There is no one passage of Scripture that teaches us the “how to” of prayer. If we are going to learn how to pray effectively we must search the Bible and find the nuggets of truth regarding prayer that are scattered throughout the Old and New Testament. We must also remember that the best way to learn how to pray is to…pray!
If we fail to understand the principles of prayer that are set forth in the Bible we will become either ineffective or frustrated in our prayer life. There is no formula for prayer; but there are certainly principles and guidelines that God has given us in His Word. It is important that we see the whole counsel of God regarding prayer, and not just pick one principle and emphasize it over the others.
Below are two of these prayer principles:
“And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
If this was the only verse in the Bible concerning prayer, we would have to conclude that the key to answered prayer is praying in faith. It is certainly clear from these words of Jesus that faith is a critical element of answered prayer–we must believe that God hears our prayers and that He answers them. We must come to Him in faith, knowing that He is a good God and that He delights to hear and answer the prayers of His children.
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
-1 John 5:14-15
If this was the only passage in the Bible on prayer, we would conclude that the key to answered prayer is to pray according to God’s will. We must ask for things that are in line with His desires and His purposes. We cannot see prayer as a way to manipulate God into getting the things that we want from Him. Instead, prayer becomes the means by which God gets what He wants “on earth as it is in heaven.”
So, which is it? What is the key to effective prayer? Praying with faith or praying according to God’s will?
The truth is, each of these principles is a different side of the same coin. The danger comes when we emphasize one over the other. If we focus solely on the faith principle, we can very easily turn prayer into a magic formula to get what we want, simply because we “believe.” Some people with this view point treat God as if He is some kind of Genie that is here to accommodate our every wish…very dangerous!
If we emphasize the principle of God’s will to the exclusion of faith, we will end us using “God’s will” as a cover up for unbelief. Sometimes we pray for things and throw an “if it be your will” on the end simply because we don’t want to be disappointed if the answer does not come.
The fact is, the two principles work hand in hand. It is a revelation of God’s will that gives us faith to believe God for answered prayer. The will of God is not as mysterious as some make it out to be. We know His will from His Word and from His Spirit. Granted, there are times when we do not know the will of God in a specific situation and it is completely appropriate to say “if it be your will” in this case. But many times, the will of God is clear.
Prayer is a relationship. As you get to know God through His Word and through time spent in His presence you will begin to know His heart and His mind. His Spirit will lead you as you seek His face and desire that His kingdom would come and His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven!