Jesus makes great promises about prayer. He said, “Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do.” (John 14:13) “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7) “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name He will give you.” (John 16:23) “Ask and it will be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7) God’s promises to answer prayer are repeated in First John. “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) Since the Bible makes such wonderful promises about prayer it should be easy to have our prayers answered. For most people, this is not the case. Why? Either God does not keep His promises or the people praying are missing something important.
God is undoubtedly a promise keeping God. The testimony of Scripture and the experience of countless Christians shows that God always does what He says He will do. Since the problem is not in God, it must be in people. The first step in getting prayers answered is a simple one. You have to pray. “You do not have because you do not ask.” (James 4:2) Wanting something is not the same as praying for it. Imagining you have something or thinking about how nice it would be to have something is not the same as praying. Prayer is a conversation with God in which the person makes specific requests to God. If you have never asked God, He cannot be blamed for not giving what you never asked for.
The promises of answered prayer all have specific conditions attached to them. Answered prayer is dependent on a right relationship with God in Christ. You must be walking closely with Jesus so that He is a vital part of every day. God does not promise to answer your prayer if you are holding on to sin. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” (Psalm 66:18) You must be asking for that which is in agreement with His will. God will never answer prayers for sinful things. You must be asking for the right reason. Selfish prayers will not be answered. “You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your own pleasures.” (James 4:3) An honest evaluation of prayer would reveal that most of our requests are for things we want simply for our own self-gratification. God never promises to answer self-serving prayers.
God answers prayers through Jesus. Praying in Jesus’ name is coming to God through Jesus and in dependence on Jesus. This means God only promises to answer the prayers of His children. You must be saved to lay claim to the promises of prayer. You must also pray in dependence on Jesus. You must rely on God the Son to bring you and your requests to the Father. The person who attempts to come to God based on their own good works or their own devotion will not be pleasing to God. The person who tries to bargain with God will not have their prayers answered. Prayer that is in dependence on the work of Jesus will receive answer from God. We must also pray in accord with the character of Jesus. We must pray for things that please Him. We must pray in submission to His authority over every aspect of life.
Prayer was never intended as a means for people to get anything they want. God is not a genii who grants wishes. He is not Santa Clause who exists only to give presents to good people. Prayer is not magic. Saying the right words in the right order with the right feeling will not assure you of answered prayers. God created people to have a relationship with Him. The most important step in having your prayers answered is to have a close relationship with God. When prayer is relational it will be focused on the conversation with God instead of the wish list. When prayer is relational, God will answer. Walking closely with God in obedience to Him will lead you to pray for that which is right and good. When you pray in a right relationship with God He promises to give you what you desire. “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)