Summary: Message provides practical insight on how to increase prayer effectiveness by (1) maintaining a clear conscience (including how we do that) (2) Then staying connected by abiding in Christ daily in our thoughts.
Connected and Confident Prayer
We are dealing with the subject of prayer, not as an intellectual exercise, but in a sincere pursuit of relating to our God in such a way that we are effective in our prayers.
If we are to become effective in any human endeavor, we must be teachable. We must receive instruction as to what we may be doing wrong, how we can improve. We must be motivated; because there is much to learn. If you want to be proficient in golf, you have to do two things. You have to actually play golf; because there is much that can be developed only in the doing. Reading ten books about golf will not, by itself, adequately equip you. You can’t just read about it; you can’t just talk about it; you have to actually do it! On the other hand, if you want to do it well, you may have to receive some correction. You may have to learn to hold the club correctly. You may need instruction on how to follow through with your swing. I’m making a point about prayer. We have people here who can play the piano. Their proficiency on that instrument came because they received instruction from others who knew more about it than they did; and then they applied the instruction through hours of practice. Practice makes perfect, they say. That may be a bit exaggerated; but nobody becomes an accomplished pianist without spending time actually playing the piano. Prayer works the same way. I am by no means a marksman; but I learned something about hitting a target consistently. I have to find out why I am not hitting the bullseye. Maybe my sights need adjustment. Maybe I need new glasses. Maybe I’m jerking the trigger instead of squeezing it correctly. If I practice, practice, practice; but keep reinforcing the same mistakes over and over I will not become a marksman. I have to receive correction; change the way I’m doing things; then reinforce that through continued use. Answered prayer is the bullseye that we are looking for this morning. What can I change that will help me hit the target? What adjustments might be helpful?
In last week’s message we talked about three principles of prayer that matter.
(1) Respect: what we meant by that term is the proper mixture of familiarity and honor toward God. The attitude here rests on the first two phrases of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in heaven; Hallowed be Thy name”—an intimate relationship that remains awed by who God is.
(2) Focus: we need to be engaged in the process of prayer—paying attention to God and our conversation with Him.
(3) Consistency: our life must be consistent with our prayers. If we are asking God for His wisdom and guidance, then we must follow that guidance in all areas of our life.
Today I want to expand on that with two more principles that undergird effective prayer. One is the confidence that comes with a clear conscience. The other is the connection that accompanies habitual abiding in God’s presence.
I. Confidence in prayer through a clear conscience.
Turn with me to 1 John 3:22 “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”i
First notice the promise of answered prayer in that verse. “And whatever we ask we receive from Him….”
Of course, that is best exemplified in Jesus’ life. In John 11:41 when Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, He lifted his eyes to heaven and prayed, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me….” There is a confidence in His approach to God that the prayer is answered. He is not just going through a religious ritual; He expects results. Someone may say, yes but He is the Only Begotten Son of God; of course, He would have that confidence. He did not get prayer answered as the Son of God; He got it answered as an obedient man full of the Holy Spirit. And He actually said to His followers in John 14:12-14 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” The Bible abounds with verses that assure answered prayer for Christians. If I’m not getting answers to prayer I should be asking why.ii Why am I missing the bullseye of answered prayer? Jesus has clearly said we could ask and receive. If that is not happening, I want to know why the biblical promise is not being fulfilled.