What Makes A Prayer Effective?

By Emmanuel Oluwatoba | Niger, Nigeria


In Christianity, the effectiveness of prayer is not a debated topic. In fact, there seems to be a consensus on the power of prayer as exemplified by the common phrases we hear every day; “prayer is the master key” and the likes. However, there seems to be a divide on what actually makes prayers effective, with different group of people holding different beliefs. We are going to examine some of these popular beliefs to discover the truth by comparing them with the scriptures.

What does not make prayer effective?

There are some popular beliefs on what makes prayers effective, these beliefs are simply not true, they include:

Location: Some persons believe that locations such as top of mountains, church halls or designated “holy” grounds make prayers effective. However, Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John chapter 4 highlights that this is indeed not the case, “Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour comes, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, will you worship the Father. You worship that which you do not know. We worship that which we know; for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour comes when the true worshipper will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such to be his worshippers. God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth” (verse 21-24, NHEB). We do not need to go to a specific location to pray for our prayers to be effective, God is everywhere.

Pitch of voice: Some people believe that praying with a higher pitch of voice makes prayer effective. However, the bible says “Look, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it can’t save; neither his ear heavy, that it can’t hear”. Believing that you have to shout before your prayers are effective implies that God cannot hear us. We do not have to shout at the top of our voices to be heard by God, when we pray silently, God listens (cf. I Samuel 1:12-16).

Length of prayer: Some people believe that the longer the prayer, the more effective it is. However, the effectiveness of prayer is not measured in words but in the sincerity and depth of the connection with God. Jesus’ statement in Matthew 6:7-8 makes it clear that the length of prayer doesn’t determine its effectiveness: “And in praying, do not use vain repetitions, as the unbelievers do; for they think that they will be heard for their much speaking. Therefore do not be like them, for your heavenly father knows what things you need, before you ask him” (NHEB). In 1 Kings chapter 18, we see that Elijah’s short prayers were effective (vs. 36-37) which was in contrast to the prophets of Baal, who offered prayers from morning till evening without response (vs. 26-29). We do not need to offer the lengthiest prayers for prayers to be effective, God knows our needs even before we ask of it.

What makes a prayer effective?

According to the Bible, there are a few things that make prayers effective, they include:

Faith: One who prays must believe in God to whom he is praying as James 1:6-7 says “But let him ask in faith, without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For let that person not think that he will receive anything from the Lord”. Praying with faith and without doubt makes prayers to be effective.

Righteousness: For prayers to be effective, Christians have to ensure that they are free from sin. Proverbs 15:29 says “The lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayers of the righteous”. For our prayers to be acceptable to God, we must live right with Him.

Fasting: As we see in Mark 9:29, “And he said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing, except by prayer and fasting”. This passage clearly exposes how fasting when combined with prayers makes the prayers more effective.

Persistence: The Bible makes us understand that we are to apply persistence to our prayers as we see in parable of Jesus recorded in Luke 18:1-8. Verse one says “He also spoke a parable to them that they must always pray and not give up”. The parable shows that the widow’s petition was granted only due to her persistence. So, persistence is necessary for effective prayers.

Alignment to the will of God: For our prayers to be effective, we must ask in accordance to the will of God. Matthew 6:10 says “Let your kingdom come. Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Here, Jesus was teaching His disciples to pray and He pointed out the importance of praying in line with God’s will. Moreover, Jesus set an example about this in Matt 26:19, “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt”. While praying, we need to surrender to the will of God for our prayers to be effective (I John 5:14).

Right motive: The book of James 4:3 says “You ask, and do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures”. For our prayers to be effective, we must always ensure that we are praying with the right motive.  

Conclusion The location, pitch of voice, or length of prayer does not make prayer effective. For our prayers to be effective, we need to pray with faith removing all doubt and ensure that our prayers align with the will of God. We are to live a righteous life and also pray with the right motives. Also, we are to apply persistence to our prayers and fast in addition to our prayers.

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