Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.
Two Essentials for Effective Prayer
1. Prayer must be addressed to the Right Person.
There was a missionary’s son that played foot ball on a high school team in Utah. The coach was very down hearted that their team hadn’t won any games. The boy suggested prayer, but they still lost. As the coach lamented, the boy asked: “Maybe you prayed to the wrong god?” The coach with a bit of sarcasm, said: “Well, then you pray to your God!” The next game they won! The Prophet Elijah had a similar experience when he tried to turn Israel back to the Lord from Baal worship. The test on Mount Carmel was to prove which god was the true one---the true God or Baal. Whichever god accepted the sacrifice of worship by sending fire from heaven to consume it would be considered the true one. While the prophets of Baal prayed for a long time and did all sorts of things to get Baal to send the fire, nothing happened, except Elijah’s mocking. Then, it was Elijah’s turn. He simply prayed: “…let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel…” (1 Kings 18:36). The fire fell!
Prayer is totally ineffective when people pray to an “unknown god,” when they that no personal relationship of knowing and trust the Almighty, Ever Present, All Knowing, Eternal God of love and justice who created the universe and then as unique individuals. Their concept of divinity is based on what they have heard from others, or have perceived as god, one of their own making based on what they think a god should be and should do for them.
2. The person praying needs have addressed his/her own personal spiritual condition.
Someone who has not trusted in Christ as their Savior has no privileged basis for prayer. Only the Father’s own children have the right to expect answers, and only those who are exercising the “power” to become the children of God through faith and obedience (John 1:9). Even the prayers of believers who knowingly continue sinful behavior will also be ineffective. “…your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”(Isaiah 59:2)
From the very beginning, sin is the rejection of a relationship with God through distrust in God’s Word, character, and provision. This is what led Adam to embrace Satan’s lie for suggesting that Eve could become like a god by becoming wise and deciding what is good and evil (Genesis 3:5, 6). Along with her husband, they became like Satan who wanted to be god either in place of, or equal with God (Ezekiel 28:13, 14). This was and still is true rebellion against God. Satan and sinners in his control try to compete with God seeking other intelligent beings to be his subjects, not God’s children (Eph. 2:2, 3; Rev. 12:4). The earth became a battle field influenced from the heavenly sphere (Eph. 6:12).
The war on earth focuses on the human mind and heart becoming one of obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5; 16:25, 26) or rebellion of unbelief. (Gen. 3; Heb. 3:12, 19). The precepts of Scripture are the weapons God provides to control the mind (2 Cor. 10:4, 5). Satan’s chief weapons are suggestion and assertion of denial (Gen. 3:4, 5) leading to self reliance and assertion, i.e., as a little god. Since this sin is “…rebellion…as the sin of witchcraft,” it creates “…stubbornness…as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Sam. 15:23). Until this spiritual condition is addressed through faith in a Holy God and repentance from sins that “miss the mark” of his commands to love Him with all one’s heart, mind, body, and spirit and to love other’s as one’s self, there is no basis for God answering prayer. Prayers that either establish or restore a relationship with God must be offered first. For the person who maintains an independent, worldly or self-centered attitude stands in opposition to God. "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5 NKJV).