Prayer is an important part of the Christian life. Christians are encouraged to pray regularly and bring their requests before God (Philippians 4:6). However, some wonder if there are conditions that must be met for God to answer prayer. What does the Bible say about this important question?
There are a few key principles from Scripture that provide insight into God’s requirements for answered prayer:
The first condition emphasized in the Bible is faith. Hebrews 11:6 declares, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Faith is confidence and trust in God that He can and will respond to prayer. Jesus taught His disciples, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). Believing prayer and trusting God’s ability and willingness to answer are prerequisites for receiving from God.
According to God’s Will
A second condition often mentioned is praying according to God’s will. 1 John 5:14-15 explains, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” Prayers offered in submission to God’s plans and purposes are prayers He promises to hear and respond to. Lining our requests up with His will is important.
Persistence in prayer is a third condition emphasized in Scripture. Luke 11:5-10 shares the parable of a man who persistently asks his neighbor for bread at night until he finally gets up and gives it to him. Jesus concludes, “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” God encourages His people to be persistent and patient in waiting for His answers in His timing.
Praying with right motives is another factor that impacts answers to prayer. James 4:2-3 warns, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. 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.” God cares about our heart attitude and the reasons behind our requests.
In Jesus’ Name
Praying in Jesus’ name also relates to effective prayer. John 14:13-14 records Jesus’ words, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Praying in Jesus’ name means appealing to God on the basis of Christ’s merit and intercession rather than our own.
A final principle often connected with answered prayer is obedience to God. 1 John 3:21-22 explains, “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” Disobedience can hinder our prayers, while walking obediently with God displays our faith and reliance on Him.
In summary, the Bible points to many conditions like faith, persistence, right motives, obedience, praying in Jesus’ name, and praying according to God’s will that impact the effectiveness of our prayers. God delights to answer His children’s requests when we come to Him on His terms with dependent hearts.
Other Biblical Examples and Teachings
Looking at other Bible passages also gives helpful insight into principles for answered prayer:
- Psalm 66:18 – “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Unconfessed sin in one’s life can hinder answers to prayer.
- James 1:6-7 – “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” Doubt and wavering faith can prevent prayer from being answered.
- 1 Peter 3:7 – “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” Poor treatment of others can become a hindrance to our own prayers being heard.
- Proverbs 21:13 – “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, will also cry himself and not be heard.” Ignoring the needs of the poor and others in the body of Christ can prevent God from listening to our own cries.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus emphasized the need to forgive others, seek reconciliation, and have pure hearts and motives in order for our worship and prayers to be accepted by God (Matthew 5-7).
We also see principles like praying in faith, in Jesus’ name, persistently, and in God’s will modeled by Jesus Himself when He prayed. For example, Jesus prayed submitting to God’s will in Gethsemane (Luke 22:42). He offered requests persistently as He prayed in Mark 14:32-42. And He demonstrated full confidence in the Father and belief in answered prayer when He thanked God in advance before even seeing the results (John 11:41-42).
Overall, the Bible provides many truths about how to pray effectively for God’s answers. While God hears all prayers and knows our needs before we ask (Matthew 6:8), He calls us to pray with right attitudes, motives, and approaches that align with His character and will.
Examples of Answered Prayer in the Bible
The Bible contains many examples of God miraculously answering the prayers of His people. Looking at these instances can increase our faith and provide guidance for praying effectively:
- Hannah’s barrenness – Hannah cried out to the Lord in deep anguish and prevailed upon Him for a child, which God answered (1 Samuel 1).
- Solomon’s request for wisdom – The Lord was pleased with Solomon’s prayer offered from a sincere heart and granted him great wisdom (1 Kings 3:5-14).
- Elijah and the prophets of Baal – The Lord answered Elijah’s bold, faith-filled prayer and consumed his water-drenched sacrifice with fire from heaven, proving He is the true God (1 Kings 18:36-39).
- Elisha and the Shunammite woman – Elisha persistently prayed over a boy who had died until he came back to life, displaying God’s compassion (2 Kings 4:32-37).
- Hezekiah’s illness – When King Hezekiah desperately prayed about his impending death, God heard his prayer and extended his life by 15 years (2 Kings 20:1-6).
- Restoration from exile – God heard the repentant prayers of Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and others and restored His people from exile in amazing ways (Daniel 9, Ezra 8:21-23, Nehemiah 1:4-11).
These examples showcase times when God moved powerfully in response to prayer and are meant to bolster our faith. They remind us of how He can work even in seemingly impossible situations when we cry out to Him as faithful, dependent children.
Hindrances to Answered Prayer
Along with explaining conditions for successful prayer, the Bible also warns of attitudes, behaviors, and spiritual conditions that can hinder answered prayer. Being aware of these barriers can help us pray more effectively.
Some things Scripture warns can block answers to our prayers include:
- Pride and self-sufficiency (Luke 18:9-14)
- Selfish motives and pleasures (James 4:3)
- Unforgiveness towards others (Mark 11:25)
- Broken relationships and disunity (1 Peter 3:7)
- Known sin and rebellion (Psalm 66:18, Isaiah 59:1-2)
- Trying to manipulate God (James 4:2-3)
- Not abiding in Christ and His Word (John 15:7)
- Indifference towards the poor and those in the body of Christ who are in need (Proverbs 21:13)
- Praying with doubt and wavering faith (James 1:6-7)
- Not asking according to God’s will (1 John 5:14-15)
- Wrong treatment of a spouse (1 Peter 3:7)
- Not persevering in prayer (Luke 18:1-8)
- Not praying in Jesus’ name (John 16:23-24)
- Lazy, complacent attitudes about prayer (Luke 18:1)
In addition, Scripture warns that at times God may delay answering prayer to test our patience and trust in Him or to bring about spiritual growth and maturity (Psalm 40:1, Romans 5:3-4). But He encourages us to persevere in faith through seasons of waiting (Luke 18:1-8).
Recognizing blocks to answered prayer helps us examine our own hearts and motivations, bringing sins, attitudes, and spiritual conditions before God so we can pray effectively within His will.
Prayer That God Promises to Answer
Despite potential hindrances, Scripture gives many assurances that God desires to hear and answer our prayers. What types of prayer does God promise to answer?
- Prayers that align with His will (1 John 5:14-15)
- Prayers offered in faith, believing God can respond (Matthew 21:22)
- Requests made in Jesus’ name (John 14:13-14)
- Prayers for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13)
- Prayers offered with the right motives (James 4:2-3)
- Prayers from those abiding in Christ through obedience (John 15:7)
- Prayers for others, like leaders and those who persecute us (1 Timothy 2:1-3, Matthew 5:44)
- Prayers from the righteous (James 5:16)
- Prayers from a humble heart (Psalm 9:12)
- Prayers for salvation (Romans 10:13)
God gives tremendous assurance that He desires to hear and respond to our prayers offered from a heart of faith and humility. We can have confidence that He will answer pray according to His perfect will, timing and purposes.
How God Answers Prayer
God often answers and responds to our prayers in different ways, not always how we expect. Some of the diverse ways God may reply to prayer include:
- Direct, miraculous intervention
- Natural coincidences and circumstances
- Working through doctors, medicine, and professionals
- Inner peace, comfort, and understanding
- Changed perspectives or new insights
- Conviction of sin
- Strengthened faith
- Gifts of joy and hope
- Provisions of physical needs
- Healing emotionally or spiritually
- Guidance through Scripture
- A still small voice or inner prompting
- Closed doors shutting an opportunity
At times, God may answer by powerfully and directly healing, providing, or intervening. But often His answers come through ordinary means over time, or through changes in our own hearts and minds by His Spirit. Learning to recognize God’s hand in all circumstances requires faith and spiritual sensitivity.
Even seemingly unanswered prayers serve a purpose by deepening our trust in God’s wisdom and dependence on Him. Romans 8:28 assures that He works all things together for our good. God’s definitive answers are always wise and perfectly timed.
Waiting on God in Prayer
Answered prayers rarely happen immediately according to our timeframe. More often God calls us to patiently persevere in prayer through seasons of waiting. How should we respond when we have prayed persistently and don’t see results?
- Continue bringing the request to God, trusting in His timing and wisdom (Luke 18:1-8).
- Look for spiritual growth or lessons to learn during the times of waiting.
- Offer prayers of praise to God for who He is, not just petitions about our circumstance or desired outcome.
- Consider if there are sins or anything hindering answers to our prayers that need confession and repentance.
- See times of waiting as opportunities to draw closer to the Lord in faith and seek Him above all else.
- Believe that God hears and is at work even when we can’t perceive it or understand His purposes (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Seasons of patiently enduring and believing without seeing results are meant to purify our motives, strengthen character, and deepen trust in God alone to answer in His perfect timing.
Trusting God’s Responses
God encourages His children to bring all requests to Him in prayer, even though His responses do not always align with our desires or timing. How should we respond when God answers differently than we prayed or hoped?
- Accept that His ways are higher and He desires our good (Isaiah 55:8-9).
- Offer prayers of gratitude for how God chose to work and answer.
- Avoid presumption and submitting our will over His.
- Trust that He hears and answers according to His wisdom and our ultimate good.
- Ask God to help us align our heart and desires with His purposes and will.
- Have faith that He works all things for good in His perfect time and way (Romans 8:28).
Even when we don’t understand God’s responses or timing, we can trust His infinite love, wisdom and power at work. His ways are always higher and best.
Cultivating Effective Prayer
Prayer is a precious gift whereby believers can intimately communicate with God. How can we pray in ways that align with biblical principles and open the way for God to actively respond?
- Spend time waiting on the Lord and listening for His leading more than just presenting requests.
- Pray with humility, honesty, and submission to God’s will.
- Confess any known sins and examine heart motives.
- Forgive others freely and pursue reconciliation if needed.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to pray through us and reveal any hindrances.
- Have faith in God’s power and good purposes at work, even when we don’t understand.
- Persevere in prayer rather than giving up when answers seem delayed.
- Voice gratitude and praise to God as much as petitions and requests.
Through believing, persistent, expectant prayer offered in Jesus’ name and aligned with God’s Word and will, we can joyfully receive His provisions and answers in His perfect timing.