First, we are to pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14). Second, we are to live in close fellowship with Christ, not allowing unconfessed sin in our lives (John 15:7; 1 John 1:9). Third, we are to pray with faith and trust (James 1:5–8). Fourth, we are to obey God’s Word, the Bible (Ps. 66:18; 1 Peter 3:12; 1 John 3:22). Fifth, we are to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name and attitude of Christ (Eph. 6:18; John 14:14).
In our walk with the Lord there are lessons, maturing, brokenness, and growth that must take place, before the Lord will grant us our request. Meeting the criteria for effective prayer in our lives does not mean that every prayer we make to God will be answered in the affirmative. The Lord always answers the prayers of His people, but His responses to our prayers will vary according to what He knows is best for us. Sometimes God says “yes” (1 Chron. 4:10; Ps. 21:2–5; 34:4; James 5:17–18), sometimes the Lord says “wait” (Rev. 6:10–11), and sometimes God says “no” (2 Cor. 12:7–10). In His love and wisdom, He may tell us to wait (Ps. 40:1–3). It may be that what we are asking God is not His will, and He says “no.” When our Lord was in the garden of Gethsemane, sweating great drops of blood, asking God to let the cup of the Cross be taken away, the answer to our Lord’s request was “no.” The Cross was the better option! The Lord Jesus submitted to the Father, saying “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Without the Cross, every member of fallen humanity would be lost in hell forever! Paul prayed three times that his thorn in the flesh be removed, and the Lord told Him “no.” The Lord, however, had a better plan. The thorn was better for Paul, and God’s grace was sufficient to help deal with it. These are vital lessons about the ways of God in the school of prayer.