Prayer 101

How Do I Talk To God

Billy Graham

Whether you’re searching for God or a longtime believer, there’s a good chance you have questions about prayer. How exactly are you supposed to pray? And why should you do it? Here are some guidelines from Billy Graham.

How do I talk to God?

Billy Graham: Prayer is simply talking to God—and the most important thing I can say about this is that God wants you to talk to Him! He loves us and He has promised to hear us when we pray. How can you learn to pray? First, understand why prayer is possible.

Prayer is possible because Jesus Christ has removed the barrier between us and God—a barrier caused by our sins. You see, sin separates us from God, and because of that we have no right to come before Him. But by His death on the cross, Christ paid the penalty for our sins and removed the barrier. God then gives us the privilege of coming into His presence when we commit our lives to Christ.

The Bible says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). If you have never done so, ask Christ to come into your life today.

Then understand that God now welcomes you into His presence and promises to hear you—and He cannot lie. The Bible says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). Trust His promises and learn to bring every concern to Him in prayer.

Pray In Jesus’ Name

Do you know what it means to pray “in Jesus’ name”? This isn’t simply a phrase to be thoughtlessly tacked on to the end of our prayers. On the contrary, it’s an amazing privilege given to those who know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. One way to think about it is that we’re praying something Jesus might pray. You must be His follower before you can do or say anything in His name.

Since God is holy and we are sinful, the only way to approach Him is through His Son, who paid the penalty for our sins and clothed us with His righteousness. That’s why we bring our requests in Jesus’ name—He’s the only way to the Father (John 14:6).

When we belong to Jesus, we approach God’s throne of grace not as beggars but as beloved children and co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17). Because the Son acts as our intermediary and high priest, we can draw near to God with confidence, knowing that we will receive mercy and find grace to help us in our times of need (Heb. 4:15-16).

The next time you’re about to end a prayer “in Jesus’ name,” remember what it means. Then ask yourself if your request is something Jesus would want for you.

Three Things to Ask Yourself Before You Pray

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
John 16:24

Does prayer work? Well, isn’t there a Bible verse that says something like that?” you may think, in response to this question. After all, didn’t Jesus say, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it?” (John 14:14)

Many people are convinced that prayer is as simple as ordering a burger at a fast food restaurant. Get in your order, for exactly what you’d like, and stand over at the pick-up counter until you get it.

Some prayer requests are definitely not going to be answered, if we’re thinking of an answer in terms of the fast-food example. Like the woman who prayed for her husband to find a “permanent mistress” so he would not be attracted to prostitutes and contract a sexually transmitted disease. Or the prayer request of the man asking for prayer that his girlfriend, who is married to another man and has a family, would divorce her husband so he could marry her.

Worse than that, though was the owner of a flower business who requested prayer that more people would die so she could sell more floral wreaths to the funeral home.

Believe it or not, these are actual things people have prayed for! We may smile at the ridiculousness of them, but the fact is, that there would be nothing funny about the absolute chaos that would result from God’s giving us everything we ask for.

There is absolutely no questioning the fact that prayer is powerful and that God does answer the earnest prayer of a man who has been justified in His sight. Two generations ago, John Rice gave us an excellent book on prayer called, Asking and Receiving, demonstrating that we as His children knock on heaven’s door with our petitions and because we are His children, He generously showers His grace and goodness upon us.

When you pray, however, there are three questions that you need to ask yourself. First, ask, “Is what I’m asking God to do consistent with what God has revealed in His Word?” God cannot contradict Himself. The second question is the flipside of the first one. It is this: “Am I praying for God’s will in this whole matter?” Of course, we are to ask in faith, believing that God will honor His Word, yet the highest form of faith is praying as did Jesus, “Not my will but yours be done.” When you pray for God’s will and what you are praying for appears to be consistent with what God tells you in His Word, you can pray with greater confidence.

Does God ever give you what you have asked for, when it is less than His best for you? Psalm 106, a passage that reviews the 40 years God’s people walked in the desert, contains a sobering reference to this. It says, “So he [God] gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them” (Psalm 106:15).

There is a second best, and altogether too often we are willing to settle for what we think will be best, instead of His very best.

Then you should ask, “Will God be glorified in what I’m asking Him to do?” Praying that your kid wins the game means someone else’s child loses. Praying that your golf game is better than your opponent’s is suspect and asking God to keep you from getting caught cheating on your taxes is definitely out of the question.

Take heart in what John wrote, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15). That’s enough.

Does God only hear us when we pray out loud or does He hear silent prayers also? Please forgive me if this is a dumb question, but I didn’t grow up in a religious home and have just become a Christian.

Billy Graham: Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions when you don’t understand something about the Christian life; after all, God wants you to come to know Him more and more each day. Jesus’ disciples repeatedly asked for His help, and so should we. On one occasion they said, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

Yes, God hears our prayers on all occasions, whether we’re praying out loud or praying silently in our hearts and minds. After all, He knows all about us and knows what is going on inside us—both good and bad. The Bible says that God “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible also says, “The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked, but those of the pure are pleasing to him” (Proverbs 15:26).

God even hears our prayers when we can’t even put them into words—times, for example, when our hearts are too burdened or confused even to speak. The Bible says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).

One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the privilege of prayer—a privilege that is possible because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Thank God for the privilege of prayer and learn daily to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Does God really answer prayers?

Billy Graham: Prayer is one of our greatest privileges as God’s children, and even if God doesn’t seem to answer your prayers at first, don’t stop praying. God loves you, and no prayer goes unanswered.

Jesus once told a story about a poor widow who repeatedly asked a corrupt judge to do what was right. (You can read it in Luke 18:1-8.) Repeatedly the judge refused—not because her request was wrong, but because he just didn’t care.

But because of her persistence, he eventually gave in and granted her what she deserved. In a far greater way, Jesus said, God (who is righteous and does care for us) hears the prayers of His people, and we must never give up.

But let me add two things. First, realize that sometimes God is actually answering our prayers when we don’t realize it—and the reason is because His answer may be “No” or “Wait.” Yes, we think we know what’s best for us—but God sees the whole picture, and sometimes He lovingly refuses to give us what we request, because He knows it isn’t according to His perfect plan.

Second, remember that we have the privilege of coming to God only because Jesus Christ died for our sins. Have you given your life to Him? If not, let your first prayer be one of confession and faith, asking Him to come into your life as your Lord and Savior.

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