“It is difficult to imagine God as a little child” must be the words uttered by Simeon “a just and devout man waiting for the consolation of Israel”, who was led by the Holy Spirit in to the Temple when child Jesus was brought there for the mandatory religious ceremonies. In answer to his prayer, Simeon was blessed with a revelation by the Holy Spirit “that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:27, 26). And the terror felt by Zechariah when he became face to face with an angel in the Temple, while on duty to offer incense, in answer to a prayer that he and his wife had prayed many years before and had probably resigned themselves to their fate. What would be our reaction when and if faced with an angel whose “countenance was like lightening, and his clothing as white as snow” (Matthew 28: 3). Are we more shocked at receiving or at not receiving an answer to prayer or do we ever remember what we had prayed for some time back?
Preparing to seek blessings from the Almighty God involves all aspects of our being- physical, mental, psychological and spiritual with a voluntary financial contribution in the form of a vow. It is well established in the Scriptures that any prayer offered as per God’s will and plan will get answered, though the form and timing of the reply may not be as per our expectations. Preparation for a prayer is not only about praying per se but getting ready to receive an answer. Legend has it that after a long period of draught, people from a number of villages decided to offer special prayer to God for rain. On the appointed day thousands got together at the appointed place but only one of them, a young child, came prepared with an umbrella to receive the answer to their collective prayer. Zechariah was not ready for the blessing, doubted God’s messenger and became mute for a period.
Know God first- Prayer essentially is communicating with “Our Father in heaven” but in addition to the relationship He is El Shaddai- the Almighty All Powerful God who commands awe and respect. Before salvation was available no one could enter the Holy of Holies area in the Temple and expect to live for the command is “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11). The first essential for an answered prayer is to know God and revere Him and this is only possible through a regular relationship with Him through reading, meditating upon and living the Scriptures. To pray as per the will of God is to first know His will and this is revealed through His promises in the Holy Bible. The revelation of Divine will is through daily spending time in His presence.
Know His Plan-Jesus teaching to the disciples always included a confirmation that “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do” (John 5:19). There are certain set principles applicable for everyone in the form of the two commandments given by the Lord and there will be specific guidelines provided by the Holy Spirit to each of us. These would be in the form of Scripture revelations, dreams/visions, messages through prayer partners or others and through the “still small voice”. Lord Jesus prayed to God “Father glorify Your name”. Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again”. The people standing nearby had various opinions about the voice as ‘thunder’ or that “An angel had spoken to Him. Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake” (John 12:28-30). The Lord could say this for He always heard the voice of His Father YHWH while we have to make an earnest effort. Meditating on the word of God undisturbed is a way to hear through the breaking out of the Holy Spirit from the spirit to our soul and then fill our hearts.
Prepare the Prayer Request- Praying is not making a noise to draw God’s attention, it is a serious business for He is Almighty God and we can’t go into His presence without being clear what we want from Him. Observe the world around you for God has placed you there for a purpose and He wants to use you for revealing Himself to others and glorify His name, since you are His ambassador. Through this we get a fair idea what God wants us to do and to seek His help for implementing that plan; we are required to make a prayer request. Work out what is needed to fulfill that plan and preferably write down the detailed requirements for the plan. Now you are ready to go before Him to ask and receive.
Analyze Your Motives- “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss (with wrong motives), that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Now that the prayer request is ready, again assess the real purpose of the same. We invariably say something but deep down our aim is different. Even if the purpose is different go before God with that categorical purpose, for He in any case knows. God is our Father and He wants to bless us in every way, so share your heart with Him. “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Once we lay bare ourselves before Him and delight in Him and His love, He will listen and answer. Whatever be the problem- financial, relationships, social degradation, job loss, sickness or any other situation, place it before God in faith and be prepared for it to get solved.
Expect an Answer- We have already seen that God will answer and we have to be prepared to receive what we have prayed for. Apostle Paul’s advice to the Ephesians was clear that He is the Most High God “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). He is able but we have to work according to the power working in us and to release the action we must be well prepared for an answer and make plans to execute the same. If you did not expect a definite answer there is no point in wasting time in praying for “ask in faith, with no doubting; for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-7). The ultimate aim of a prayer and the answer by God is ‘to glorify His name’ and ‘that your joy may be full’. As the Divine representative my goal would be to ‘reflect Him’ and that would make my joy full.
Get a Prayer Partner- “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in My name I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:19-20). To my mind the main purpose of this promise is to have a family united in prayer, for if there is no agreement between a husband and wife about their future together, answered prayer will cause strife. In addition, there should not be any secrets between the two, ‘for the two have become one’ after marriage and this oneness is physical and spiritual also. Sharing our dreams and visions with others may cause discouragement for it is my vision and not theirs while a spouse will definitely encourage and give proper advice.
Listen for Directions- Our Lord is the Good Shepherd who has laid down His life for us and He wants to take us to “green pastures and still waters”, a position of abundance. There is always a purpose for whatever is happening in our lives, though we may not realize that. Job was perplexed by what was happening in his life and his friends accusations were not helping but he remained steadfast and finally had the privilege of meeting God and getting blessed with double of everything. May be the problems in our lives may be pointing to something needing correction and God may be telling us something which we were not aware of. Do not have a one sided conversation with God, allow His voice to be heard.
Persevere- Lord Jesus while teaching His disciples to pray, told them the parable of one going to his friend at midnight, seeking bread for some guest who had suddenly landed up at his house. “I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs” (Luke 11:8). This does not mean that one has to keep on repeating the prayer to persevere but it is thankfully awaiting the answer and preparing to implement. Do not give up for the delay which maybe because of various reasons and one could be that we are not yet prepared for the answer and require further preparation. Wait expectantly while always giving thanks for the answered prayer and refining and further developing the plans for implementation.
Be Surprised at No Answer- God’s Word is true and His promises to give what is asked for are also true. In case no answer is forthcoming to your prayer, do express shock and pray earnestly for a revelation from God. “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh” (Psalm 2:4) and He definitely has a great sense of humor. He never does anything without a definite purpose, may be that our prayer is the only communication that we have with God. God does not need us but He wants us and He desires our companionship. That does not mean He feels lonely but He wants us to come to His throne not merely for getting blessed but with a longing to know Him. Unfortunately most of us expect Him to act like the genie who is called to obey the master. He is the Master, the Creator, El-Shaddai- the Almighty God and “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11). Though the Almighty God demands and deserves our undivided attention and respect yet we have His authority as “children of God” to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Unanswered Prayer- Daniel prayed to YHWH God and the answer was finally received after 21 days, but he continued to seek God daily. If no answer has been coming, maybe there is some fault is us; some sin or a wrong motive or an unresolved conflict. God is no respecter of persons and before His throne all are equal for “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear dull to hear. But your inequities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2). We need to carry out a diligent search of our hearts to find the cause and even seek Divine help in this “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). The three essential keys for answered prayers are- confession, repentance and turning away from sin.
Start Working- Prayer does not mean sitting idle and waiting for the Lord to do everything, for He is seated at the right hand of God the Father and will only facilitate the fulfillment of our prayers. We need to work to execute the plans and train for the same by carrying out a self assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Learn to overcome the challenges and pray for His guidance. Be prepared to make sacrifices where required while retaining complete focus on the Lord God.
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18) were the parting words of our Lord before ascension to His throne of power. He as our High Priest not only receives our prayers but makes them presentable and then intercedes on our behalf before God the Father. On the other hand “The Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought but the Spirit Himself makes intercessions for us with groaning which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
The Holy Trinity is willing to bless us with a life full of good health, prosperity in all things while our soul also prospers. The Lord is willing and waiting – we have to pray and open our hearts to Him to receive.
Look unto Jesus in faith and start a life of abundance from now onwards!!