Here’s an encouraging exercise to do for a few days. Work your way through the following six sets of conditional prayer promises given by Jesus. Don’t get hung up on the conditions; they’re important but not impossible and the prayer life described is powerful:
Ask in Jesus’ name
Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14, see also John 16:23-24; 1 John 5:14-15)
Jesus promised that God would answer our prayers on one condition—that we pray in His name. That condition is one potential reason for unanswered prayer. Praying in Jesus’ name means requesting things that are consistent with His character and ways; it means praying the will of God. Jesus’ desires are simply that the Father receive glory, His name be hallowed, and His kingdom come.1
Praying in Jesus’ name is like having a huge pre-approved budget to live on; whatever we ask in His name He will answer.
Bow to the Father
When you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. (Matt. 6:7-8)
Jesus did not prohibit repetition per se, after all one parable encouraged perseverance in prayer. Rather, Jesus said that meaningless repetition is unnecessary in the presence of a loving heavenly Father who knows what we need. He loves to give us good things and has no interest in prayer performances.
So, if God knows our needs, why pray? Part of the answer is humility.2 Prayer is an admission of dependence on God and flourishes with our childlikeness. Healthy children never think twice about running to their father with raw requests knowing they will never be rejected even if the wise father steers them to higher goals. In humility, we are willing to submit to God and His will.3
Obey Jesus’ commands
Whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. (1 John 3:22-23)
Jesus cut through the multitudinous commandments to two broad bedrocks—love God and love your neighbor. In his letter, John reworded them into the third of our prayer promises—believe in Jesus and love one another. It connects with a fourth promise:
Dwell with God
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)
When we dwell or abide with the Lord and His words are inside us then He grants whatever we ask. God desires close relationship with us; He wants to live in our heart and for us to know His will so deeply that it oozes out of us.
Jesus highlighted the power of that intimacy when He taught us to pray with no concern about an audience. Father who sees in secret will reward prayer that focuses on Him.4 In that sense, private prayer is the basis for spiritual life for which public religion is no substitute.
In case we become flippant about our relationship with God, there is a qualifier: Psalm 25:14 says the secret intimacy of the Lord is for those who revere Him, so we need to pursue righteousness.5
Endurance in prayer
Luke 18:1-8 is Jesus’ parable of the unrighteous judge. It teaches us that God will be quick to bring justice since unlike the unrighteous judge, God does have an interest in His chosen people. It pays to persevere in prayer. Here’s what Jesus concluded:
Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:6-8)
Another reason to endure in prayer is that we learn God’s will more clearly. Spiritual life and growth are not like buying fast food at McDonalds, they are more like the refining of ore—a process that requires energy and time.
Jesus spoke of the importance of faith for effective prayer after His miracle with a fig tree:
Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive. (Matt. 21:21-22, see also James 5:15)
Faith finds expression in focused and wholehearted prayer that is not afraid to ask specific things.6
Faith is foundational to all six prayer promises. But another profound theme unites them—prayer is rooted in relationship with God and each other. The conditions that the prayer promises depend on are about relationship. Now, what’s so difficult about that? When we are confident that our heavenly Father loves us deeply and gladly provides the very best for His children, when we abide in relationship with Him, and when our prayers focus on His will, then we will experience His answers.
Who do you know who would benefit from devotional pieces like this? Please share Bible Maturity with them.