"If we ask anything according to God's will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the request which we have asked from him." 1 John 5:14-15 (NIV).
Pray specifically. Recently I had a need for office equipment and asked God to show me how to get the needed funds that month! That night I was unable to sleep so I got up and worked on balancing my finances. To my amazement, I found a mistake in my favor and was able to order the equipment the next day!
Pray persistently. Not all prayers get answered so quickly. I have prayed for some things for years before getting an answer. If our prayer is legitimate, sometimes we need to be as persistent as Jacob, who once said to God, "I will not let you go until you have blessed me." Genesis 32:26 (TLB)(NLT). Jesus Himself said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."8 The principle is to keep on asking and seeking until you receive.
Pray in harmony with God's will. As today's Scripture says, "If we ask anything according to God's will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the request which we have asked from him." 1 John 5:14-15 (NIV).
High on God's priorities for us is our growth and maturity. Prayers in harmony with this principle, and with all of God's will, will always be effective. Prayers outside his will are denied.
Pray sincerely. "Do you want to be made well?" was Jesus' question. In other words, if we want God to answer our prayers, we have to want the answer enough to be willing to pay the price. For instance, if we want to grow in faith, love, patience, perseverance, and maturity, we need to realize that all of these are acquired through experience, often painful experience. As the Bible says, "Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character." Romans 5:3-4 (RSV)(NASB).
Pray in Jesus' name. "I tell you the truth," [Jesus said] "anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to [God] the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son [Jesus] may bring glory to [God] the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." John 14:12-14 (NIV)
Finally, come to God on his terms. Effective prayer is also dependent on our having a right relationship with God through his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only one through whom we can approach God. "Nobody can come to God except through me," John 14:6 Jesus said. Because of our sin, our relationship with God has been broken. But because of Christ's death for us on the cross, our relationship with God can be restored by our responding to Jesus' invitation to receive him into our heart and life as personal Lord and Savior.* And then we can come to God in prayer through Jesus.
When we are living in a right relationship with God and learn to pray the right prayers, we can be certain that God will answer them. As Jesus said, "If you stay in [right relationship with] me and obey my commands, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted!" John 15:7 (TLB)(NLT)
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that you are always available to hear and answer my prayers. Like Thomas of old, please help me in my times of unbelief to know in my heart that you always hear and answer my prayers when I pray sincerely, in harmony with your will, and come to you through Jesus Christ my Lord and my Savior. Thank you for always doing this. Gratefully in Jesus' name. Amen."
* To accept God's Invitation to accept his full and free pardon go to: http://www.actsweb.org/invitation.php.
6. 1 John 5:14-15 (NIV).
7. Genesis 32:26 (TLB)(NLT).
8. Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV).
9. Romans 5:3-4 (RSV)(NASB).
10. John 14:12-14 (NIV)
11. John 14:6
12. John 15:7 (TLB)(NLT)