Are Some People’s Prayers More Effective Than Others?

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We’ve all had days where it feels like our prayers hit the ceiling and bounce right back down on our heads. Is this a true intuition that our prayers aren’t being heard? Or is this simply a negative emotional reaction, based on lies, spiritual warfare, or insecurity? Are some people’s prayers more effective than others? 

In a nutshell—yes. Here are six key examples from the Bible that prove this to be true.

1. Persistence pays off.

Sometimes we don't see the answers to our prayers because we simply didn’t persevere. There’s no legalistic formula to this, but there is an example of the Bible told by Jesus Himself that’s worth considering. This story in Luke tells of a persistent friend beseeching his neighbor for supplies in the middle of the night.

“And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:5-9 ESV)

Persistent prayers are effective. However, praying over and over for the same thing doesn’t mean we’re guaranteed to get exactly what we want—it doesn’t work like that. There are too many moving parts at play—God’s will, our good, His glory—to ever have a guarantee that God will do X. We don’t wield Scriptures like Luke 11:9 as a magic wand. Rather, we pray with humble confidence—and persistence—trusting that God’s will be done.

Another example of passionate and persistent prayer is found with Elijah. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (James 5:17-18 ESV)

Praying frequently and with fervor is shown to bear results. But again, this isn’t a formula to try to “manipulate” God into doing what we want. Prayer is for our hearts, to shape us according to God’s will. We also know through the Bible that Jesus intercedes for us when we don’t know what to pray (Romans 8:26). We trust that when we don’t have the right words, we can pray persistently, and the Spirit will lead us. Don’t give up!

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    2. Relationships matter.


    If you think you can treat your spouse badly and be in close communion with God, you’re wrong. Did you know that the Bible specifically calls out men who treat their wives poorly? 1 Peter 3:7 (ESV) says, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

    Husbands, if you’re seeking God on a matter and don’t feel like you’re getting an answer, it very well could be that your prayers are being hindered because of these things. Are you living with your wife in an understanding way? Are you showing honor and mercy to your spouse? Or are you quick to anger, slow to listen, and harsh with your family? To have your petitions heard by the Lord, showing honor to your wife is biblically required of you.

    3. Motives are essential.

    We’re given another hint to how prayer works in the book of James. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3 ESV). Does God really care about my intentions when I pray? If I’m asking for something universally good, what does it really matter? Well, the Bible clearly tells us it does matter—a lot. Our motives are crucial when coming to the Lord in prayer. Are we being selfish or prideful in our requests? Are we praying for our own gain over and above God’s glory, or the good of a neighbor? Are we praying for revenge or harm to come on someone? Consider your heart posture before you pray. If you’re unsure of your motives, make that your prayer and ask the Lord to change your heart to match His first.

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  • man sitting against wall with Bible praying

    4. Obedience is key.


    If you think you can live life your own way, do whatever you please, and still have an active prayer life that the Lord responds to, you’re confused at best. The Bible tells us that we have what we ask from God because we obey Him.

    “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” (1 John 3:21-22 ESV)

    Some people get hung up on verses like this. They think “well I am obeying God, and I still didn’t get what I asked for.” Maybe the diagnosis didn’t change, or the job didn’t come through, or your spouse still left. You think, “what happened—didn’t I do your part?” But that’s the problem—we can’t fall into the habit of waving verses like a spell, hoping to control God. This verse isn’t a standard mathematical formula of how to get what you want every time. Rather, it’s a biblical principle of how God does things. It stands as a guide for staying in tune with God and with the things of God, so that our motives and hearts are pure and in line with Him. Remember, it’s a biblical truth that God enjoys blessing His children (James 1:17). We can trust that if we’re walking with Him and He still says “no” to our requests, it’s because it’s for our ultimate good and for His glory.

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  • teen consoling or forgiving another teen love your enemies

    5. Forgiveness is vital.


    It’s easy to hold a grudge, especially when we’ve truly been wronged, isn’t it? It takes much less effort to build a protective barrier or wall than it is to swing a wrecking ball of forgiveness and tear it down. But the Gospels tell us that if we don’t forgive, we won’t be forgiven. Yikes!

    “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25-26 ESV)

    This is a very clear-cut verse. “We must” so that “God will.” This isn’t so much a formula of legalism so much as it is a biblical principle. If Jesus already forgave the person who wronged us, who are we to stand by and withhold forgiveness? If we believe His blood covered the sins of our fellow believer who sinned against us, then we have no choice but to imitate Christ and forgive them too. If we don’t, we’re essentially saying that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough to cover their sin. It’s always much more productive to focus on our own sin and confession, rather than begrudge someone else’s theirs. Forgive, as you’ve been forgiven.

    6. Confessing sin is crucial.

    Just like we must walk in obedience to be heard by the Lord, we must also confess our sins. 1 John 1:9 states that when we do, God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us. Confessing our sins keeps us in fellowship with the Holy Spirit and makes space for conviction and growing in our faith.

    The Bible is clear that if we keep our sin close, God doesn’t hear us. “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18 ESV)

    “Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2 ESV)

    Don’t get me wrong, we’re all going to mess up and sin. While we’re fully justified as Christians now, our sanctification is a process during our entire lives here on earth. The key is immediately recognizing our sin when we commit it, following our convictions, confessing, and being renewed by the Holy Spirit afterward to stay in fellowship with Him. 

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    Betsy_headshotBetsy St. Amant Haddox is the author of more than fifteen inspirational romance novels and novellas. She resides in north Louisiana with her hubby, two total-opposite young daughters, a vast collection of novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle chips. Betsy has a B.A. in Communications and a deep-rooted passion for seeing women restored in Christ. When she’s not sweating it out at Camp Gladiator or trying to prove unicorns are real, Betsy can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. Look for her latest novel with Revell, Tacos for Two, coming October 2021. You can visit Betsy at http://www.betsystamant.com.