3. Prayer = talking to God.
It has been well said that God always answers prayer. Sometimes He says, "Yes." sometimes He says, "NO." Sometimes He says, "Wait for a minute," and a day to the Lord is a thousand years to us (2 Peter 3:8). That means that a ten year wait for us, is 14 minutes and 24 seconds to God, so ask in faith, but rest in peace-filled patience.
Surveys show that more than 90% of America prays daily. No doubt they pray for health, wealth, happiness, etc. They also pray when grandma gets sick, and when grandma doesn't get better (or dies), many end up disillusioned, and some end up bitter. This is because they don't understand what the Bible says about prayer. It teaches that unrepentant sin will stop God even hearing your prayer (Psalm 66:18). It teaches, among other things, that if we pray with doubt, we will not get an answer (James 1:6-7). It also teaches that we live in a sin-cursed world and that death entered as a result of sin (Romans 5:12).
So, here's how to be heard....
Pray with faith (Hebrews 11:6).
Pray with clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24:3-4).
Pray genuine heart-felt prayers, rather than vain repetitions (Matthew 6:7).
Make sure that you are praying to the God revealed in the Holy Scriptures (Exodus 20:3-6).
How do you "pray with faith?" If someone says to you, "You're a man of great faith in God," they may think that they are paying you a compliment. But they aren't -- the compliment is to God. For example if I said to you, "I'm a man of great faith in my doctor," it's actually the doctor I'm complimenting. If I have great faith in him, it means that I see him as being a man of integrity, a man of great ability -- that he is trustworthy. I give "glory" to the man through my faith in him. The Bible says that Abraham "did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform." (Romans 4:20-21). Abraham was a man of great faith in God. Remember, that is not a compliment to Abraham. He merely caught a glimpse of God's incredible ability, His impeccable integrity, and His wonderful faithfulness to keep every promise He makes. Abraham's faith gave "glory" to a faithful God.
As far as God is concerned, if you belong to Jesus, you are a VIP. You can boldly come before the throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16). You have access to the king, because you are the son or daughter of the king. When you were a child, did you have to grovel to get your needs met by your mom or dad? I hope not.
So, when you pray, don't say, "Oh God, I hope you will supply my needs." Instead say something like, "Father, thank you that you keep every promise You make. Your Word says that you will supply all my needs according to Your riches in glory, by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Therefore, I thank you that you will do this thing for my family. I ask this in the wonderful name of Jesus. Amen"
It was the great missionary, Hudson Taylor, who said, "The prayer power has never been tried to its full capacity. If we want to see Divine power wrought in the place of weakness, failure, and disappointment, let us answer God's standing challenge, 'Call unto Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things of which you knowest not of.'"
How do you get "clean hands and a pure heart?" Simply by confessing your sins to God, through Jesus Christ. His blood cleanses from all sin (1 John 1:7-9). When you confess them to God through Jesus, God will not only forgive your every sin, He promises to forget that sin (Hebrews 8:12). He will even justify you, on the grounds of the sacrifice of the Savior. That means He will count it as though you have never sinned in the first place. He will make you pure in His sight -- sinless. He will even "purge" your conscience, so that you will no longer have that sense of guilt that you sinned in the first place. That's what I mean "to be justified by faith." That's why you need to soak yourself in Holy Scripture -- to read the letters to the churches and see the wonderful things that God has done for us through the Cross of Calvary. If you don't bother to read the "will", you won't have any idea of what has been left for you.
How do you pray "genuine heart-felt prayers?" Simply by keeping yourself in the love of God. If the love of God is in you, you will never pray hypocritical, or selfish prayers. In fact, you won't have to pray selfish prayers, if you have a heart of love. When your prayer-life is pleasing to God, the Bible says that He will reward you openly (Matthew 6:6).
How do you know that you are praying to "the God revealed in Holy Scripture?" Study the Word. Don't accept the image of God portrayed by the world, even though it appeals to the natural mind. A loving, kind fatherly-figure, with no sense of justice or truth appeals to guilty sinners. Look to the thunderings and lightnings of Mount Sinai. Gaze at Jesus on the cross of Calvary -- hanging in unspeakable agony because of the Justice of a holy God. Such thoughts tend to banish idolatry.