Frequently Asked Questions about Prayer
How can I pray according to God’s will?
Many of our questions about God’s will are already answered for us in the Bible. For example, all God’s promises and all God’s commands are examples of God’s will. Compare these two prayers: “Dear God, my friend has hurt me; please give me enough strength to take revenge;” and “Dear God, my friend has hurt me; please give me enough strength to forgive him;” it is clear that only one of these is a prayer “according to God’s will.” When I have a need, I look for a promise that corresponds to that need; I then pray for that promise to come true in my situation, because I can pray without any doubt that it is a prayer according to God’s will. Then there are the prayer situations that are not mentioned in the Bible, such as “where should I go to college?” For details on these, see guidance
I’ve followed all the conditions, but God still did not grant my request. Why not?
Because we know what kind of God we have, we trust that he will give us the correct answer to our prayer. God will always answer in the way that is best for us. We also believe that when God shuts one door, he will open a better one.
God healed my friend’s mother, but let my mother die. What did I do wrong?
The Bible says that all will die (Hebrews 9:27). If God decides to delay death, we trust that he has his reasons. Rather than saying “but you didn’t answer my prayer for healing,” we could say, “thank you, God, that you have answered a prayer for healing from among us.” We can also focus on the wonderful eternal life that our loved one is now experiencing.
Does God hear everyone’s prayers?
Since God is all-knowing, he hears everything, However, the prayers God has promised to answer are the prayers of his people. (In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God says he will hear the prayers of whom?) More below about “God’s people.”
What if I forget to say “in Jesus’ name” at the end of my prayer?
The expression “in Jesus name” is a demonstration and reminder that God answers our prayers not because we deserve an answer, but because Jesus has deserved the answer for us. All our prayers are made with this understanding, whether or not we say that particular phrase in a given prayer. (In John 4:13, Jesus says he will answer what ever we ask in ___ .) More below about “in Jesus name.”
I believe in Jesus, and prayed in his name, but did not get an answer. Why not?
The Bible reveals several conditions that will delay or prevent God’s People from receiving their requests. These include:
Wrong Motive. (James 4:3 says we do not get an answer because …)
Unconfessed sin. (In Isaiah 59:2, God says He will not hear because what caused a separation?)
Request is not in God’s will. (1 John 5:14 says God will answer prayers that are according to what?)
Personal Conflict. (In Matthew 5:24, Jesus says that before we approach his altar, we should …)
How can I become more mature in my prayers?
Maturity in prayer is not so much a matter of learning prayer techniques, but of knowing God better. Your prayers will be an expression of your deepening insight into God and his ways.
I am told to pray with petition and supplication (Philippians 4:6). How do I do this?
Words like “petitions and supplications” is to remind us that every type of prayer is encouraged. Your “petition” is your prayer request; the word “supplication” has in mind your attitude of “please,” and so does the word “entreat, ” and in fact so does the word prayer itself (Think of the old English language where a person making a request might say, “I pray thee, sir, please …”)
Someone told me to listen to God in prayer. What if I don’t hear anything?
This question can be simplified if we define the words more precisely. The word “prayer” means your communication toward God, not His communication toward you. “Listen in prayer” actually means, “during the time you have set aside for prayer, don’t only pray; also, have a time of quiet where something might come to mind.” The problem is to figure out whether the something that comes to mind is from God or not. It is not that God is unable to communicate: In Acts 13:2 “the Holy Spirit said” something, and in the Christmas story, the magi were “warned in a dream.” It is just that there is a danger that you might give too much authority to whatever comes to your mind, assuming it is a message from God, when it might not be. Rather than saying that God speaks to us in prayer, we might more clearly say “I pray to God, and I believe that God will answer me in His own way.” Any answer we feel we have gotten still needs to be compared with God’s objective Word to us in the Bible (see guidance). That answer may or may not come during the time that you are praying. That answer may come in many different forms, such as the circumstance of a closed door, a friend who gives advice, a Bible verse that suddenly seems applicable, or a strong conviction. The safest way is to pray, but then to let God decide how He will answer. It would be better to say, “During my quiet time, I pray, and I also take time to think about God’s Word and about my situation.”
My prayers don’t seem to be bringing me closer to God. Why not?
Prayers do not create a relationship to God; what prayers do is to express a relationship to God. If you trust in Christ, you are united with him and you are already in a close relationship to God. The relationship does not get closer or farther based on how much you pray — the relationship is always there. However, you may not be gaining the comfort that could come from reminding yourself about that relationship. See more under Nurture of Your Own Faith.
More about …
More about being “God’s People.” God made a promise to Abraham that “I will be God to you, and to your descendants after you.” (Genesis 17:7). Those who received this promise are called “God’s People.” The death of Jesus makes it possible for all to enter into this promise, and thus become God’s people (Galatians 3:26-29 says that through Christ we are heirs of the promise given to …) Verse 26 says we come into this relationship with God through ___ in Jesus Christ, and verse 27 says that we are in union with Christ because were were ____.) How much did you have to do to be born into your family? In the same way, being brought into God’s family is God’s gift to you. Does your relationship with your physical parents end when you are not thinking about them, or when you argue with them? In the same way, we are always in relationship to God. The relationship does not depend on how much praying we do, but on faith in Christ and the promise in baptism. (Whom does Mark 16:16 say will be saved?) (More about the function of Christ’s death on the cross is found in Ephesians 11-19; after talking about the cross, verse 19 says to believers in Jesus: “therefore you are no longer foreigners aliens, but fellow citizen’s with ______.” 1 Peter 2:9-10 tells Christians that “once you were not a people, but now you are the _____.”)
More on: relationship with God covenant with Abraham faith baptism
More about “In Jesus’ name.” If a truck is speeding toward you, holding out your hand will not do much good. but if you have a police uniform on, the truck driver will have to stop, not because you are stronger, but because you are signaling him to stop “in the name of the ____.” Praying through Jesus brings the entire power of God into play. If we do not get a prayer answered, and therefore decide that we need to be a better person, we are acting as though we could somehow become good enough to deserve to get our prayers answered, rather than remembering that only Jesus can meet that standard. We depend on him not only to be forgive and to be accepted by God, but also to get our prayers answered.
Modern Parables about prayer
Key Verses about prayer
Models to use in praying
A Prayer Guide — for your personal prayer, and good to give to shut-ins
Guide for praying with others
A children’s prayer activity