Terry R. Baughman
“You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3 NIV).
Prayer is a privilege and a responsibility. It is communicating with God in a personal and meaningful way. While some may focus on the posture of prayer, like kneeling, sitting, or prostrating on the floor, others memorize phrases and recitations to repeat as they count beads or mark off minutes in prayer. Over the next five weeks we will learn some biblical keys to powerful prayer.
Jesus taught us to pray, first by example and then by instruction. He went into the wilderness for a time of prayer and fasting in preparation for His ministry. He frequently prayed and asked the disciples to join Him in prayer. When the disciples asked that Jesus would teach them how to pray He gave them an example in what we have identified as, The Lord’s Prayer. (See Matthew 6:9–13 and Luke 11:2–4.)
A study of prayer in the New Testament will give us some useful keys to powerful prayer. The first key is ASK. There is power in petition. When we frame our words and speak what we desire from God we are fulfilling an important part of prayer. Jesus gave us an assurance that if we will ask, it will be given. “Everyone who asks receives” (Matthew 7:7–8).
On the other hand, James warns that sometimes we do not receive simply because, “You do not ask,” or perhaps that we ask with impure motives seeking only to fulfill our own pleasures (James 4:2–3). When we ask God for the things we need or we are requesting His intervention in something that will fulfill His purpose we can fully expect answers to our prayers. Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13–14).
God gives us many blessings that we have not requested. We have seen His intervention before we even prayed. We have received protection from harm or provision for an unexpected need. However, the fact that God has graciously provided for us in the past does not negate our need to pray, or nullify our need to present petitions in the future. Even though God knows our needs before we do He still expects us to ask.
One of the benefits of our petitions in prayer is that when the answer comes we can give witness to the miraculous provision of God. When we ask for specific direction in situations or miraculous intervention in a hopeless condition and we see the answer come, there is no doubt that God has heard our prayer. God moves in response to our faith filled petitions and increases our capacity to ask for more in the future. Answered prayer is one of the greatest testimonies we can share. This results in greater faith for future needs and inspires others to pray in faith.
A failure to ask is a missed opportunity in prayer. It results in a failure to receive an answer from God and a missed opportunity to grow in faith. The lessons of Scripture are to remind us to ask, present your petitions with expectation for the answers that are on the way.
“If we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:15).