The Secret to Prayer

Genesis 18:20, 23–24

Abraham approached him and said, “Will you sweep away both the righteous and the wicked? Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes?” (Genesis 18:23–24)

LIKE MANY PEOPLE, I approached prayer simplistically when I first learned how to pray. Ask God for what you want. If you ask Him correctly or impress Him sufficiently, He just might grant your request. Or not. Who really knows? But as I learned more about prayer, I discovered that much of my thinking had been clouded by misunderstandings prevalent in popular culture.

When you start from scratch and observe Scripture closely, prayer isn’t at all confusing. It’s profound but not complicated. James 4:2 puts it quite simply: “You do not have, because you do not ask” (ESV).

Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get the answer you’re looking for. Abraham went to the Lord with his petition to save Sodom and Gomorrah. God heard his request, and although He did not grant it the way Abraham had hoped, the conversation that took place between them deepened their relationship.

God wants to grant our requests, but we make it impossible for Him to do so when we ask for things that contradict His righteous, loving character. What would you do if your child asked for something that would cause him or her harm? Love for your child would demand that you deny the request.

We need to continually seek Him to ensure that our petitions and our motives are in line with His will. Then, whether He says yes, no, or wait, our prayers will draw us ever closer to Him.

 

REFLECT

What have you been petitioning God about for some time? Take a moment to evaluate your request and your motives. Is God saying yes, no, or wait?

You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

JAMES 4:3, NASB

Content taken from FAITH FOR THE JOURNEY , by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 2014. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.

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Accuracy, clarity, and practicality all describe the Bible-teaching ministry of Charles R. Swindoll. Chuck is the chairman of the board at Insight for Living and the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. Chuck also serves as the senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where he is able to do what he loves most—teach the Bible to willing hearts. His focus on practical Bible application has been heard on the Insight for Living radio broadcast since 1979.