Or why approaching prayer with the right attitude is important if we want to see them answered…
It has been said that in prayer it is always our attitude that determines our altitude! In other words, we will never rise higher than our understanding of God’s willingness to bless us. Prayer which breaks into God’s presence and grabs his attention is prayer with an expectant attitude.
Those who come to God with little expectation of his blessing are defeated before they even start. A person who doesn’t believe that God loves them, wants to bless them and answer their prayers, does not know his will for them. Effective prayer flows from a living relationship with God and an understanding that his desire is to bless us. Prayer is personal, not mechanical. It is relational, not functional. It is a two-way conversation between a needy child and their generous, loving, all-powerful parent. Understanding this will radically change our perspective of prayer. But with this thought in mind, we must remember that prayer is not some selfish exercise in wish fulfilment.
God always wants to hear us and answer us with provision for our needs.
God always wants to hear us and answer us with provision for our needs. He is also prepared to fulfil the desires of our heart. But we must not treat him like a divine slot machine or a ‘Father Christmas’ type of God to whom we come with our shopping list. Jesus never said, “Come to me and tell me all your wants…” he instructed us to focus on God’s will and the priorities of his kingdom. When we do that, God is committed to providing for our needs. Prayer has much more to do with asking our Father to provide us with everything we need to carry out his will than it is about getting what we want.
Do you know who you are praying to?
Because effective prayer flows out of understanding God’s character and his heart towards us, it is vital that we really know him. This seems obvious, but we have to ask ourselves honestly: how well do we know God? So much false information about him has been spread about over the years that even the most balanced, biblically-aware of believers may have picked up a few wrong ideas.
One of the devil’s key strategies is to slander God’s character and integrity and coerce us into questioning him.
Satan’s campaign of lying and deceit is one of the main reasons why so many people pray from a position of doubt rather than faith and expectancy. When the apostle Paul wrote, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but are mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5), he revealed that it is the devil’s misinformation campaign that seeks to confuse us and prevent us from simply knowing God. Because the devil has been a liar from the beginning of time, false attitudes, ungodly beliefs and lies are deeply rooted in men and women.
The Lord who protects The devil’s most successful lie is that God does not really love us or have our best interests at heart. This was the basis of his argument when he launched his first attack against mankind, seeking to deceive Eve in the Garden of Eden.
We read in Genesis chapter three how Satan tried to convince Eve (and has been trying to convince us ever since) that God is cold, loveless and remote. He would like us to believe that we are the last person on earth in whom God would ever be interested. He would like us to agree with his suggestion that God is harsh and restrictive, someone who just wants to prevent us from doing things and having fun. Unfortunately, our experience as fallen human beings often appears to bear this out. Because such ungodly ideas are ingrained in our thinking we often seem to gravitate towards those things which are forbidden by God and we feel restricted when he denies something to us. We forget that God has given us many better things to enjoy!
Eve’s response to the serpent was, “We can eat of all the trees except the one in the middle. If we eat from that one, we’ll die.” “No you won’t!” the devil countered. “God doesn’t want you to eat that fruit because he doesn’t want you to become like him. God won’t let you have something good!”
This was a terrible lie and a dreadful slur on God’s character when, in fact, God was protecting men and women from something that would devastate them. Eating the fruit meant that humanity experienced evil and lost its innocence. The act of eating the forbidden fruit opened the door to all the suffering and misery which has ever been known in the world.
We must never forget this truth: God is good! He gives good gifts to his children and he only withholds from us that which is harmful.
The Lord who is trustworthy The devil’s second lie is to contend that it is God who is the liar and that his Word is untrustworthy. In Genesis 3:4 the devil directly contradicts what God has said, “You will surely not die …” This is even worse than the first lie! The devil doesn’t just throw doubt on God’s Word, he flatly denies it. Every thought and word which causes us to doubt or disbelieve God’s Word comes from the devil. His greatest goal is to smear God’s integrity and he tries to achieve this by attacking God’s Word. The devil said to Eve, in effect, “Don’t believe God! He’s lying to you. You won’t die.” It is a tragedy that men and women everywhere have believed this same lie ever since. People are indifferent to God today to the extent that they think they can safely ignore him. But ultimately we cannot ignore God and we cannot ignore his Word. What God says does come to pass. What he promises is fulfilled. All our actions have consequences and we will reap either good things or bad things from them depending on how we live our lives (see Galatians 6:7).
What God says comes to pass. What he promises is fulfilled.
This is also the reason why our life of faith is so important and why our praying should constitute much more than presenting selfish requests to God.
A lifestyle of prayer Prayer was never intended as an afterthought to the Christian life or something we do only when we are in trouble or great need. Prayer is a lifestyle – an ongoing, real time, interactive conversation with our Father in Heaven that covers every aspect of our lives. Prayer is instrumental in producing right living which flows from right thinking. Our heart attitudes shape us as a person; they affect what we think, how we act, the choices we make. Most importantly, they determine how we pray. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Many years ago, I was seeking God for something that was really important to me. At that time, I’d seen God touch others through me in ministry and yet I still didn’t truly know God’s love for me personally. Because of this, I wasn’t sure whether God would answer my prayers. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit spoke to me in my mind and said, “You don’t really believe that I love you, do you?” It was true, I was convinced that God loved other people and wanted to bless them, but I wasn’t certain about his love for me, and this heart attitude was spoiling my praying.
Are you like this? Do you think that God is more keen to bless other people than he is to pour his goodness into your life? Do you find it easier to believe that God loves someone else, than to grasp the fact that he deeply loves you? Allow the Holy Spirit to touch your heart and minister God’s love to you – his personal, intimate love, just for you. This is God’s desire.
God really does love you We may ask ourselves, “Does God really love me?” but a better question would be to ask, “Why would God not love me?” because the Bible teaches us that God is love. In other words, God doesn’t just “love” – He is love. God is the personification of love – it is an inextricable part of his nature – and his love for us is everlasting and infinite.
The ultimate expression of God’s love for us was sacrificing his own Son to die for our sins. In this he demolished the barrier between us and him and nothing can re-erect it.
God’s love is not abstract, it is real, tangible and focused upon us. God has fixed his love firmly upon us, his children, and nothing can ever change that. God never does anything in half measures, so we can be certain that he loves us fully and completely with every bit of his being. The ultimate expression of his love for us was sacrificing his own Son to die for our sins. In Christ he has given us everything we could possibly need (Romans 5:6-8).
God is holy. He cannot tolerate sin and hates it completely. Because of our sin we were at odds with God and separated from him. But at the cross, Christ dealt once and for all with the sin and condemnation that plagues our lives. When we put our life into his hands, we are set free. “There is now therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
This means that God has demolished the barrier between us and him and nothing can re-erect it. Those who put their trust in Jesus are now the beneficiaries of God’s love. His love is ours and nothing will ever separate us from him again. Whatever our circumstances and failings, whatever our shortcomings and problems, God still loves us and we need never doubt it. God always has our best interests at heart. Whenever he thinks of us, his thoughts are full of love. Every time he touches us, it is a touch of love. All his words and actions to us are packed with love.
God is good, the devil is bad! This truth can lead us to only one conclusion – one which we must hold on to at all times – God is very good and the devil is very bad! This may not be much of a revelation, but, to what extent do we really believe it? Is this the absolute and fundamental conviction of your heart? And if you believe it, what difference does it make to your praying, to your life?
The truth that God is good towards us, all the time, must dwell in our hearts to the extent that it constantly governs our outlook and attitudes. God is always good. He wills good, not evil. He promises good, not evil. He does good, not evil. This is the attitude with which we can come to him in prayer. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)
Whenever anything bad happens in the world, people immediately cry, “If there was a God, he wouldn’t let this happen!” This is a tragic misdirection of our frustration because the Bible is clear about the fact that God is not responsible for evil. He didn’t create it and he didn’t bring it into the world. In fact, he sent Jesus to undo it. God hates evil and he wants to put an end to it.
The word “destroy” means “to untie” or “unloose”. In other words, Jesus came to undo what the devil had done. He came from God to do good and to break the devil’s grip on your life, to break it forever. As Luke wrote in the book of Acts, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38)
Satan is the enemy and the destroyer. He is the author of evil. But God’s will for us is good. He never brings bad things upon us – that is the devil’s work. God wants to remove and undo the works of the enemy.
Don’t doubt God’s goodness Never let doubt creep into your praying. The Bible warns us against having what it refers to as a “doubleminded” attitude. The apostle James, who has a blunt, direct style of teaching, tells us that we won’t receive any answers to our prayers if we do, “Let him ask in faith, with no doubting … For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord: he is a double-minded man.” (James 1:6-8)
God gives us good gifts, promises us good things, and keeps every promise that he has made to us in his Word.
Remember, God is 100% good, 100% of the time. He doesn’t bring us evil, and he doesn’t send us affliction or sickness. Instead, he gives us good gifts, promises us good things, and keeps every promise that he has made to us in his Word. He sent Jesus to satisfy his holiness and reveal his love, and because of that we have full and free access to his presence. We are in the position where God can bless us abundantly because he has smashed every barrier between us and him and swept all the pieces away.
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These are the kinds of heart attitudes which get God’s attention. When we approach him, full of these heartfelt convictions, we can pray with absolute confidence and God will surely answer us.