What stands in the way between us and the answers we ask for in prayer?
Do you want to see your prayers answered?
Whether you are praying for a new job or a new house, a better relationship with your kids or a better marriage, or for something life-altering like conceiving a child or healing from cancer - I think that we all know the answer to that question. Of course, you want what you are praying for to actually happen. We all do.
So, what stands in the way between us and the answers we ask for in prayer?
I would suggest that there are one of two reasons why our prayers aren’t being answered:
- We aren’t praying for the right THING. Or,
- We aren’t praying in the right WAY.
If we aren’t praying for the right thing, well, we need to get on board with what God wants in our situation. Not what we want. We need to pray His will, not ours. (Luke 22:42)
But if we aren’t praying the right way, then we need to learn how to pray. We need to understand our authority as Christ’s followers here on earth.
In a recent episode of CHRISTIAN PARENT/CRAZY WORLD, I discuss where we as believers naturally excel in prayer, and I uncover the place where we all need to grow. And the place where we need to grow can make all the difference.
If you want your prayer life to go to the next level, if you want to learn how to pray with authority and receive answers, then keep reading and check out that podcast.
You might recall learning in elementary school the four purposes of a sentence. Prayers are comprised of sentences, so those purposes translate to our prayers. Let’s examine each type of prayer and consider where we might need to mature in our prayer life:
1. Declarative Prayers
The first type of sentence, and likewise the first type of prayer, is declarative. This type of prayer happens when we make a statement, when we declare something. If you’ve ever participated in a church worship service, you have prayed this type of prayer. A worship song or hymn is a prayer that declares who you believe God is and how you feel about Him:
“God, you are good.” “Father, you are faithful.” “I love you, Jesus.” “Thank you, Lord.” “I trust you, God.”
Or if you are going old school, you might be praying these lyrics: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me…” These are prayers of declaration, and they come quite naturally to us as Christians.
Prayers of declaration are foundational in lives of Christians and should be expressed to God daily.
2. Exclamatory prayers.
Sometimes we get excited with our prayers of worship, and we say an exclamatory prayer. That happens when our declarations are filled with passion and we cry out to God exuberantly:
“I love you, God!” “You’re awesome!” “You’re mighty!” “You’re faithful!” “Thank you, Lord!” “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!“
An exclamatory prayer is, quite simply, a prayer with an exclamation point.
Now, some of us are more passionate than others. My husband is pretty even keel, he stays in the declarative form of prayer and worship more, and I go to exclamatory prayers of worship very quickly. That doesn’t mean that I’m better or my husband is better. This is just a matter of personality.
But exclamatory prayer is necessary, and sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zone and show our emotions as we pray and worship. My pastor recently remarked about how we have no problem showing emotion while watching a bunch of twenty-something college kids running up and down a field throwing a piece of cowhide, so we shouldn’t have a hard time showing our emotions to the God who created us. We shouldn’t let our praise of our favorite sport’s team out praise our God.
Where do we see exclamatory prayers in the Bible?
The Hebrew Scriptures were not originally written with punctuation, so I suspect that far more of the Psalms were conceived and spoken with passionate intent. When we express exclamatory prayers to the Lord, we are praying in line with Scripture.
3. Interrogative Prayers.
The third type of sentence and the third type of prayer is interrogative. It is a question. This one comes very naturally to ALL of us.
“God, what do I do?” “Lord, which job do I take?” “Father, which doctor do I choose and which medicine do I need?”
Most Christians don’t have a problem bringing their questions, or interrogative prayers, to the Lord. We learn to ask questions very early in life. At least a dozen times a day, my four and six-year-old will ask me: “Mommy, what is that word? “Mom, what are we having for dinner?” ”Mama, when is daddy coming home?”
Questions come naturally to us, and we should resist the urge to grow out of asking our heavenly Father for answers when we need them. We weren’t designed to be self-sufficient. We were designed to need God.
We’re told in Scripture to ask God when we need answers. James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (NLT)
So, when we don’t know what we should do, Scripture tells us to ask God.
4. Imperative Prayers.
But there is a fourth type of sentence and, therefore, a fourth type of prayer—and this is where most of us need to grow. It is the imperative prayer. Unlike the other kinds of prayer, there are two types of imperative prayers. And, actually, the first type comes very naturally to many of us, but the second type does not. This second type of imperative prayer is where we ALL need to grow.
The first type of imperative prayer is simply a request.
Many of us do this quite easily. Regardless of how you operate as an adult, this part of the imperative came very naturally to all of us at a young age, as toddlers. As a mom of five, I get these requests every day, all day: “Mama, please give me a snack.” “Mom, please play a game with me.” “Mommy, please read me a book.”
Now, sometimes when we grow up, we want to be self-sufficient. We don’t want to ask God for what we need because we are adults. But we aren’t designed to operate independent of God. We need to remain humble and ask the Lord for what we need. You cannot fulfill the purposes God has for your life without relying on Him.
When we have a need, we must bring it to God. We need to ask God to provide for our families, to heal our bodies, to heal our relationships, and to give us direction.
Because God tells us to do this in His Word. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “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.”
God is pleased when we bring Him our requests, when we rely on Him, and when we trust Him to supply what we need.
But there is a kind of imperative prayer that Jesus and the disciples exercised that does not come naturally to us as believers.
The second type of imperative prayer is a command.
This is where we need a perspective shift in our prayer life. We need to grow into a place where we exercise our authority in Christ as we pray.
In Matthew 16:19, Jesus tells Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Jesus is giving Peter some keys. Keys signify authority.
And two chapters later, I believe that Jesus gives those keys to all of us. The same exact verse is repeated in Matthew 18:18, only Jesus isn’t talking to just Peter anymore. He’s talking to all the disciples. In this verse, Jesus gives the disciples the same authority, the same keys, to bind and loose. He gives those keys to all of us. (Listen to Episode 13 of CHRISTIAN PARENT/CRAZY WORLD to hear more about the context of these verses.)
And then what do we see the disciples do? They start casting out demons and healing people in the name of Jesus—themselves. Jesus gave the disciples some keys and they started using them. And with those keys, they turned the world upside down.
We need to use the KEYS God has given us in prayer.
Have you ever noticed how little kids love to play with keys? You give them those colorful fake keys, and they won’t go for them. No—they want the real thing. They want your keys. And that is fine. They can play with the real keys.
But I have a 16-year-old now and I’m throwing some keys at her… and I don’t want her to play with them anymore. I want her to stick them into the ignition and drive a car, because she needs to learn how to do that. She is not quite ready to drive on her own, but pretty soon, I don’t want her to bring those keys to me and ask me to drive her to or work to a friend’s house or to church. I want her to drive herself.
That is what keys do. They give you authority. They move you from one place to another.
So, when God is giving us His keys in the Word, He wants us to grow up and use them. He wants us to use the authority He has given us to bind and loose, to accomplish His will here on earth.
Where else do we see this authority given to us in Scripture? Many places.
- Luke 10:19 says, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.”
- In Mark 11:23 Jesus says “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”
- And in John 14:12, Jesus says that greater miracles than He did, we would do.
In order to see these kinds of results in prayers, you need to use those keys.
(These Scriptures are part of a list that I put together as a free resource on my website to pray over unsaved children and loved ones.)
God has given us these keys and He wants us to use them. If my daughter keeps coming to me as a grown up asking me to drive her somewhere, I’m going to do a faceplant. I’m going to jingle those keys in her face and tell her to use them herself. That is what the keys are there for.
As Christians, if we want to fulfill God’s plans and purposes for our lives and for our families, we need to learn how to use those keys. We need to understand our authority in Christ, we need to step into the imperative, and we need to use it in prayer.
To hear more about how to exercise our God-given authority in prayer, check out the three-part series on prayer recently featured on CHRISTIAN PARENT/CRAZY WORLD. (4 Types of Prayer Every Believer Should Know, How To Battle for Your Kids in Prayer, and What Should I Expect When I Battle in Prayer.)
Image Credit: Unsplash/Naassom Azevedo
Catherine Segars is an award-winning actress and playwright—turned stay-at-home-mom—turned author, speaker, podcaster, blogger, and motherhood apologist. This homeschooling mama of five has a master’s degree in communications and is earning a master’s degree in Christian apologetics. As host of CHRISTIAN PARENT/CRAZY WORLD, named the 2022 Best Kids and Family Podcast by Spark Media, Catherine helps parents navigate through dangerous secular landmines to establish a sound Biblical foundation for their kids. You can find Catherine’s blog, dramatic blogcast, and other writings at www.catherinesegars.com and connect with her on Facebook.
This article is part of our Prayer resource meant to inspire and encourage your prayer life when you face uncertain times. Visit our most popular prayers if you are wondering how to pray or what to pray. Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, and God knows your heart even if you can't find the words to pray.
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