When Jesus died on the cross something amazing and wonderful happened. The veil in the temple that separated the people from the holy of holies was torn in two. (Matthew 27:51)
This symbolized that we now have personal access to the almighty God. It means that wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, I can pray and God will hear me! This is one of the most wonderful truths in Scripture!
We don’t need to say certain things, or speak in a formal manner. We can talk to God just like we talk to a good friend.
But the Bible does give us some cautions when it comes to prayer. It is important to approach God with the right posture, or attitude.
So how are we to approach God in prayer?
First, God does not hear the prayers of those who do not know Him.
We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. John 9:31
Since we are all sinners, yet John says God will hear those who worship Him, it is clear that the word “sinners” in this verse means those who have never come to Him in repentance. In other words, those who are not Christians. We are all sinners, but because of Christ’s sacrifice, when we accept that sacrifice as payment for our sins God no longer sees us as sinners. Instead, He sees Christ’s righteousness in us. That is why we can approach Him with confidence and know that He will hear us.
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. Psalm 66:18
But even as followers of Christ, we still sin from time to time. When we do we must always repent – confess to God that we sinned, ask His forgiveness, and stop doing the sin. Only once we have done this will we again be able to approach God and know He will hear is.
Note: God always hears prayers of true repentance. We don’t have to “clean up” before we come to Him. Once we realize we’ve sinned, we need to come to Him right away and allow Him to begin the work of cleaning us up.
But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! John 15:7
What does it mean to “remain in Him”? Simply put, it means that Jesus is the focus of our entire life. Everything we do is shaped by the fact that we love Him. Again, we all sin, but because we are living “in Christ” we will be distraught by our own sin and take it to Him, asking for His forgiveness and help to avoid the sin in the future.
And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. 1 John 5:14-15
The promise we can receive is that when we are in Christ, when our whole life is shaped by our love for Him, we can approach God with confidence, knowing that He will hear us and will answer.
The phrase “anything that pleases Him” is sometimes translated “according to His will.” So if we ask for something that is against God’s will, that prayer will be answered with, “No.” But those who are “in Christ” are focused on Him, listening to Him, reading His Word. They want to please God, and their prayers reflect this desire.
My favourite verse ever since I was old enough to read it has been Psalm 37:4, Delight thyself also in the Lord and He will give thee the desires of thine heart. (KJV because that’s what I memorized when I was 5!)
The NLT version says it this way:
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
I’ve always loved this verse. The idea of “delighting” in the Lord seemed like a good thing to strive for! Really it just means to fully love and adore Him. And when we do this He fills our hearts with godly desires that He then delights in fulfilling! What a beautiful way to live!
As you come to God in prayer, take a moment to remind yourself of who God is. Start by thanking Him for all that He has done for you. Thank Him for not just allowing you to talk with Him, but for calling you to do so! Share your heart, your joys, your fears, your pain, with Him. And always let Him know that you will accept His will as best, whatever that might be.
Don’t worry if this seems like a lot to remember. God wants you to talk with Him, and when you talk with Him regularly this will become your natural “posture.” Talk with Him every day and you will see the real difference prayer makes! Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7