How many times have you heard an unbeliever say “God does not answer prayer?” I would be willing to bet that a very high percentage of people in America do not believe that if they prayed that God would answer.
When I hear people expressing doubts about answered prayer I usually like to respond with something that I feel that they will understand. I usually say, “ Well, do you know that there is a science to prayer? Do you know the formula?” Invariably they will answer “No”, to which I respond by saying, “Let me explain.” Just as almost everything in life has a necessary formula or order, so does prayer. Unless we are following the Bible God’s instruction manual on prayer, we must understand that He cannot answer. It’s not that He does not want to, He can’t! John 9:31a states, “God heareth not sinners.” (KJV)
As this point it's very important to discern if you have their attention. If they seem interested, then it’s a perfect opportunity to share the biblical plan of salvation. Explain in common English what it means to be “born again” and actually become one of God’s children. You can share with them that unless you are one of God’s children, that the Bible says that God has absolutely no obligation to answer your prayer. However, if you are one of His children, He, as our awesome Heavenly Father, cares about giving us direction, protection, provision, affection and loving correction when needed, according to His will.
I also like to explain to them that God never once says in His word that He wants to “control” our lives. A better word to describe God’s desire for being active in our everyday life is that He does desire to “manage” our lives. He is not trying to turn us into some kind of robot! I try to explain to them how awesome it is to have the Creator of the Universe as our personal life management coach! I also emphasize how kind and patient He is with us.
Then I take some time to explain the importance in praying in the name of Jesus. This further strengthens their understanding of their salvation. Because we were born into sin, we need a savior to pay the price for our sins. 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”(NIV). This verse gives me a great opportunity to talk more about the cross. I tell them that praying in the name of Jesus is like using a heavenly “gold card.” Its both honoring Jesus for what He did for us and it is also a sin covering. It ensures that we are asking God to hear our prayers in the very way He designed that He could hear them.
Someone once said that, “God has chosen to limit His power to the prayers of men.” That statement is so true! We all agree that God does things from time to time solely as a part of His sovereign will, a component of His master plan. However I am convinced that most of the things that are done on earth are in answer to someone’s prayers. Here is the most mind-blowing aspect of prayer; the prayers, which He answers, are in a response to a request by someone who through prayer and spending time with Him, have come to an understanding and a knowledge of His will.
Spend quality time over every decision. A lady promoting a new program in the church once said, “Everyone now bow your heads and seek the Lord for five minutes. Often in church business meetings everyone is encouraged to bow their heads and say a quick prayer before they vote on something. Personally, I do not believe we should expect God to respond to spiritual “quickies” unless we just drove our car off a cliff by mistake and are calling on the name of Jesus to save our lives! God our Heavenly Father is not a slot or vending machine. Galatians 5:6b states “Faith worketh by love” (KJV). Spending quality time with God in prayer is always the most productive. I recommend that sometime you try just kneeling or laying out on your face on the floor before God. As you do that, be quiet to just listen. Perhaps the Lord has a thought that He would like to inspire you with. Also never forget who you are talking to. Show some respect. Another suggestion is to use Google to find some scriptures that have something to do with what you are praying about. 1 John 5:14 states, “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, If we ask anything according to His will, he heareth us: And we know that if He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” (KJV)
I am not promoting “works” here nor a religious act, however, learning to pray as you read in the Bible is important. He does want us to approach him as our Heavenly Father. Jesus taught us the model for prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Its commonly called “The Lord's Prayer.” Psalm 100:4a says, “Come into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise” (KJV). Whenever you start to pray, try to begin with a thankful and a worshipful attitude. Even if God is brand new to you and you are just learning how to pray, try to start out thanking Him for some good things in your life. Take a few minutes to worship Him for who He is. You will find by following His formula for prayer, it's often about changing your mind, not His, and you will learn to trust Him to work things out in a way that is eternally best for everyone. Always learn from the Bible. It is God’s Word.
Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is www.verticalsound.org.