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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
2:8, "by grace are our prayers answered through
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
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
For better prayer,
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