This guide is meant to guide the Christian in the grace of praying. The rewards of a life of prayer are vast. For those who take hold of what the Bible speaks about prayer will find a remarkable blessedness in their life and in the lives of those around them. Prayer is often described in the Bible as incense that rises to God’s throne. As with all fragrances, they can be both pleasing and reviling. With over six billion people in the world, it is not surprising to find both- prayers that are bent on evil, bent on selfish motives, bent on things that God will not answer nor bless. But then there are prayers that move the heart of God. They delight God and he delights in the ones who pray them. Not just in what was said but how it was said, why it was said, when it was said. He is moved to act and to answer because they reflect exactly what He wants to accomplish. And so this short guide is meant to instruct us on what is “prayer that pleases God.” May this prove to be a blessing to whoever reads this.
Prayer that pleases God is…
If there is any prerequisite to praying it is found in Hebrews 11:6: “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.” Even before we begin praying, we must believe in the One to whom we are praying to. We must anchor our hopes on Him. But not only is belief necessary to enter into prayer, it must continue to the end. Every word must be uttered in faith to the unseen God. What resolve is there for those who take this step of faith? Is there any solace for those who liken prayer to crying into the darkness? Only this- that not a word has fallen to the ground. Every word is heard and received by God. Jesus said in Matthew 7, “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.” How sure is the reward for the one who prays in belief!
In God’s Will
John writes, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” These are then the boundaries for what we should be praying. The most ready answer as to why we did not receive what we asked for is because God didn’t want it! Conversely, the prayers that are answered are the ones that God wanted to happen. One may ask- What then is in God’s heart? The answer is simple. God’s word. God’s word is in God’s heart. Our best praying is done when we have our heads in our Bibles praying back to God what He has already promised from His Word. What a pleasure it is to prayerfully go through each verse of the Bible in prayer. How quickly will we mature in our faith and in our knowledge of what is wise praying!
In the Spirit
Paul instructs us on one of the roles of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” If good praying is done within God’s will, then according to this verse, praying in the Spirit drives us straight into that grace. What does it mean to “pray in the Spirit”? It means to be full of God’s Spirit in praying. The Spirit of God is in every believer. He will reveal the things in God’s heart to the one who prays. The immediate sin in their lives. The people around them that need prayer. The Spirit casts a higher vision of praying within our hearts. He enables us to pray for long hours without tiring. The Spirit of God helps us to pray in a way that pleases God!
At the heart of praying things within God’s will is living a life within God’s will. And for God’s will to be enacted in our lives, we must be surrendered. The book of Hebrews reveals that, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” What does it say as to why he was heard? It was because he was submitted before the Father. And so this should be the lesson when we come before God in prayer. Not that we have a checklist of things that we want to see God bless, but that we come before Him allowing Him to do as He pleases. Our prayers must be under the umbrella of Jesus’ prayer when he said upon going to the cross, “Not my will be done, but Your will be done.”
In Jesus’ Name
Why exactly do we do end our prayers with “In Jesus’ name, Amen”? Well of the many, here is one. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus instructs his disciples that, “All authority has been given to me.” God the Father has placed all things under the authority of Jesus Christ. He has the power to bring down any nation, to change any circumstance, to break down any wall, to raise up any persons, to move anything in nature, to do basically anything! It’s for this reason why Jesus also instructed his disciples, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” We must pray in Jesus’ name so that what we ask will be done!
The scriptures reveal that, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” While humans can fool each other by not meaning what they say, God is not fooled. He hears what is said and the spirit in which it was said. He picks up on sarcasm. He picks up on falsehood. And to the God of truth, sincere meaningful prayer is heard. How foolish is the man to put on a show before God! Let us come before Him as we are, and say as we want, and confess still even those things we do not mean, in hopes we might one day mean what we say. Our prayers must be sincere and single-minded.
What should we make a man who prays for a thing of utmost importance without the slightest emotion? To hear him pray for the salvation of another so casually, without being moved by the considerations of not being answered? It is silly indeed. Not only should we mean what we say, but we should feel what we mean. If the mind says one thing, the heart must follow suit. James revealed that Elijah, the great prophet of God, was just a man like us. Yet when he prayed, the skies withheld the rain for three years and half years! The only difference he illuminates is that “he prayed earnestly.” God hears not only the words spoken but feels the depth of necessity in the heart for which no words can express. Sometimes earnestness forces the words to come out differently. Its necessity provokes louder praying, or its importance silences the one to whispers. Sometimes tears accompany the words. Sometimes it plants the person’s face to the ground. Yet sometimes it doesn’t. After all, earnestness has more to do with what’s going on inside than what is going on outside.
God loves intimate prayer. At the heart of the God who made the universe is a tender passionate love. What a statement John made when he said, “God is love”! There’s nothing that drives us into the presence of God quicker than prayer that is teeming with love for God. Intimate prayer serves to obey the greatest command to love God with all our heart. Intimate prayer is rarely long and written. It’s the short-phrases that will do it. It’s the way we call His name. It’s the words that come from a longing, hungry heart. It’s the spontaneous expressions of love that birth from basking in the presence of God. How the human heart comes alive in passionate intimate prayer! It comes alive because it recognizes anew and afresh what it was meant to do- to walk in communion with the God of love.
And to be continued….