One of the great but seldom used sources of power for God’s children is that of prayer. It isn’t that we don’t believe in prayer or applaud those who do pray; it’s that we seldom are convinced that it will work for us. When we are in grave danger, we pray, thinking, “What have I got to lose?” Like putting a coin in a slot machine, which might bring a big windfall, prayer, you think, might give you God’s jackpot.
There are three simple guidelines that can help you connect with God when you pray.
Guideline #1: Pray with expectancy.
Perhaps you are asking, “Why should I expect anything from God?” Simply put, the answer is because you are His child. God doesn’t answer prayer because you are good; He answers prayer because He is good and He has adopted you into His family. That means you can come to Him as a little child and cry out, “Father, I’ve got a need, a problem. I need your help!”
On one occasion a young man came to Charles Spurgeon, the gifted British pastor, and said, “Mr. Spurgeon, when I pray, nothing happens!” “Do you expect anything to happen?” was his response. “No,” replied the man. “There’s your problem,” he said. It may be your problem as well.
The Bible says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). Literally hundreds of times the Bible explains what God’s will is, so knowing that God has already indicated His pleasure, you can ask with expectancy!
Guideline #2: Pray with faith.
This guideline has everything to do with whether or not you believe God will do what He says He will do. It’s just that simple. Do you trust God to keep His word? For a moment put this question in the context of doing business with someone today. You call and place an order, so do you expect the merchant to respond in good faith? Some can be trusted; some cannot. But when you trust someone, his word is all you need. You believe what he or she tells you.
God has made specific promises to His children, and when you ask Him for something and go to His Word saying, “Here, Father, this is what you said you would do, and I’m asking you to do what you said you would,” you are praying in faith. Faith is the confident expectation that God will honor the promises of His Word. A word of caution before I give you the final guidelines. Don’t lift the promises of God’s Word out of the context of Scripture. That’s unnecessary. Find out about the marvelous promises of God’s Word.
Guideline #3: Pray with fervency.
What does that mean? Noisy verbosity? Shout and plead with God to do something? No, not really. When Elijah met the prophets of Baal, they cut themselves, yelled, and screamed, but praying to a deity who was not alive brought them no answer.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, gave us an insight. He wrote, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). A paraphrase of this says, “The down-to-business prayer of a man who has been justified brings great gain!” When you pray, you pray with sincerity, expectancy, and confidence.
A final thought. Each of us has a will of his own, and we’re perfectly willing to let God have our way, right? But the highest form of faith is saying, “God, here’s what I am asking you for, and what I really need; but even more than what I want, I’m asking you to work your will in my life in this whole situation.”
Resource reading: James 5:17-20