in this way only that we will ever come close to achieving true “Peace on Earth.” This kind of prayer involves proper motives for us as well as others (James 4:1-3). There are times when we do not receive what we ask for because we ask amiss.
Our prayers to God must be offered in the name of Jesus (Ephesians 5:20). It is not just a formality but rather a realization that the only way to speak to God is through Jesus who has all authority (Matthew 28:18). The way we are to pray is through Jesus who is our High Priest (Hebrews 7:24-25; 4:14-16). We offer these prayers as we consider our treatment of others if our prayers are to be unhindered (Psalms 41:1-3, Matthew 5:23-24, 1 Peter 3:7).
Our ability to pray to God and receive answers in our lives is truly one of the greatest blessings we can have as children of God! But we must understand and apply sound principles to see our prayers be successful. Prayer is how we communicate with God. When we pray, God hears us, regardless of who we are. We ought to and are commanded to pray continually (Hebrews 13:15). It is evident that we as a nation are in need of prayer to God.
(Tony Hoss is minister of the Centerview Church of Christ, Elizabethton)

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