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What are the keys to successful prayer?

Did Jesus really say that if we asked for ‘anything’ in His name, He would do it?

‘You may ask Me for anything in My name and I will do it’ (John 14:14).

It is very easy to misquote Jesus, to take His words out of context and without any reference to the rest of Scripture. If we do this, we are in danger of trying to make a claim on a promise that Jesus never made!

Here are some keys to understanding prayer. When Jesus told us to ask for anything ‘in His name’ that means asking for things for His glory and according to His will. John knew this principle for he wrote, ‘This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us,’ (1 John 5:14).

Our first key to answered prayer is to know that what we are asking for must be in His will. So all prayers that are made to satisfy our flesh, our foolish desires and lusts are not in His will – I guess that means we won’t get that £300,000 car after all! Therefore, is our praying for His glory and in His will?

Jesus taught that our prayers should be specific, not constant babblings, but direct. Also He taught that our hearts must be right before Him – we must forgive everyone and walk in love. Finally He told us not to aim our prayers at an audience (Matthew 6:5-14).

‘When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins,’ (Mark 11:25).

James taught that we must always pray without doubting (James 1:6), he also taught that we must live righteous lives, because ‘the prayer of a righteous man’ is powerful (James 5:16).

Peter taught that we must treat our families well if we expect answers to prayer; he specifically noted that husbands should respect and be considerate to their wives, otherwise their prayers ‘would be hindered’ (1 Peter 3:7).

Prayer is powerful, but prayer should be directed towards a specific goal, within the set boundaries of Scripture. But don’t misunderstand - prayer is not the key to open the heavenly ATM machine, but it should be the expression of a deep and abiding relationship with God.

Finally we should pray in the Holy Spirit (Jude 1:20) and when we are lost for words, the Holy Spirit will guide us in prayer.

‘We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will’ (Romans 8:26-27.)

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