Answered prayer is key to a great relationship with God. Prayer is asking, and the more specifically that you ask, the better.

Assume God wants to answer prayer, and if He doesn’t, then it isn’t the right timing, or you have asked for something that isn’t God’s will.

I always remind myself when asking God that He wants to answer my prayer.

To help my prayers align with God’s will (thus guaranteeing a “yes”), I ask the following four questions from James 4:

  1. Did I ask?James writes: “You do not have because you don’t ask.” I’m amazed at people who come to me with requests, and while discussing the matter, I ask them, “How have you asked God?” And they haven’t.
  2. Do I have bad motives? James writes: “You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives.” What are wrong motives? James answers this question in James 3:14: “But if you have bitter jealousy or selfish ambition, do not be arrogant and lie against the truth.” Bad motives are bitterness, jealousy, selfishness, and ambition.
  • Bitterness is anger against what others say.
  • Jealousy is comparing yourself to others.
  • Selfishness is orienting prayers to your own desires.
  • Ambition is promoting yourself at the expense of others.
  1. Have I become a friend of the world?James writes: “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world has become an enemy of God.” A friend of the world has aligned with culture and friends in such a way to have attitudes and actions that are not following God.
  2. Is this the Lord’s will?James writes: “Come now you who say, ‘I’m going to move to this city for a great job and a nice place to live.’ Instead you ought to say, ‘If this is the Lord’s will then I will do it.'” (OGV)

Prayer is simple asking, but it is as difficult as knowing God’s will. I learn as much from unanswered prayer as I do from answered prayer. There are books and books on prayer. But successful praying forms through a relationship with God.

A book will only lead so far, while prayers are answered in the presence of God. James writes the best advice for prayer in James 4: “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”

Keep it simple. Go somewhere alone and say, “Here I am God, please come.” Then believing He is there, ask your specific request. The Spirit will then convict if you have violated one of the four questions above.

You will hear Him say things like, “I’m glad you finally asked.” Or, “That request is from jealousy.” Or, “You know if I answer this, it will bring more harm than good.” Or, “You have decided to do something without asking if it is my will. I am here to work it out with you.”

When I pray, I imagine God standing next to me. Sooner or later you will understand that God is standing right next to you. Your prayers will grow when you get a sense of God’s presence. He is there and you know it.

The best understanding of prayer is: God is standing next to you; ask!