Prayer is one of the great privileges we have as believers. Unfortunately, thousands of Christians miss out on the full benefit of prayer because they are unsure how to pray effectively. This article will teach you how to get the most out of your prayer life.
If you want to have a powerful prayer life you need to include at least these four tips when you pray: (1) You must have a clear biblical approach to prayer; (2) Never give up on your prayers; (3) Keep track of your prayers; and (4) Celebrate when God answers your prayers! Tragically, a lot of people treat prayer only like a to-do list. They go to God with a list of things they want Him to do, but it never goes beyond that list. They never experience all that God intended for them through their prayer life. Over the years I have learned that incorporating these four tips can greatly enhance your prayer life.
Key #1: You must have a clear biblical approach to prayer.
If we are honest, most of us want “yes” answers to our prayers. In fact, how often do you feel discouraged when you pray and it seems like God does not answer or His response is not what you wanted? If you’re not careful doubt can creep in when it seems like your prayers are being ignored. The truth is God takes pleasure in answering our prayers. However, because God knows what is best for us, His answers will be according to His will and not necessarily our own desires. He is like the perfect parent who only gives His children what is best for them. So, how does that work practically in our prayer life?
First, we must have a clear biblical approach to prayer. Learning to trust God over your own desires when you pray is essential! Jesus taught the disciples in what we call the Lord’s Prayer, that as we pray, God’s kingdom and His will should be the first things we seek in our prayer lives (Matthew 6:10). Later, toward the end of His life, Jesus modeled for us what it looks like to live out what He taught. Just hours before He was crucified Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, “…My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39 ESV). Jesus’ prayer helps us understand that at times it may be challenging to trust God over our own desires, but because He is sovereign, holy, all-wise, and all-knowing we can trust Him no matter our circumstances, even if the answer in “no.” Let me illustrate this point with a story.
Years ago, before my wife and I were married we went on a date. It was still in the early stages of our relationship, so I was trying to figure out if she really liked me. So, with a touch of subtleness, I inquired about the status of our relationship. Her response was classic! She said, “Bartley, I gave Jesus the keys to my heart a long time ago and if He wants to give them to another man I am fine with whatever He wants for me.” Well, let me tell you – I went straight home after that date and prayed this prayer and wrote it in my journal: “Based on Psalm 37:4 & Matthew 7:7-8 I pray Lord you will give me the keys to Beth Mackey’s heart. That I will see evidence of your work. If it is not your will God, I pray you will break all desires from my heart (see below).”
You may think that sounds simple enough to trust God over your own desires, but that can be really challenging at times. I really liked Beth (still do) and to pray, “God, if it is not your will break all desires from my heart” was a scary proposition for me to pray knowing that God might answer “no” – that Beth and I would not have a future together. However, I had learned over the years through experience and through Scripture that God is not trying to trick us or be mean-spirited in how He answers our prayers. He simply wants what is best for us and will not compromise on the answer. Therefore, it is best for us to trust God’s will over our own desires.
Check out the verses I referenced in my journal up above: Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-10 ESV).
So, the first key to getting the most out of your prayer life is to have a clear biblical approach to prayer by learning to to trust God over our own desires regardless if the answer is yes, no, or wait. By the way, I got a “yes” answer to my prayer for Beth. We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in 2021!
Key #2: Never Give Up on your prayers!
There is a story about a widow woman who lived many years ago. She had a major problem with another person who treated her unjustly. In those days, women had very little influence in society and if you were a widow hardly no one cared what you thought. Because she had been wronged by this other person she tried to go to the judge and get a hearing so maybe the problem could be corrected. At first, the judge refused to see her – shooing her away like a pestering fly. But, because she refused to go away and kept bothering the judge he finally heard her case.
Did you know that story came from the Bible. In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus tells the parable about the widow in order to encourage the disciples to never give up when praying about something (18:1). What I did not include in my story is the judge in the parable was unrighteous (18:6). Had the widow not been persistent, the judge would have never heard the case. God, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of the unrighteous judge. He is eager to hear our prayers (18:7), but He expects us to not give up when the answer does not come immediately. Oftentimes, God’s timing is different than ours and He uses the delay to test our faith.
Key #3: Keep track of your prayers.
If you are like me, life is busy and it is easy to forget things if you don’t write them down. God is well aware of our propensity to forget. In fact, a number of times in the Bible God tells his people that they must take steps to remember what He has done for them. In the Old Testament, He tells Israel to write His commands on their hands and on their doorposts so they would not forget them (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). When Israel was delivered out of the bondage of Egypt, God had them institute an annual celebration called Passover so they would remember what God did for them. In the New Testament Jesus gave us the Lord’s Supper to remind us what He did on the cross for us. I am simply pointing out that, according to the Bible, God wants us to remember what He has done for us.
When it comes to having a successful prayer life, remembering God’s faithfulness is essential. The best way I know for you to remember when God answers your prayers is by writing them down. Over the years I have used a variety of methods to record my prayers. I have used an inexpensive one-subject school notebook to write out the prayer placing the date beside the request. When God answered the prayer, even if the answer was “no” I still put the date it was answered. I have also used expensive journals, but presently, I use Google Keep Notes because I carry my phone everywhere with me.
The long-term positive effect of writing down your prayers cannot be overstated. There will be times when you feel discouraged about your spiritual life and you can flip back through your prayer journal and see how God was faithful. There will be other times when you want to show other people that God really does answer prayers and your journal can be a testimony to that reality. Most importantly, your prayer journal can be a reminder of God’s provision in your life. When you look back at all the answered prayers, you can see how God has led you through the different circumstances in your life. Trust me – you won’t regret keeping a prayer journal.
Key #4: Celebrate when God answers your prayers!
The purpose for writing the dates in your prayer journal is so you can celebrate when God answers your prayers. Could you imagine going to a college basketball game and the scoreboard was broken? You would not know the score or how much time was left in the game. I am certain your excitement would be drastically reduced because you wouldn’t know if your team was winning. In a similar way, thousands of Christians never feel the excitement and gratefulness of answered prayer because too often they lift up a quick prayer in the morning and forget about it by the end of the day. Answered prayers are meant to be celebrated and if you don’t keep track of them (through your prayer journal) you can miss out on visually seeing God’s faithfulness in your life. So, how do you celebrate when God answers your prayer? Below are five of my suggestions for celebrating when God answers your prayer:
- The Woman at the Well Method (John 4:28-30). This method is simple. You take the opportunity to go tell the people around you what God has done. When others see your excitement about Jesus, they will want to experience answered prayer in their lives too.
- The Zacchaeus Method (Luke 19:8). The Zacchaeus Method is when God answers your prayer and you go and give back to someone less fortunate. In other words, by giving back to to others you are expressing your appreciation for what God has done in your life.
- The Thankful Leper Method (Luke 17:15-16). In this method, you show thankfulness by going back to God in prayer with a humble posture and worship Him. Of course, we always want to thank God for answered prayer, but in this case, you make a special effort to show your appreciation by kneeling before the Lord and giving Him praise for His goodness in your life, much like the leper did in Luke 17:16.
- The King David Method (2 Samuel 6:14-15). In essence, David spent time dancing and rejoicing when the Ark of the Covenant came into Jerusalem. In a similar way, we can celebrate God’s answers to our prayers over a nice meal or have a celebration party thanking God for His kindness.
- The Hannah Method (1 Samuel 1:27-28). In this method, you honor the Lord for the answered prayer by giving something back to Him. For example, lets say you pray to get debt free. Once you become debt free you commit giving a percentage of your money back to His work. Over the years I have heard testimony of men in the midst of military service pray the Hannah prayer—they would pray that if God spared their lives in battle they would commit to serving Him when they got back home.