The number one most important thing to God is that you love Him. (This was discussed in essential number one.) When you are in relationship with someone you love, you want to be with them, to share things with them, to listen to them and to talk with them. This is the core of prayer; talking with God, expressing your feelings, discussing your needs and those of others, expressing your admiration of God and your thankfulness toward Him. Prayer is a form of worship.
Just like with another person you love or who loves you this expression of love should be frequent, really frequent. Unlike with a human person, there are no limits to when you can communicate with God. (Actually there is one limit and I’ll get to it.) Because God is always present He is always available to listen. You can speak to Him in your mind or with your mouth.
Most of us only turn to prayer when we are in need. Our needs, and expressing them to God, are important to Him but our prayer habit should be more like that conversation you want to have with your best friend. God does promise to cause “things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28 NLT) This means that, as believers, we can count on God to arrange the outcome in the manner that is good for us—in the long run! This could mean that we won’t realize what that “good” is until we get to Heaven, but we can know today that it is for our good.
God’s Word says, “And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” (1 John 5:14–15, NLT) As we become more familiar with His Word, the Bible, we will easily become more familiar with what pleases God. When we understand this truth, and pray to Him in this truth we can count on His response to our prayer.
For example, in Colossians 1:9–11, Paul wrote that he and others had not stopped “…asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (ESV) Since this is in God’s Word the request being made is clearly God’s will – therefore if we pray these verses for ourselves or others we can rest assured that God will hear and grant this request.
There is a catch however, the limit I mentioned earlier. In Isaiah 59:2 it says, “ It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” (NLT) Yes, as a believer your sins have been forgiven for eternity, but we sometimes allow ourselves to continue sinning without regard to the damage it does with our love relationship to God. This sinning can cause God to stop hearing your prayers – but don’t worry there is an easy fix. In 1 John 1:9 says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (NLT) The easy fix is to admit to God that you have sinned and ask Him to help you stop doing so. Once you confess, your relationship with God is restored.
For this reason I include these verses in my prayers each morning, “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:12–14, NLT) I recommend that you do likewise.