A Key To Getting Answers To Prayers!


April 1999

Dear Ministry Friends,

The Bible gives us many instructions and insights on how to pray and what kind of prayers are effective. There are too many variables and keys to effective prayer to cover adequately in the space of this newsletter. But the number one hindrance to answered prayer, I believe, is that many Christians are praying in their own name without realizing it (even though they close their prayers saying "in the name of Jesus").

Now you might be thinking, "I've never heard anyone ask God for something and end by saying... in the name of Sam (or Jane)." I haven't either. But 1st Samuel 16:7 says, "The Lord looks at the heart." So while we are verbalizing our prayers to God — what we are thinking about, what is really going on inside of us, is what God is seeing and perceiving.

Most all of us have been taught to tack on the ending "in the name of Jesus" religiously when we end our prayers. That is good. I do that and I have taught my own children to pray that way. The phrase "in Jesus' name" is intended to communicate that we are internally trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus to pay for needs to be met that we are presenting to God. I don't personally know anyone who disagrees with that theologically.

But what we are internally thinking of and conscious of as we pray reflects much about what we are truly trusting in for our answers to prayer. For example, Jane might pray for some need while thinking about how poor her spiritual performance has been. She might be thinking about how little she prays or reads in her Bible, or how inconsistent her tithing has been, or how seldom she has witnessed to someone about salvation. If these thoughts produce feelings that God doesn't have much reason to answer her prayers, then she has been praying in her own name (her own worthiness) — even if she remembers to tack on "in Jesus' name."

We need to always remember that it was not our performance — good or bad — that enabled us to be saved. It was God's grace. GRACE has been defined as God's Riches At Christ's Expense. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."

And by the same principle, it is not our good performance that causes our prayers to be answered. Galatians 3:3 says, "Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" So we get salvation — and our prayers answered — because Jesus paid for it. That's why we are supposed to end our prayers "in Jesus' name." That should indicate our trust in Jesus only.

This is a difficult concept in our American culture. So much of what we get in our society is based on how we perform — and it should be that way with report cards, raises on the job, etc. But when it comes to our relationship with an awesome, perfect, holy God — all of us have sinned and failed to be perfect. That's why every person needs Jesus as Savior! All of us have performance that falls far short of God's standard of perfection, and that includes after we have been saved.

But you might be thinking that God shifts over to evaluating our performance after salvation to decide whether or not we merit answers to our prayers. That is a common trap. 1st John 1:8 was written to Christians and it says, " If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Every Christian has still failed to perform well enough to meet God's standard of being perfect. And God doesn't compare the relative performance of all Christians and somehow answer the prayers of the highest achievers (see 2nd Corinthians 10:12).

So that brings us to an example of someone who has had very good spiritual performance. Let's say that Sam has been tithing for years, reads through his Bible regularly, prays every day, and witnesses often. When he prays, he can be tempted to quietly think, "I feel God will answer this prayer because I have really been performing well." In reality, God sees Sam's heart and knows he is really trusting in Sam's performance — not Jesus' performance — as the basis for getting his prayers answered. This is the essence of who's name a person is praying in. Sam is really presenting his needs to God in the name of Sam (his own worthiness and performance).

Just saying "in Jesus' name" at the end of our requests is not like sprinkling "Tinkerbell magic dust" on our prayers which will cause everything to happen. If it was, we would all have a perfect record for answered prayers — because most all Christians close their prayers "in Jesus' name."

Many Christians incorrectly conclude that God is somehow "sovereignly" choosing to ignore their prayers when they don't get answers. This just enhances feelings that our less-than-perfect spiritual performance is the reason many prayers have not been answered. But this is especially easy to disprove when we ask for something that is clearly God's will (see 1st John 5:14-15). In fact, the word "sovereign" is not used even once in the New Testament in the King James or New King James translations.

So then, what is God looking for when we pray (if he is not looking at our performance)? The answer is faith. And specifically, faith in what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. When we know, remember, and trust in the sacrifice of Jesus, then God will answer our prayer - because Jesus deserves it being answered. That is why there is so much emphasis in the New Testament on faith and grace. To re-phrase Ephesians 2:8, "by grace are our prayers answered through faith."

Faith is the goal — but it is hard to have faith when a person is thinking about how poor their spiritual performance has been (see 1st John 3:21). So good performance can be a major help in getting answers to prayer. But not if the person is internally believing that he deserves answers based on his own good performance. "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." (Isaiah 64:6).

I cover these concepts in a much more complete way in the tape "Foundation to Answered Prayer."  Perhaps you know someone who has been struggling in their prayer life that could be helped by a thorough teaching on this topic. What would it be worth to the average Christian to have a major improvement in the effectiveness of his or her prayer life?

We are out of space for now. Thanks again for your interest in our ministry. Write us this month with any prayer needs that you have and we will agree in prayer. You are important to us.

For better prayer,

Dale Leander

P.S. - You might want my complete six tape teaching series on prayer that has more truths which can really help a believer's prayer life. And we greatly appreciate your support of our ministry.


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