How to Get Prayer Answered
n overcast sky made the country night intensely dark and a light drizzle made the highway dangerously slick. On my way home that night, as I passed a semi-trailer and pulled in front of it, my car struck a slippery patch of roadway and went slithering snake-like down the road out of control. Abruptly my car swung around and began careening down the road backwards with the semi-trailer barreling down on top of me!
In terror I prayed, "God, help!"
With only moments to spare, my car suddenly flipped sideways out of the path of the oncoming semi! But it kept skidding sideways off the highway and down an embankment. Certain my car would now overturn, in terror, I prayed again.
Amazingly, my car didn't overturn. Neither did it stop. It swung around and then went forward bouncing through a field. "Oh no," I thought. "now I'll end up smashing into a tree." I thought my number was up. I prayed again.
Eventually my car stopped in front of some bushes. Miraculously, I missed every post by the roadside and every tree. I backed up a few feet, turned around and drove away without a single bruise to myself or a scratch on my car.
Was my safety a coincidence or does God answer prayer and help us when we call of him?
In my experience, I have found that God answers some prayers very quickly; others quite slowly. And some don't seem to get answered at all.
Effective prayer is not a lucky charm to gain special favors. Neither is it a pain-killer like a giant aspirin: "Take God three times a day and you won't feel any pain!" as John Powell put it.
Prayer can be effective. The key is learning to pray the right prayer. As the Bible says, "You do not have, because you do not ask God. And when you do ask, you don't receive because you ask wrongly, with wrong motives, for selfish reasons.1
How, then, do we pray the right prayers?
Prayer isn't like a giant aspirin:
Take God three times a day
and you won't feel any pain.
First, pray responsibly. God won’t do for us what we need to do for ourselves. Many a time, for example, when I was a student, I'd pray furiously for God's help at examination time—especially when I wasn't adequately prepared. I managed to pass my exams, but not because of any pray-instead-of-study prayers.
Pray for truth. When we have a problem, a habit that has us beaten, a conflict, or even some sicknesses, we tend to focus our prayers on the symptom rather than on the cause. As counselor Dr. Cecil Osborne explains, when we unconsciously cover a deeper sin or fault, we often confess a lesser one all the more vigorously [or somebody else’s]. This is because we don’t see or are afraid to see the often deeper cause or causes of our problems.
Whenever I have a problem, I acknowledge the problem but also ask God to show me the root cause of the problem, as most of our problems are the fruit of a deeper root, the presenting problem being the symptom of a deeper problem.
This is why I ask God to face me with the truth of what I am or might be contributing to it and to give me the courage to see it and the help to do what I need to do to resolve it. Praying for the truth is one of the most effective ways of praying I know. Sometimes I don’t want to see the truth as it might be too frightening so I tell God that I am willing to be made willing to see it—whatever it might be.
Whenever I have prayed this way, I have always had this prayer answered. Sometimes the answer comes quickly, other times slowly. It usually depends on when I am ready to receive it.
5. All articles on the ACTS International website are by Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise noted.
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