How is this happening?
What should I do?
Over the years I’ve learned many approaches to prayer, but gained a few tools along the way that have transformed my prayer life, and ultimately, grown my faith.
If you want to grow too, here are a few simple keys to strengthen your prayer life, increase your faith, and deepen your relationship with God.
3 Keys to Effective Prayer
The first key to effective prayer is simply ASKing God. We all want God to move in our lives, but we often struggle to ask.
We’ve likely all fallen into the trap of the “unspoken” prayer request. Yet, God wants us to speak our requests. He wants us to trust Him and others to pray alongside us. We don’t have to give all the details or full names if the issue is a sensitive one, but we shouldn’t be ashamed to speak our need before our Heavenly Father and brothers and sisters in Christ.
The Bible teaches us to let our requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6). There are many powerful verses related to prayer and the importance of praying for one another (James 5:16, 1 Timothy 2:1, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Ephesians 6:18…to name a few).
Our tongues release power (Proverbs 18:21). God spoke the world into existence. He did not whisper, think, or dream it into existence. He SPOKE it! If I want my prayers answered, I must first have the courage to ASK for what I want.
Matthew 7:7-11 (NASB): “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 he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”
Everyone who asks receives.
I need to learn to ask God for what I need and want. God does the impossible—no prayer is too insignificant and no request too challenging for Him.
God desires to give me every good thing. He is a generous father who loves to bless His children. God doesn’t want to withhold good things. He simply wants me to come to Him and ask.
Of course, as a wise Father, He doesn’t always give us what we ask in the way (or timing) we think He should (thank goodness). We must trust in God’s Sovereignty and goodness.
My kids ask me for treats at all hours of the day. While I always respond, it is often not the response they want. Waiting until after dinner feels like an eternity for them. I feel the same way sometimes when waiting on God’s response to my own prayers. But, I know God’s nature and trust He has my best interests in mind as He moves on my behalf.
Our western world teaches we should forge a way for ourselves without asking for anything from others. Unfortunately, many have applied the same concept to their relationship with God. They believe they need to accomplish things in their own ability in order to please or somehow prove themselves worthy of God’s love. Yet, God desires to partner with us for His Glory.
When we are weak, He is strong:
“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” -2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NASB.
We have to humble ourselves and learn to go to God with our needs, and courageously ask for our heart’s desires. Tap into the power of prayer by ASKING God to move on your behalf—boldly and unashamedly.
Many of us hope our prayer will be answered, but we often struggle to actually believe God will answer it.
Hoping means you want something to happen. Believing means you feel sure of the truth of something. For example, I hope my husband will do the laundry–which means I will be thrilled if it happens, but I don’t truly believe it will (it usually doesn’t).
However, when I come to God in prayer, I have learned to truly believe He will answer. I also believe He has my best interests in mind as He moves on my behalf. That’s not something I could have said honestly even a few years ago. Yet, believing is essential to effective prayer.
So how did I move from a place of hoping to believing? First, I examined my beliefs about the nature of God.
I had to wrestle with questions like: “Is God a loving and faithful Father? Are His promises always true? Can I trust Him?”
In order to answer these questions and others honestly, I began by reflecting on my relationship with my own father. Research shows childhood experiences with parents and siblings often shapes our perception of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). For example, if I have an angry and distant father, I likely will perceive Father God the same.
My childhood was tumultuous and my father abandoned me and my family. He died suddenly after I graduated from high school and we never had the chance to reconcile.
I struggled for many years to even trust my husband as a result of childhood pain. There were times I wondered when James would leave or deeply wound me as my father had.
I secretly questioned if I could trust God to meet my needs and protect my heart.
How do I View God?
My experiences had distorted my perception of God. I started to recognize the lies that created barriers in my relationship with God and began to search out the truths within the Bible.
As I spent time developing an intimate relationship with God, I recognized I had bought into the lie He couldn’t be trusted. I began standing on God’s promises and declaring the Word of God over my life. Then, I collected personal examples of ways God answered my prayers through journaling. Walls began crumbling within my heart and I cultivated a deeper relationship with God.
I no longer hope God is trustworthy, I believe wholeheartedly. And when doubts and lies try to flood my mind, I push them away with the truth of God’s faithfulness. I cling to Deuteronomy 31:6:
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV
In time, I also found I had bought into the lie of an angry and unforgiving God. I searched the Bible for evidence of God’s love and forgiveness. Then, I reflected on the depths of love required for a father to sacrifice His only begotten son for me. I thought of all the mistakes I made and what the Bible teaches about forgiveness.
In time, I discovered an amazing and loving God. I could cover pages with scriptures depicting the true nature of God, but I’ll leave you with one of my favorites and allow you the joy of discovering the rest for yourself:
The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness – Psalm 145:8 NASB.
A pastor once said, “Who God is to you is who He’ll be through you.”
When my beliefs are faulty, I misrepresent Jesus to the world around me. But once I begin to grasp the true nature of God, I find trusting and believing Him comes naturally.
Now, when I face an obstacle, I start thanking God for all He has done. I reflect on the countless mountains He has already moved and then thank Him for moving the mountain in front of me–believing wholeheartedly He will.
You see, I know my God. He is faithful and just (1 John 1:9). He has good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11). He will withhold no good thing from me (Psalm 84:11). No weapon formed against me shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17).
The Bible is a powerful weapon against fear and doubt.
When we utilize the Bible to fight our battles, we experience an increase in faith. By going to God in faith, we experience the manifestation of our prayers.
"But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind" – James 1:6 NASB.
“Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you” –Mark 11:24 NASB.
Now that we ask for what we need, and believe we will receive it, we are ready to implement the third and final key to effective prayer.
I often find myself praying and then waiting on God, which sounds harmless enough—until you realize God is not a genie granting us wishes, but a loving Father desiring relationship.
He wants our partnership and participation.
Prayer gives us access to Heaven’s abundant resources, but we need to know how to utilize them.
The third and final key to effective prayer is to COMPLETE the action steps of faith necessary to experience a manifestation of your prayer.
If my children ask to play outside and I say yes, but they never take a step forward, they will never receive what they asked for. The same can be true of our prayers.
After you have Asked God to move, and Believed He has heard (and will answer your prayer), you must respond accordingly. For example, if I pray for financial breakthrough because I lost my job, and I believe God is moving on my behalf, then I must begin to operate as if that were true.
Faith in Action
In this example, I would look for jobs and fill out applications, even if the job seems out of my league. I would search for God’s doors of opportunity–I would NOT sit at home in my sweats feeling sorry for myself and stressing about my unpaid bills. However, I would thank God for His provision and declare breakthrough over my circumstances. I would seek His wisdom in everything I did—from which bills to pay when, to whom to call for help, to where and when to apply for jobs. Additionally, I would continue to be a generous giver and not allow fear to control my actions.
All of those things require me to act.
Regardless of what you pray for, you can do something to put your faith in motion.
The Bible is clear that faith without works is dead (James 2:20). This does not mean I can work my way to faith or to salvation. It means I can say I have faith to move mountains, but if I do not try to move them, my faith does no good.
I’ve learned that for my faith to grow I need to take risks.
Risks create opportunity for God to perform the miraculous in and through our lives.
Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. (James 2:21-22 NLT)
Peter demonstrates the ABC’s of effective prayer in Matthew 14:28-29 (NLT):
Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.
First, Peter asked Jesus to call him to walk on water.
Next, he believed he could do it.
Finally, he completed the necessary steps (literally) to experience the manifestation of walking on water.
If Peter had the faith to believe he could walk on water, but he never stepped out of the boat, his faith would have done him no good; and most importantly, we would not realize we can also walk on water if we are willing to ask, believe, and respond!
What prayers require your response today?
What’s one thing you can do to step out in faith this week?
I’d love to know. Leave a comment or send me an email.
I hope you have been encouraged to approach your prayer life differently through this post. I pray you are empowered to believe God for greater things in your life and have the courage to take more risks in faith!
Leave a comment and let me know if you have struggled with prayer or have a testimony to share. I’d love to hear from you.