We’ve defined prayer as personal, intimate and understanding communication with God. But let’s face it, if you’ve ever watched someone pray, it can seem odd. A skeptic will say prayer is just saying some words (out loud) into empty air. For those who do pray, sometimes it can seem at times like that’s all they are doing—just going through a ritual.
How do we know that it is something more? If you believe God, and take His Word as truth, then you will believe that prayer does work and that God does listen. You have to know how.
God wants to hear from us, answer our prayers and build a relationship with us. So He shows us how. He gives us seven keys, or conditions, on how to pray. These keys come straight from God’s Word the Bible. If you follow them, you can have absolute confidence that God will hear and answer you!
1) Know God’s will
If you want answers to your prayers, you must pray according to God’s will.
“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will , he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
If you’ve asked according to His will, God says you can know, with full confidence, He will answer!
The Apostle James wrote that men fail to receive the help they need from God, fail to get answers from their prayers because they neglect to ask God and when they do, they “ask amiss” (James 4:1-3). They ask for their own selfish desires, not according to God’s will. God says to expect no answer from that kind of prayer.
Instead, we are to follow Christ’s example, who said, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30). We can know God’s will too (Ephesians 5:17). By studying His will, as revealed in the Bible, we begin to think more like God and pray according to His will asking what is good for us (2 Timothy 2:15).
2) Pray With Fear and Humility
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: A good understanding have all they that do His commandments” (Psalm 111:10). Having the proper fear and respect for God is the first step in us understanding His will and gaining wisdom.
To fear God is to revere Him, to stand in awe of Him, His law and His will for us. It is not terror or dread, it is a fear that springs from love, from a deep respect for God’s power and authority over us.
When we approach God in our prayers, we need to realize our lives are in His hands, that we are completely dependent on Him. Even Christ prayed to the Father with this perspective: “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death and was heard in that he feared ” (Hebrews 5:7). Christ knew He was helpless and cried out with fear, and was heard.
It takes humility to admit that we completely depend on God. To understand that even our strengths and talents, and what we accomplish because of them, are gifts of God. “[A]nd be clothed with humility, for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble,” Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:5. If we clothe ourselves and our prayers with the proper attitude of humility and fear, God says He will hear us.
3) Obey God
When we have the proper fear, we will be apprehensive to disobey God. God says, “[T]o this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). God will relate to the person with humility and fear because that person will keep His law.
“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him,” wrote the Apostle John (1 John 2:4). If we haven’t learned to accept God’s Word as the authority in our lives, then we can’t really get to know God through prayer. Our communication will suffer.
“For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (1 Peter 3:12). If someone persistently refuses to keep God’s commandments can we really expect God to answer them? God says no.
Doing evil, or sinning, cuts us off from God. God says plainly “he will not hear” our prayers when we sin (Isaiah 59:1-2). Sin is the breaking of God’s law (1 John 3:4), as described in passages such as Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.
This is one of the major reasons why so many prayers are not answered. God expects us to act on what we know. If we don’t, then we are rebelling against His Word and God won’t listen.
It’s a matter of our heart and attitude. If we come to God with a humble, repentant spirit and are determined to obey Him to the best of our knowledge and ability, He will hear our prayers.
“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments , and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22).
Here is an absolute promise, one of hundreds in the Bible, that we should claim in prayer if we completely trust God! Do we believe what God will do as He says?
Think about the previous point. Does keeping God’s law seem like something you can’t do? Christ promised “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). With the aid of His Spirit we can! God would not have made that a prerequisite for hearing our prayers if it weren’t possible. This leads us to the next important key in how to pray: we must believe God!
4) Believe God
“Therefore I say unto you,” Christ said to His disciples, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). If we believe, God will give us what He promised. It is essential to believe God. Disbelief in God is a lack of faith.
“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:6-7). God says the person who wavers, or doubts, will not receive an answer to his prayer. This is why the skeptic will never have his prayers answered. If we lack the faith to trust God, we can ask God to give it to us (Mark 9:24)—it is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). (Order our free booklet, What Is Faith? for a detailed study on the subject.)
Developing faith, the belief that what God’s Word says is true, and acting on it through obedience is crucial for God to answer our prayers (James 2:20).
5) Pray Fervently
When you pray with full belief and confidence that God will hear you, you will be able to pray with real fervency, or with intense emotion and zeal.
Look at how Christ prayed the evening before His crucifixion: “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). He prayed earnestly—with all His heart!
The Psalms are filled with prayers from King David, all fervent and filled with heartfelt emotion.
James wrote: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). If we pray with real fervency, God says that avails much, it achieves great results. Energetic, heartfelt prayers are well pleasing to God, and when you pour your heart out to God, you can expect answers!
6) Pray Persistently
Sometimes God doesn’t answer right away. When that happens it is easy to begin to lose faith and even give up praying. Although God does promise to answer us when we ask according to His will, nowhere in the Bible does He promise us to answer right away. God does not tell us how or when the answer will come. So we must be persistent.
Christ illustrated this point in Luke 18:1-8. Due to the persistence of a widow who returned day after day to make her appeal, an unrighteous judge was finally moved to respond to her pleas. We should never give up praying to God, even if we don’t see His answer right away.
“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:3-4). If God does not instantly answer our prayers, He tells us to exercise patience and to keep praying. You certainly don’t want to nag God, but occasionally remind Him about the help He promised. He is bound by His Word to answer—in His time of course.
7) Use Christ’s Name
Finally, the last key is to pray in Christ’s name. This key has been largely misunderstood and even abused in prayer.
Christ tells us that “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have you asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23).
This verse gives us the privilege to use Christ’s name, or ask by His authority, when we pray to God. This is not just about praying anything “in Jesus’s name.” We need to know God’s will in order for us to ask by Christ’s authority. We can ask the Father for things in Christ’s name when we know it is His will—and that His authority stands behind it. Never forget the first key mentioned in this article!
We pray to the Father and have access to Him because of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:13, 18). The Father has given Christ a responsibility—an office of authority—that makes it possible for Him to intercede for us as our Advocate (Hebrews 4:14-16).
These seven keys on how to pray, when followed, allow you to boldly approach God in your prayer and know that you WILL receive an answer!