If you made it past the title you are either looking for a solution to unanswered prayer or looking for a fight because the title suggests there is a way to make God answer your prayer. To make you read further I’m not going to address either of these assumptions other than to say God answers prayer, all prayer.
Yes, no or wait.
If you have been around the Christian community for any length of time you have heard the statement that God answers all prayer with yes, no or wait. Who am I to argue with this logic, although I would like to point out that most people answer questions with yes, no or wait. “Wait” might be replaced with maybe or let’s see what happens and “no” with not in a million years but the meaning remains the same. At least this “yes, no or wait” statement creates a sense of calm when God doesn’t answer right away. Still, we are left wondering if we prayed right, was there something more we could say or do, was there a way to motivate God to answer quickly and with the answer we want to hear.
Is there one right formula for prayer, a proper way to get God’s attention?
The Bible is full of examples of prayer and petition. While they do not contradict each other they definitely leave room for many different approaches. Jesus in the parable of the unjust judge (also called the persistent widow) creates a picture of someone returning continually for an answer. The Lord’s Prayer makes the process more liturgical and rehearsed, covering specific areas with prepared requests. David on the other hand, cried out to God with emotional pleas in the Psalms, he let loose with how he felt and seemed to hide nothing. Paul in his letter to the Philippians said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NIV). If you were to try to come up with a single template or formula for prayer based on the Bible, I don’t think you could do it and yet I still believe there is a right way to pray.
Praying with the right amount of faith combined with the right words must be important.
With all the examples of communicating with God recorded in the Bible ranging from the sophisticated to the downright crude (not the rude type of crude but instead being unrefined) what we say appears not to be the most important thing. With the invention of faith healers and prosperity preachers, that’s right I said invention (somehow being a conduit for God’s mercy and grace has become a well-paying, superstar career) one could easily be tricked into thinking there must be a combination of right words and mega amounts of faith that must be employed when approaching God. People teach that the right amount of faith will make God sit up and take notice and that this faith is demonstrated by the positive words you pray. Too bad Jesus didn’t know this, He could have prayed better in the Garden of Gethsemane and avoided this whole dying thing!
Praying right isn’t as much about what you say or the size of your faith, it’s about what you expect.
The fact anyone prays to an unseen being and expects some form of action or reply is a demonstration of faith. This goes for any religion but I believe that there is only one God that can produce a perfect outcome based on purpose and plan, anything else is coincidental fulfilment of one’s desire. Still we are left with the unanswered question, are you praying right? The words don’t seem to matter and the fact you are praying means you have faith so what is the measure of praying right?
Do you pray with Godly expectancy?
Telling God that you know He hears you and will answer your prayer isn’t necessarily the right or wrong way to pray and it isn’t what I meant by Godly expectancy. Let’s face it, expectation is the reason we spend time praying in the first place whether we say it or not. Who would waste their time asking a God who doesn’t listen and won’t act? So if everyone who prays technically prays expectantly what is Godly expectancy?
To take time to pray is to take time to expect but to pray with Godly expectancy means the expectation carries on long after the prayer is completed. We live knowing God will act and wait for Him to do so as He sees fit.
The danger of human expectancy is it is based on preconceived notions.
After all the praying is done whether it is like the persistent widow or liturgical in nature, whether I cry out with all my emotion or present my prayers and petitions with thanksgiving, something needs to change. My attitude needs to shift from my perception of what is going on in my life to God’s solution in light of all that is going on in the world. There is more at play than what I see and more to be addressed than what I experience. Godly expectancy is me suspending what I prayed for based on what I want so that I can see God answer with what I need based on His perfect plan. Praying isn’t just the words spoken but the expectation that follows because we know that God will address the situation in the most perfect and holy of ways. This leads to peace far beyond anything we can understand.
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 guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)