Part 3: Powerful, Effective Prayer {Asking for the 'Right' Things}

My dad was the king of not giving me a straight, simple answer about life matters. When I would ask him what he thought I should do in or about a given situation, he would smile, like he was holding onto a secret, and then say, what does the Word of God say? Or he would point a question back at me. (Unless it was about basketball, in which case he was happy to share his expert opinions whether or not I, any of my teammates, or the men's team, or the coaches asked.)

Out of frustration I would usually say something like, I don't know, just tell me what to do! To which he would say, Turn to....  or ask me another question. It was downright maddening.

But today I am thankful because today my dad isn't here. He hasn't been for just over 7 years. And though there have been countless times I wish I could've sought his opinion, advice, perspective, or simply be in his presence, I still have full access to the One my dad was always redirecting me to. 

When he told me, "Steph, you need to ask what it means to be a righteous person," I definitely thought it would be easier for him to just tell me the answer. I tried, but he wouldn't. He made me consult the Word and seek God for myself.  

My dad's question that day started me on a journey that completely transformed what I ask God for. 

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16)

With only a slight bit of grumbling, off I went to see for myself. As I studied the Word, I found this about the righteous: 

“The righteous man” (dikaios) is used of him whose way of thinking, feeling and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God.

Perhaps it's not that a righteous person has all their ducks perfectly in row, but maybe, just maybe a righteous person recognizes what it is they should be asking for. 

A righteous person prayers are powerful and effective because a righteous person wants what God wants. 

In 1 John 5:13, we are told that we have confidence in approaching God and asking Him for His will:

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him."

So how do I know what God wants? Does He want door #1 or door #2 for me? Turn left or right? Now or later? Stay or go? Act now or wait? Speak up or bite my tongue? 

When we don't know which way to go, we often ask for wisdom, clarity, strength, etc. in choosing one of the paths.

But imagine with me for a minute that God wants more for you than just door #1 or door #2.

What if He doesn't only want to tell you which way to go, He wants you to know that He is The Way. He doesn't only want your healing, but wants you to know Him as Healer. He doesn't only want to provide for your present need, He wants you to know He is the Great Provider. He doesn't only want to give you the strength for today, He wants you to know He is our Refuge, Strength and Help. 

What if we could take a step back from our present circumstances to look to Him and ask, What are you trying to do here? What part of you are you trying to reveal to me? 

What if He wants your complete trust in the face of uncertainty because He is so trustworthy, so faithful, so able, He loves me so much, and He knows every detail about the past, present and future? And in exchange for your trust, He wants to keep your mind steadfast and give you the peace that surpasses all understanding to guard your heart and mind in Him. Not a bad deal.  

How do I know He wants that for me and for you? How do I know that's His will? Because He already said so. It's in the Word. The Bible.

We don't have to guess what He might want for our lives, when we can ask with certainty for what He wants to do in our hearts.

Last January, my prayer for 2016 was simple: Make me want to love you more than anything else in this world. This prayer has been ongoing and I will keep asking Him for this not because He hasn't answered, but because I know that as long as I am in this body, I will always be tempted to love other things more.

This request has expanded in the form of a little acronym I learned in the book Fervent: PRAY- praise, repentance, ask, yes. 

Lord, thank you that you want me to love you with my entire being. Thank you that I don't need to muster it up but I can love you back because you loved me first. You created me so you know how I work. My life works best when I love you first. (Praise.) Forgive me for loving other things more and seeking other things first before you. They never satisfy. (Repentance). When my heart is turning away from you and toward the things of this world, stop me. Get my attention. Remind me of who you are and your great love for me. Continue to drown out lesser desires for the things that will never satisfy my soul. I want to love you more than anything else but I cannot do it on my own. Do it in me. (Ask). Thank you that I can ask with confidence for what you already want to give me. Help me to receive it with open hands. Give me eyes to see how you are answering. Help me to hold with open hands the things that you know need to go. Thank you that all of your promises are a yes in Christ. (Yes).  

Ask Him for something according to His will today.

Ask Him to save you. (That my friend is exactly why He came the first Christmas as a baby, lived a perfect life for 33 years and then went to the cross. Jesus in our place. He lived the life we never could've lived and died the death we deserve to die because of His great love. All because He wanted YOU back where you belong with Him.)

Ask Him to advance the gospel and to so overflow your heart with His love that you would desire to be used as a vessel in whom He makes Himself known.  

Ask Him to heal something that's broken that's been causing resentment or fear. Ask Him to break you free from something that has held you captive. Ask Him to bring something to the light that's been in the darkness. Ask Him for comfort over something you're mourning. (Isaiah 61). Ask Him to move a mountain that's been hindering your relationship with Him or another person. Ask Him to move in the heart of someone who's far away from Him. Ask Him to help you see what He's trying to do in your life. 

Ask Him for something that someone who's desires are wholly conformed His would ask for. 

I dare you. 

Then, get ready to receive. Be ready to cooperate with the answer. He operates on his own timeline. He's God. Ask and you will receive. Then keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking. Ask Him for the eyes to see and ears to hear the answer as He provides it. 

I cannot wait to see how He will answer. 

I would love to hear from you: What are you asking God for today with confidence based on the truth you find in the Word? Leave a comment below!