Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Your prayer life


"… nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."—Matthew 26:39b (Life Application Bible, New King James Version)

By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.

What if all your prayers were answered? What if you knew that every petition to God would be followed with a guaranteed response? Your confidence would soar! Your faith would be limitless! You would be certain that nothing in life could defeat you or hold you back.

I expect your first response is disbelief. You’re probably thinking: This is too good to be true. Or perhaps: If all my prayers could be answered, why hasn’t someone cornered the market on this and made a fortune?

Be assured; my declaration is proven concerning prayer.

Yet, few people claim an unwavering confidence in answered prayer. I believe that is because it requires something of us—and sacrifice does not appear on most Top 10 lists. Do you want to learn more about this precious power in your life? Then ponder this message today, pay close attention, because I’m going to share how all your prayers can be answered.

The cost is your time, and the fortune is found in a closer walk with God.

The first step

Now, before you begin rehearsing a speech of things to ask God for, let me point you to Jesus’ example. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is clearly very concerned that the strength of prayer was lost because of how people prayed.

Jesus said that when you pray, you should not do so in order to be seen by others. In the cultural setting of the Gospels, it was customary for people to pray publicly, standing on street corners and in the synagogues, so others would see them as devout.

Another instruction on prayer that Jesus gave was to avoid empty phrases and big words for show. You don’t impress God by the size of your words or how many fancy sentences and phrases you can form.

Instead, Jesus said, pray in secret. Yet he also gave direction for collective prayers, saying if you do pray when you are around others, do it with sincerity and feeling. One writer has said, "There is a time to be alone, and there is a time to be with other praying souls. Fortunately, the two demands are not incompatible."

When Jesus prayed to God, it always was an expression of Jesus’ confidence that God heard him. In simple language, he spoke of want, desire, and necessity.

Wherever he was, whatever activity in which he was engaged, Jesus always made time to pray. The Gospels convey his constancy in prayer. Jesus was never too busy to pray.

These are just a few reasons why all Jesus’ prayers were answered.

Today, people seem too rushed to take any time for prayer in everyday life. I would describe many of those who do talk with God as praying on the run. Then we wonder why our prayers are ineffective and unresolved.

I knew an elderly church member who prayed every day between 8 and 10 a.m. He took his phone off its hook between those hours, his designated prayer time. As his pastor, I discovered this practice when I said to him, "Brother Williams, I was worried about you. Your telephone was busy for over two hours this morning."

In a slow and steady tone, he said, "Preacher, that’s my way of telling the world that, at that time of the morning, all my lines are tied up. The call I’m on is so important that my entire day hinges on my getting through."

At first I didn’t understand what he meant, but I later learned his prayer time was the great necessity of his life. He maintained that practice each and every day until he went home to be with God.

The second step

How can you gain answers to all your prayers? For the crucial clue, look again to Jesus, in one of the most difficult moments of his life.

He has just shared a last meal with his disciples. He knows his last day on earth as the Son of God is at hand. He agonizes in the garden, amid disciples who have fallen asleep. He prays, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."

Nevertheless—that’s the clue! When that word is used in your prayers, you will receive an answer every time. That word means that you surrender your will to God’s will, and that the answer God gives will be acceptable to you. Whatever you specifically ask from God may or may not be granted, but the prayer itself will be answered.

The cup of death was not taken away from Jesus—but strength came down from heaven so that he marched as a conqueror to Calvary and his cross. When Paul asked God three times to remove a thorn from his flesh, the thorn was not removed—but sufficient grace was given to enable him to bear his infirmity. The petition was refused, but the prayer was answered (II Corinthians 12:7).

"Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." Are you willing to declare that in each and every prayer? You may not get precisely what you seek, but you always will get an answer when that is your prayer. New strength awaits you. Courage can be yours. You can face life with a quiet and peaceful mind, convinced that God rules and knows what is best for you.


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