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How to Pray: The Elements of an Effective Prayer

There is no greater joy derived than conversing with the Creator of universe. The inexplicable joy and inner peace felt in knowing God loves us unconditionally, He cares about every detail of our lives, He knows us more than anyone else, and He knows our innermost thoughts and feelings.

How comforting it is to learn God will help us in times of trouble, He is our helper in times of distress, He will comfort us when we are hurting, and we can depend on Him at all times.

What an encouragement to learn we can approach the throne of God, through prayer, and ask Him to grant us the desires of our hearts, via the name of Jesus, and He will respond to our prayers of petition.

In the Bible, we are told in

Philippians 4:6,

Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. (God's Word Translation, GW).

Mathew 7:7,

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. (New Living Translation, TLB)

John 16:24,

Ask in my name, according to my will, and he'll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks. (The Message Bible, MSG).

God knows the things we yearn for. But, He can't provide the things we want, or to become a reality in our lives, until we ask Him.

However, there are factors that cause our prayers of petition not to be responded to. For our prayers to be effective, we should bear in mind the following.



Elements of An Effective Prayer

1) A Humble Heart

Is there a right or wrong way to pray? Not exactly! It doesn’t matter whether you pray alone or with a group of Christians, whether you pray kneeling or standing up, whether you pray with your eyes opened or closed, whether you pray with your hands lifted up or not. There is no right or wrong formula. All God asks from us is to pray in humility.

Jesus illustrated in a story the importance of maintaining a humble heart. The story was a comparison between a Pharisee and a tax collector. One was proud, and the other, humble. One prayed in meekness while the other one boasted of his own good works by following the law of God to the letter.

Then he told this story to some who boasted of their virtue and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a proud, self-righteous Pharisee, and the other a cheating tax collector. The proud Pharisee ‘prayed’ this prayer: ‘Thank God, I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t commit adultery, I go without food twice a week, and I give to God a tenth of everything I earn.’

“But the corrupt tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed, but beat upon his chest in sorrow, exclaiming, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home forgiven! For the proud shall be humbled, but the humble shall be honored.” (Luke 18:9-14)

2) An Expectant Heart

God expects us to have the ‘heart of a child.’ What does this mean? It means resting on the knowledge God will respond to our prayers. It implies not having a doubtful mind.

In the third chapter of the book of Lamentations, Prophet Jeremiah says that God is pleased with those who depend and wait on Him. Apostle Paul affirms Jeremiah's statement in Hebrews chapter eleven. Depending and waiting on God means having unwavering trust in God.

As per the definition of trust by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, trusting God means assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth (the Word) of God. According to Oxford Languages definition, trust in God is a firm belief in the reliability, truth (the Word), or ability of God.

“You can never please God without faith, without depending on Him. Anyone who wants to come to God must believe there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely look for him. ~ Hebrews 11:6

And we are sure of this, that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will. And if we really know he is listening when we talk to him and make our requests, then we can be sure that he will answer us. ~ 1st John 5:14-15

Jesus said even if your faith is small like a mustard seed, it can still do wonders, for you can say to a mountain to move from where it is to somewhere else, and the mountain will move.

In reply Jesus said to the disciples, “If you only have faith in God—this is the absolute truth—you can say to this Mount of Olives, ‘Rise up and fall into the Mediterranean,’ and your command will be obeyed. All that’s required is that you really believe and have no doubt! Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you have it; it’s yours! But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive you your sins too.” ~ (Mark 11:22-25)

What is this faith? Hebrews 11 defines it as the “confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead.”

Hebrews 11 contains stories of men of God, known as men of faith, who believed beyond doubt, who trusted beyond reasoning, that God was more than able to help them or meet their needs.

3) A Thankful Heart

God is delighted and drawn closer to those with a thankful heart. He is pleased with such people, and this is clearly noted in the Book of Exodus.

God couldn't tolerate anymore the ungrateful hearts of the Israelites He had rescued from the tyrannical hands of Pharaoh. They murmured and complained in the desert to the point that even Moses got tired of them. God swore that those He rescued from Egypt would not step on the promised land. Instead, they would die in the desert. Only their children would receive the blessing of the promised land.

An unthankful and ungrateful heart is a heart that is not appreciative of what it's been blessed with, and to the one that has blessed it in diverse ways. It's a heart than doesn't acknowledge God's providence.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guide your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. ~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. ~ Colossians 4:2

4) God's Heart

If your requests don't align with the Word of God, or are not at par with the will of God, they will not be responded to. Our prayers should reflect the will of God as indicated in His Word, and being attentive to God's guidance in our day-to-day living.

And, if you are asking God to bless you with something, or are in need of something, for selfish reasons, He will not attend His ears to your prayers.

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” ~ James 4:3

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. ~1 John 5:14-15

5) A Forgiving Heart

It is difficult to forgive someone who has hurt you, particularly considering the severity of the hurt. However, God is adamant we should forgive those who have wronged us.

Crucified, and before giving up his breath, Jesus forgave those who betrayed him, those who mocked him, and those who tortured him. He told God to forgive them for they didn't know what they're doing. He took the action of forgiving those who wronged him in accordance with his teachings that we should forgive those who hurt us.

If you find it difficult to forgive, ask God to help you. Surely, He will assist you.

Remember, if you do not forgive those who have wronged you, God will not forgive you. God won't lend His ears to your requests because you're harbouring the sin of unforgiveness.

“…first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins too.” ~ Mark 11:22-25

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ in God forgave you. ~ Ephesians 4:32

"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." ~ Mathew 6:14

"Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." ~ Luke 6:37

Bible Verses on Prayer

  1. Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. ~ James 5:13
  2. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. ~ Mark 11:24
  3. Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. ~ Colossians 4:2
  4. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. ~ Mathew 5:44
  5. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. ~ Mathew 6:7
  6. I call on you, My God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. ~ Psalms 17:6
  7. If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14
  8. He will respond to the prayer of destitute; he will not despise their plea. ~ Psalms 102:7
  9. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. ~ Romans 12:12
  10. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. ~ Psalms 145:18
  11. Therefore I want men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. ~ 1 Timothy 2:8

© 2014 Alianess Benny Njuguna

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