How do we know that God will hear our prayers and that we will receive answers to them? Here are five things the Bible tells us to do.
If you are like me, you probably relate to King David’s poignant prayer:
“Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation. 2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.” (Psalm 5:1-2).
We know God deeply cares for us, and He wants us to come to Him in prayer. But how can we know that He will hear us and answer our prayers?
Thankfully God answers that question for us. The Bible reveals five keys for receiving answers to our prayers.
The First key: Ask
Jesus said in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you”. This is a very basic starting point. However, it is one that too often is misunderstood or not used.
A young man told me once that he hadn’t prayed in two years. I stressed to him the importance of prayer. His reply was, “But doesn’t the Bible say God knows what we need before we ask?” He was referring to Christ’s words in Matthew 6:8Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
Yes, our Father does know what we need before we ask, but by asking we show our Father that we see the need as well, and really want His help to meet that need. Asking shows Him how important the need is to us. God, of course, also sees the difference between habitual, repetitive prayers and persistent, fervent, heartfelt prayers.
Luke’s account of Jesus’ words adds an important truth, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? 12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:9-13).
To learn to worship and serve the true God, we need His Spirit, which reveals to us His truth (John 4:24). God says He will give His Spirit to those who ask Him. We need to be asking for help and power from God (which He gives through His Spirit) on a daily basis.
The second key: Have faith
Having faith―believing God will indeed hear and answer―is an essential key to receiving answers to our prayers. The apostle James explained in James 1:5-8, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 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. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
Faith is founded on God’s promises. When God has given a promise, we can rely on the fact that God will always do what He has promised.
This was Abraham’s example when God told him he would have a son in his old age. “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.” (Romans 4:20-21).
Jesus spoke clearly about faith and prayer in Mark 11:22-24: “And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 23 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. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
Asking in faith is an essential key to receiving answers to our prayers.
The Third key: Seek God’s will
The apostle John wrote, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:15 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).
Someone shouted to me once, “Oh, if we only knew God’s will!” I replied “Hallelujah”.
But God’s will is not some mystical, unknowable thing. God reveals His will to us in the pages of the Bible. The Bible reveals God’s words, which explain how He wants us to live. It is God’s will for us to live as He designed human life to be lived to produce happiness. It is God’s will for us to understand the truths of the purpose of life and what He is doing when He gives us access to that knowledge. It is God’s will for us to claim the many promises He has given us in His Bible.
What are some of His promises―things it is His will for us to claim?
The sample prayer―often called the Lord’s prayer―gives a number of examples (Matthew 6:9-13):
- Give us this day our daily bread (provide our needs).
- Forgive us our debts (sins).
- Do not lead us into temptation (help us be alert to avoid situations that lead to sin).
- Deliver us from the evil one (help us overcome Satan’s influences in our lives).
Other promises include:
- Wisdom (James 1:5).
- Healing (James 5:14).
- All things working out for good “to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
There are many more promises in the Bible. It is God’s will for us to claim these. So if we come to Him asking anything that is according to His will, He hears us.
However, this is not to say that He immediately answers yes to everything that is His will.
“There are many things that are God’s will that doesn’t receive an immediate yes. God wants us to prosper and be in health, to have an abundant life, to be healed. But still, He answers in different ways:
- “Yes, but not yet.
- “No, but I have something better in store for you.
Obedience is a fundamentally important key for receiving answers to our prayers. The apostle John wrote, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).“Seemingly unanswered prayers are not proof we lack faith. Instead, they are faith-building exercises—part of the tough basic training we must go through now to prepare us to be eternal, powerful kings helping in the Kingdom of God. It is preparation to be transformed into the complete image and likeness of God—to be children of God!”
The Fourth key: Obey
Obedience is a fundamentally important key for receiving answers to our prayers. The apostle John wrote, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).
Psalm 34:15 records, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.”
A simple definition of righteous is “doing what is right” (Webster’s New World Dictionary).
Godly righteousness then is doing what is right in God’s sight, or, as John wrote, doing “those things that are pleasing in His sight.”
God wants us to obey Him. He gave us His commandments and laws to instruct us in the principles of living that will produce the happiness we all want. God loves us and only wants us to reap good fruit in our lives. God wants us to love Him.
As Jesus said, the great commandment in the law is, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
We show love for God by obeying Him. The apostle John explained this in 1 John 5:3: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”
God wants us to show Him love the same way we want our children to show us love. We appreciate the hugs, kisses and words expressing love from our children. But we especially want to see our children following the instructions that we give them for their good.
When they come asking for permission to go out with friends, we are more apt to listen to their request if they have been happily following the rules we set about safety and curfews and avoiding alcohol and drugs. All of the hugs, kisses and “I love yous” will not make up for not obeying these important rules.
The same goes for God. To truly show love for God, we must obey His commands from the heart.
If we have not been living our lives in a way pleasing to God, we cannot come “boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16) expecting to receive what we ask unless we truly repent―commit to changing from the way of sin to the way of obedience.
The Fifth Key: Come in Jesus’ name
The phrase “in the name of the LORD” is used 44 times in the Bible. It was used to express that something was being done by the authority of God.
In England when someone came in the name of the Queen, he came with his support and authority, having that privilege conferred upon him by the Queen himself. No one could take this privilege to himself. Favour, rights and privilege also generally accompanied the one who came in the name of the Queen.
So, likewise, when we close a prayer to our Father with the words “in the name of Jesus we pray,” we are exercising a privilege we have been granted by our Saviour and doing what Jesus commanded us to do.
Jesus wants us to come before the Father in His name. The Father deeply loves His firstborn Son. He also deeply loves us. When we come in Jesus’ name, we are obeying Jesus’ will and we are showing that we want to have the same relationship with our Father that He has.
The night that Jesus died as the perfect sacrificial lamb―sacrificed for our sins―He taught His disciples many truths. He told them, “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. 25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. 26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” (John 16:23-27).