PRAYERS OF REQUEST
Advice on how to ask God for help in our lives
through the practise of prayer.
is undoubtedly one of the ‘foundation
blocks’ of Christian faith. As in any relationship, communication is a must.
Time should be
set aside on a regular basis to talk with God. Admittedly, this may
feel unusual at
first. Obviously, we
cannot initially be sure that we are not just talking to ourselves. We
have to start
somewhere though: initiating that conversation through faith. Remember
millions have successfully gone before you. You can relax a bit in that
To the experienced Christian,
prayer has many forms: requests for
help for ourselves and importantly for others in need; thanks for what
received; praising and worshiping the Lord; just plain enjoying his
loving company. This article is clearly about prayers of request, but the article, “Mature prayer” follows this one and gets into the deeper side of prayer and its potential for stronger faith. For a quick overview of the many other faith and belief building options, that are actually available to us, please see the article, “How to believe in God”.
But getting back to the point, we
can use prayers of request in the full spectrum of our lives. For example, prayers
help can be applied to our spiritual direction, challenges
to our faith, personal
relationships, family conflicts, health issues, education
and work issues,
addictions and bad habits, financial necessities,
Simply put, God’s power can be applied to almost any difficulty
dilemma we may face in life ... especially if we ask for it! However, bear
in mind it is much more
likely that God will
assist within our general day-to-day lives and related
rather than perform miracles or the like. And I am saying that we
will not get everything we ask for. (I will elaborate on these
Of course, if prayers are not successful then our faith may be weakened. So, it is at least useful to have some
knowledge, based on sound scriptural understanding, before
embarking on the practise.
Somewhere, in my early years of faith, I came across the still highly regarded book, “Too busy not to pray” written by Bill Hybels. It certainly assisted me at the time with my ‘beginner’
prayer life. Thirty years on, my big
picture on prayer methods has shifted in its priorities, but I still commend the book to anyone wanting a successful prayer life.
2. ASKING GOD FOR ASSISTANCE
I can say with complete confidence that prayers definitely do positively influence outcomes of life when we utilise them appropriately. I
have seen some incredible stuff come off through prayer during my
thirty plus years of Christian faith, trust me. The potential power of prayers of request, and
do indeed provide strong proof of God’s presence in our lives.
Open your mind to the likelihood that God awaits your requests
assistance – both for yourself and for others – and I do not believe you will be disappointed in the long term. From the New
So I say to you: Ask and it shall be
given to you;
you will find;
the door will be opened to you.
everyone who asks receives;
him who knocks, the door will be opened.
You do not have, because you do not ask
Do not be anxious about anything,
everything, by prayer and petition,
thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
“ask and you shall
receive” is the
Bible’s promise (although, ‘conditions apply’ as I
explain later). AND God will, if the conditions are right, grant
answers to our
prayers. Its power will, after sufficient evidence is
clearly elevate it above sheer luck.
it sounds a bit selfish to use faith to gain assistance from
ourselves in our day-to-day lives through prayers of request, it has
positive results. Firstly,
allows God to
prove his unconditional love for us, and I can only assume that he
greatly enjoys doing so. As I often say too, he is a God of action. He can
make life a lot easier than
be as a result. Secondly, by proving his presence in our lives it
belief and faith to grow.
I have tried in the balance of this article to assist you, the reader, to gain a basic scriptural understanding of prayer itself, as mentioned in the intro. I do recommend that you read all
that I have
written here on the topic, before putting it to use. This will ensure
that you do not take any of the Bible-based guidance out of
context, which might negatively impact your results.
3. ADVICE FOR PRAYER
note too that the Heading above does not contain the words “only”
No one can pretend to provide exact
guidelines on what God actually expects from us during prayer in any particular, let alone all,
circumstances. He is always there ready to lovingly listen to each one of us; to care for us. I
have merely presented advice here based on related Biblical verses, my
experiences and the experiences of other Christians with whom I
have discussed prayer. I would request that you read on in that
context. So, please do read on.
is certainly useful, before commencing prayers of request
to get into the best mood possible: relax and open yourself to the situation. A
quiet place to pray is always an
advantage. Of course this is not always possible, particularly
if praying ‘on
We should next set our mind on God’s
greatness. We do this for three reasons. Firstly, it is right to acknowledge the
omnipotent power of the God we are praying to. Secondly, it lessens our mindset
on our perceived needs. Finally, it increases the power of our prayer when we
accept his greatness.
It is normal for many of us
Christians to pray to God
the Father: “Our
Father in heaven”, “Heavenly
Father” or even “Father God”. An explanation of Christianity’s “Holy Trinity” is presented in the article of that name. “God the Father” is explained there, as is “Jesus the Son of God” and the “Holy Spirit”. Remember though, that Christians only believe in one God, just as Jews and Muslims do.
how do we ask things of God? Well, we keep it simple. We just ask for what is needed. There’s
no need to start with, “If you
mind ...” etc. There’s
no need either to choose every single word carefully. God knows
exactly what we want before we say it, of course, but he needs to hear
ask. That way he can make it clear, through answered prayers, that he
is present in our lives and that he really does love us.
when praying, stronger faith means a greater chance
of success. “Faith” here simply equals “confidence in God and his ability” when praying.
As Jesus himself said, “I tell you the truth, if anyone
says to this mountain, ‘Go
throw yourself into the sea,’
and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will
happen, it will be done for him.”
[Mark 11:23] That is a pretty clear statement about faith-filled
our mind’s eye, as we pray, we should endeavour to see
the positive outcome of our request. Again in relation to our faith in the power of prayer, in Jesus’
own words, “... believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
In effect we are opening the situation in
question completely to God’s boundless power through our prayer; faithfully trusting
assist! Of course this advice is to be understood in the context of
other Bible based guidance that follows in this sub section of the article.
Now, beginner Christians may not be able to muster the level of
faith that experienced Christians should possess, but I am sure that
God takes that into account.
If the issue being prayed for is important
enough in your
life, then it is also a good idea to pray for it regularly as well. Even Jesus himself was known to do so (Matthew 26:43).
However, beware of
an unhealthy obsession or preoccupation
with the object of prayer that can lead to poor results. In effect the
of prayer then becomes a ‘false
is, it is of greater importance to us than the God on whom we are
So, let’s summarise the suggested method to this point. Firstly, a balance of confidence in
receiving a successful answer to the prayer (i.e. trusting in God’s powerful ability and readiness), together with a lack
results, is ideal. Again in the context of other guidance that follows in this article, we are told that no request is too huge for God to
answer (e.g. Jesus’ example of ‘moving mountains’). As I have already indicated it pays to concentrate on
that advice, just before a prayer of request. Simply pray with
expectation of an answer, then switch your mind off the subject leaving
it to God alone to follow through.
An additional way of increasing the power
of prayer is through ‘group
prayer’. Two or
more people constitutes a group, and the more involved the better. One
person leads with
Verbal support or affirmation from other participant/s is
also desirable as it amplifies faith and confidence in the process,
i.e. it adds greater power.
(Prayers in church services fit into this category of course.) Also, to my
mind, group prayer works well because God can, by answering these
prayers, touch the hearts of a whole bunch of people and
demonstrate that he is indeed lovingly present within each of their lives.
Most Christians conclude their prayers
of request with the words, “In
Jesus’ name, Amen”. Why add the words, "In Jesus’ name"? Well, he suggested we make our requests that way in John 15:16 (in the Bible’s New Testament). And he included the words, “ ... No one comes to the Father except through me ..." in John 14:6. Finally, the word, “Amen” means something like, “May it happen”
or “I really mean this”.
Let me please also say that my suggested
always have to be in
place to ensure the success of prayers. (We do have a loving
after all.) For example, a personal request for inner strength
physical, emotional or spiritual pain always has a high chance of
success no matter how we ask for it.
4. PRAYERS THAT MAY FAIL
as there are suggested methods, attitudes etc to get better results with
prayer, in the Bible, there are also conditions that work against success in our
prayer lives. It is a fact that God will
answer all our prayers. Despite
the Bible’s broad promise
on answers to prayers, logically, we will not
get everything we
for. There will be times when we want something badly and
God just cannot or won’t
grant us an answer!
For example, like
a good parent, God won’t give
us something that is not in our best interest or will negatively impact
others. Not many parents for
example would give their child a dangerous gift, despite all the
Unfortunately, we cannot share God’s view of life. Although he is
certainly present within reality and our lives, he can see beyond the
restraints of time and space in which we exist. Again, in
normally come to understand why prayers have not been answered, or not
answered in an expected manner (explained below). A good many of us
believers are capable of
analytical thought, so don’t think that a strong element of
‘blind faith’ or justifying any
outcome is a
prerequisite for being a believer. A lot of atheists have this view I
am sure, but it is in error.
It is not unusual for us to bring the behaviour of other people to the Lord in prayer, asking
him to change them as such. There are many situations that encourage us
thinking to do so: emotional pain in our close relationships; bullying,
harassment or social torment at the hands of others etc. And it always wise
to bring these problems to God, hoping he can orchestrate an
answer for us. But at times our prayers, when dealing with
interpersonal problems, revolve around expecting God to actually change
someone else for
he cannot be expected to overrule anybody’s
free will and alter their judgement, behaviour or
attitudes etc, as such (just as he won’t do it to you or me). They must learn lessons for
themselves in life and thereby want to change first. Of course, God will attempt to highlight the error of their ways to
them. This is discussed in the article,“His guiding hand”. What can we do in those circumstances then? Well, we may need to discuss the
issue with a competent counsellor, friend or close family member. God
will certainly support us too, ‘make no bones about it’! He is always there in our hard times to do so, and he can lift us from the mire we may find ourselves in.
do not think that
God will always overrule
the laws of
nature that he designed either, every time you ask it of him. God
does not normally dabble around
with these laws. Although he underpins the
laws of cause and effect, for example, he lets them run their course. Natural disasters will happen. People will
suffer from ill health –
possibly our loved ones which can include the most vulnerable:
young and the old. The rolling dice of chance can bring accidents and
illness resulting in death to any of us on this day or any other.
I am not
suggesting here that we should not pray in dire circumstances, e.g. when a
dear one is diagnosed with a potentially terminal disease. We do have to try, and try
hard, with serious prayer in these circumstances. I will say
that prayers like this are best applied in church with prayer groups or
the whole congregation.
Look ... miracles still do happen! I am confident to write that because (and as weird as it may look to you) I have
witnessed them: see my examples in the “Gifts of the Spirit”. But! But! It
is unusual for them to occur
regularly. Unfortunately, that is not what life is all about. Everyone
must die sooner or later, and we cannot expect that to happen
‘healthy old age’, without ever having suffered a day of
ill health or pain beforehand. If every prayer to prolong life was
answered there would soon be no room on our planet for the newborn.
discussed the issues of suffering
and God’s role within them, more fully in an article of
Essentially, we must accept that
emotional and physical suffering, and eventually death, are
inevitable in life. And again, of course, God can
assist us during these hard times.
The point here is that the ‘downs’ of life are much easier to cope with if we are
practising Christians. I do write that from experience.
and greed may
to be barriers to
receiving answers to prayers. We really need to examine the
motives behind prayers that have not been answered. As an obvious
“Make me rich and
famous” have little chance of success. Asking to receive
something at the
expense of someone else is similarly too selfish as a rule. It is also
unlikely that God will just send us riches that can be squandered
on our material wish lists (the latest television set,
abroad etc). From the New Testament:
When you ask, you do not receive,
you ask with wrong motives,
may spend what you get on your pleasures.
It also appears that (as with God cutting us adrift temporarily when we disobey
wrongfully) he may not assist as strongly with answered prayers if we willfully
follow a way of life that we know he forbids (i.e. sinful).
For the eyes of the Lord are on the
ears are attentive to his prayer,
face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
inappropriate behaviour should be clear to us, and he
will make sure of that! This does not mean that he loves us any the
less. It is just that if we choose to live a life that offends him, then
he may use the tools that are available (e.g. reducing his
care and support within our lives) to coerce us back to a life that is more
rewarding anyway. And yes, I speak from experience here.
I do not believe, even then, that he cuts anyone
completely adrift in life. If
you know in your heart that ‘sin’ is the reason for your unanswered prayers,
then it may be time to rethink your life. Probably, like me, you will work out that
your failures to God, changing your ways, then again moving forward in
him is the
best decision. God
knows our weaknesses and I would guess is well pleased if we at least
try to change. If we fail again when tempted etc, he expects us to
try yet again to beat it. With time and practice we get better at
staying on track in life.
Another issue with sin, when it is done willfully by us
(i.e. we know better), is that it distances us from God within our own
thinking. In this regard it certainly weakens the strength of any
prayers that we make, even if we do feel it is appropriate to pray to him at all in view of our wrongdoing.
Enough said on sin within this article
can read the articles, “Christianity
explained” and “Christian rules, laws and commandments”
to get a better understanding of sin and its effect on life,
death and our relationship with God.
5. RECOGNISING ANSWERED PRAYERS
Answers to prayers are not always instantaneous
therefore be missed when they do occur. Indeed, answers for any
prayers, particularly those for inner strength, can be
overlooked. As an example, God has
been particularly gracious with me
when I have asked for help with handling stressful interpersonal
conversations (e.g. work colleagues, friends and family). I have often
thought after those types of events, “Wow, I handled that better than I expected!”
Then, it would occur to me that I had prayed about them earlier.
journals are useful to
discussions with God, and are a great idea for beginner Christians. Prayer requests should firstly be ‘stated and
dated’. Then we subsequently use these
‘journals’ to log God’s
eventual response. Looking back occasionally over past
prayers is necessary if we are to fully understand what God has done in
to our requests.
importantly too, we must also look closely for unexpected or alternative
answers to our prayers. These may only become noticeable through the
passing of time, if we do actually follow up on prayers. We come to more easily
realise why prayers have been answered in unexpected ways as we
mature in our thinking and knowledge over time. Again, this has nothing to do with
wishful thinking, or desperately trying to explain away unanswered
is also important, once again as in
any relationship, to offer thanks
God when requests are answered.
6. RESPONDING TO UNANSWERED PRAYERS
Let’s now finally examine reasons for prayers
going unanswered for lengthy periods, and how to respond.
Firstly, be aware that God
most definitely knows the best time to answer prayers. So it may be the
case that a prayer has not been answered because the time is
A major piece of advice is: when things
are not working out on an issue
that is ‘big time’ in our lives, despite our continued prayers
and waiting in vain, then it
is appropriate to accept that in regard to those prayers a simple
answer is just not possible.
where prayer is just not working, what we need to do is to sacrifice
our concerns, as it were, and hand over the whole issue to the Lord in
faith and trust. At ‘the
end of the day’, there is no value in stressing ourselves
unduly over any issue.
Sure, what I am
talking about here is a ‘place’ of deep faith and
also accepting just what
power we all have at our disposal as a result. Again, I am
talking about ‘trusting
in God’. If you can get your mind
to this place, and just let go, then God will
truly bring about the best possible overall option for all concerned.
Essentially, what is called for here is faith and
patience. Remember again though that this does not mean everyone is going to get everything they want.
I will go out on a limb and state that when you
actually do look back on the situation ‘after
the dust has settled’, you will know that you have not
been let down by our loving
This prayer of faith and trust
also relates to the article, “His helping hand”.
Although it may feel risky to just leave these things up to God
rather than ask for (or expect) specific outcomes, God is obviously
in a position where he knows better than us what is best for
all concerned in the long run.
Continue to the next article, “Mature prayer”.