3 Keys to Effective Prayer
By Aaron D'Anthony Brown, Crosswalk.com
“But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
How do we communicate with God? Ask this question of any believer and the answer will come immediately. We pray. Whether new to the faith, a longtime believer, or even a nonbeliever, everyone knows the answer. Based on what we know and read in the Bible, prayer is the clearest way people communicate with God. In the past, people prayed and offered sacrifices, but after what Jesus did at Gethsemane, the ultimate sacrifice was paid. Now today, there are no more animal and blood sacrifices for Christians, but prayer remains a constant. Much like believers of old praying in the Bible, we still pray for the same reasons today. Our reasons include: seeking wisdom, giving thanks, complaining, asking questions, and more. We talk to God much like we talk to another person, albeit with much more reverence and availability. Also similar to talking to another person, our communication with God is not always clear. While God most certainly understands and knows our hearts, we don’t always understand what to pray for or how to pray.
So while everyone may easily answer the question, how do we communicate with God, not everyone can define good communication. Thus, a question remains – what are the keys to effective prayer?
We as believers can easily talk about the importance or power of prayer, but not as obvious is how to pray well. Again, God does understand and know our hearts, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t improve our prayer lives.
What Does it Mean to Pray Effectively?
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
In order to understand how to pray effectively, we need to understand what qualifies as effective communication. There are plenty of examples to choose from, public speeches, work seminars, and our daily conversations. Here are some points that make-or-break communication:
Do you enjoy being heard in a conversation or do you prefer to only let the other person speak? When two people get together for a discussion, especially if debating, both parties want to be heard. Each has beliefs that they want to express. Without listening, neither side receives those ideas. We witness the effects of a lack of listening in our current political sphere.
We know someone is listening when they can ask questions in response to what was shared. Imagine telling someone about a rough day at work. You know they are listening when they ask for more details, not when they shift the conversation to what they ate that morning.
What is the point of the conversation? Making the intention as clear as possible will ensure both parties can walk away without confusion. When an orator speaks to a crowd, he communicates effectively only when the speech has a purpose. Otherwise, he ends up wasting everyone’s time.
These points along with many others contribute to effective communication. Prayer though is a bit different because prayer is more than just two people talking. Prayer involves the human individual communing with God. That type of communication requires much more reverence and faith on our part, more than we give another person. Since we treat God differently, we can take what we know about good communication between two people and examine what the Bible says about good communication with God. There are definite similarities, but definite differences as well.
What Does the Bible Tell Us about Effective Prayer?
While we can speculate and debate about what constitutes effective prayer, the Bible does give much insight. If there is one topic mentioned in the Bible plenty, prayer is that topic. Scripture gives many descriptions of people praying to God, along with a plethora of examples. Jesus, Paul, Abraham, many Biblical figures served as examples for believers today. By observing these examples and what the Bible explicitly says about prayer, we can strengthen our communication with God.
Key #1 of Effective Prayer - Pray Honestly
“Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; you understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; you are aware of all my ways.” (Psalm 139:1-3)
God observes us throughout our entire lives. He knows where we are at any given time, what we’re doing, even why. Nothing we do is hidden from God, and neither is anything we pray about. So much of the Bible indicates God’s sovereignty (knowledge and control) over our lives. When we apply that to our prayers, we know we can be open and honest. There is no need to hold back when we have committed grievous sins. He knows. There is no need to hold back when someone has direly wronged us. God knows.
When we approach God with an honest attitude, we will likely find ourselves praying more openly and frequently. We’ll know and believe that God cares.
Key #2 of Effective Prayer - Pray Constantly
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
Scripture encourages believers to pray always. This means that no matter the season of life or time of day, we can and should approach God. If He knows everything going on in our lives, then there will be no surprises. This also means that God can provide us with support and protection at any given time. There’s a reason God tells us not to worry. There’s a reason God commands this multiple times. Fear may come naturally to us as people, but so can prayer. We just have to put in the effort so that prayer becomes a habit. Then all the benefits we receive from praying will become much more apparent in our lives.
Key #3 of Effective Prayer - Pray Trustingly
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Psalm 56:3-4)
We know to pray honestly and to pray often. When we master those two points, we can start praying with a heart that trusts God completely. There has never been a promise that God has not kept. If we pray with His promises in mind, we know that what He says He’ll do, without a doubt, He will do. Trusting God in our prayers takes the burden off of us to solve every issue. Trusting God also pays Him the due reverence He deserves, acknowledging Him, not ourselves, as God,
Effective communication between people does not come naturally. First, we have to know what defines good communication, learn the skills, then practice, practice, practice. When we communicate with the almighty God, we do have the benefit of Him being all-knowing. He knows our hearts, desires, and wishes before we can form words to speak. Still, this truth does not excuse us from trying our best to pray effectively.
We can approach God similar to how we would other people, but He is much more available, much wiser, and much more loving. The benefits of prayer are clear, and the Bible wants us to pray constantly. How comforting, to know we can approach God whenever and with complete transparency and trust. He wants to hear from us, every day.
We already know that we should pray. Now, we know how to make our prayers much more effective. Let this growth be a guide into a stronger and deeper relationship with Christ.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/palidachan
Aaron D'Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. Check out his short story “Serenity.”