READ: Proverbs 7, Mark 11, 1 Peter 3
As followers of Jesus we must continually remind ourselves that answered prayer does not equate to fulfilled desire. The goal of prayer is communion with God, not the granting of requests. We primarily pray to be brought near to Jesus, not to come closer to our goals. Answers are a byproduct of the real goal of prayer: intimacy with Christ. In order for intimacy to be preserved (rather than prayer turning God into our servant), restrictions have been put in place.
We must believe in order to receive. In Mark 11:23 Jesus extends to His disciples the promise that doubt-free asking results in the moving of mountains. The belief that does impossible things is not belief in God’s capacity but in His character. Muslims for example believe that God can do anything, but this is not the belief that guarantees answered prayer. We must believe God is who He says He is if we are to receive what God wants to give us.
We must forgive in order to receive. If we want to receive forgiveness (and there should not be a more common prayer), we must forgive others. Elementary as it is, this is the most often violated aspect of prayer. We demand for ourselves what we will not give to others. Desperately in need of daily forgiveness we daily hold others’ sins and faults against them (vv. 25-26). We cannot retain hurts and anger at others and expect to receive propitiation (the appeasement of God’s anger) for ourselves.
We must submit in order to receive. Jesus refuses to answer the questions of those who do not answer His (vv. 27-33). In context we extract that we must approach prayer on God’s terms, not ours. First Peter 3:5-7 reveals that the submission of wife to husband and the honoring of the wife by the husband in the grace and mystery of mutual submission prevents prayers from being hindered. If we are to have our prayers answered, we must pray from a posture of submission–both to God and to one another.
We must love in order to receive. Peter goes on to note that the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears open to their prayers (v. 12). Peter defines righteousness in this passage as having compassion, loving as brothers, being tenderhearted, being courteous, and blessing (as opposed to reviling and seeking revenge). We can’t expect to treat others like trash and have God listen to us. When we treat others well, God answers our prayers. Answered prayers bring us closer to Jesus and make us more like Him; they don’t necessarily give us what we ask for. We begin prayer by wanting things, and we end it by being satisfied with Jesus.