He was praying but nobody heard a word from his lips. He was praying, the earth wasn’t shaking, thunderbolts weren’t heard, yet heaven was at attention ready to do his bidding. Nehemiah needed a favour from the king. He needed permission from the king to go back to his people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem that had been broken down and the gates that had been burnt by fire. The king had noticed that Nehemiah, his cupbearer, wasn’t his usual self. He asked Nehemiah what was wrong. This was the perfect opportunity for Nehemiah to present his request to the king. But Nehemiah wasn’t going to ask the king just like that. He needed to first lay his petition to God. Nehemiah seized the moment. Proactively, while no one knew what he was doing, he made a prayer to his God, the God of heaven. It wasn’t a loud prayer. It wasn’t a long prayer. But it was a meaningful prayer; it was a prayer that got the desired result. The king granted Nehemiah his request to embark on a journey to rebuild Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:1-8).
There are different ways to pray, different ways to communicate with God. You could pray in your room, you can pray on the mountaintop, you can pray quietly, you can pray with loud words and groaning. You can pray kneeling, you can pray standing. When it comes to prayer, the yardstick for measuring how effective our prayers are is simply this: does God hear when we call on Him and respond to our cry? In Psalm 18:6 David said “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears.” This is the whole essence of prayer, to be heard by God when you pray, to get God to move in your situation when you pray.
The Bible specifically tells us that when Jesus prayed to God, His prayers were loud. “While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God.” (Hebrews 5:7 NLT). God didn’t hear Jesus’ prayers because they were loud, God heard Jesus and answered Him because of His deep reverence for God.
Abraham’s servant prayed to God to help him in the choice of a life partner for his master’s son. His prayer wasn’t loud, in fact it was an unspoken prayer he prayed in his heart like Nehemiah did and God answered him. “But before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah, coming out with her pitcher on her shoulder, and she went down to the well and drew water. And I said to her, ‘Please let me drink” (Genesis 24:45).
Whichever prayer posture you take, whether you choose to kneel or stand, whichever prayer style you use, whether you speak loudly to God, whisper or say a prayer in your heart, what you should know is that God sees right into our heart as we pray. He is more concerned with the state of your heart than the expressions on your face. You could be saying all the right words with your lips, but your heart is far from God. In Matthew 15:8, Jesus had this to say about the scribes and Pharisees “These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me. Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” The worship and prayers of the scribes and Pharisees were in vain because their heart was far from God. May God help us to pray prayers that are not in vain, may God give us hearts that are sincerely yielded and deeply focused on God.
Don’t use people’s commendations and recommendations to rate your prayer life. People could be applauding you as you pray, people may call you a great prayer warrior, but is that how God sees you? Jesus spoke of people who put in so much dramatics into their prayers just to receive recognition from men. “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the street, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:5). What a purposeless prayer? To spend time praying and all the reward you get out of your prayer is people seeing you pray, yet the need in your life, the problem you need resolved is left unattended.
God is ever ready to hear us when we pray, listen to our cries and give us the answer best suited for us. The main ingredient that gets our prayers answered is not how many Bible verses we lace our prayers with, how eloquent we sound, how loud or low are prayer volume is, or the location we have chosen to pray. Prayer more than anything is a matter of the heart. What is the state of your heart as you pray? Are you seeking God with all your heart or are your prayers done reluctantly and halfheartedly? Jeremiah 29:13 says “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Is your heart and hand soiled with sin, yet you come to God in prayer with an unrepentant heart; indifferent and not bothered at all about how you live your life? Psalm 66:16 says “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear”.
The requests may be right; Lord, bless me with a good job, give me a financial breakthrough. But you are asking for a wrong reason. Asking out of revenge for those who didn’t help you when you were in need or asking to buy a car that will turn heads when you drive to church or work. If the request is right but the motive is wrong, more often than not the answer is No! James 4:3 says “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures”.
Our heart plays a major part in whether our prayers will be heard and answered. For us to tap into the power of prayer and enjoy the benefits of prayer, we must guard our heart (Proverbs 4:23). The same way we secure and protect money and costly jewelry from harm, danger or loss, is the same way we must protect our heart. We must keep vigilant watch over our heart so pride, disregard and irreverence for God doesn’t find a way into our heart and then mess up our prayers.
In the Bible God is referred to as the Creator of the ends of the earth, the Creator who is blessed forever, the One who creates with skill because He specializes in creating beautiful and amazing things. One thing God has mastery in creating is a clean heart. God can give us a new heart and put a new spirit in us (Psalm 51:10, Ezekiel 36:26-17). God can create in us a heart that when we call on Him, He turns His attention on us and saves and helps us. So pray for a heart change so you can experience changes in your life and situation as you pray.
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