How to Pray More Strategically
Jesus highlighted the common-sense, rational side of prayer when He said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9).
The word ask is followed by seek, which is tailed by knock. Each word adds a more dynamic, forceful, and vigorous approach to your prayer for God’s help. This verse offers three powerful strategies for prayer, which will no doubt give your prayer life a boost.
Strategy #1: Ask
You can confidently approach God and ask for His help. The word ask means “to desire, to call for.” Jesus said that we are to ask. And the asking must be done in anticipation of receiving. This speaks of faith. The asking phase of prayer highlights the ease of prayer. It underscores the eager willingness of God to respond to our pleas for help.
That is why Jesus closed out the teaching on prayer by illustrating how eager a father is to answer his son’s request for a fish. If the son asks for a fish his dad will give him a fish — not a snake or any harmful gift (Luke 11:11–13). When we ask, we should confidently wait to receive. This is what Jesus taught.
When Christian daredevil Nik Wallenda became the first person to walk on a tightrope across the Niagara Falls, he took steady, measured steps. On June 15, 2012, Wallenda walked 1,800 feet across the roaring falls. To accomplish this feat, he says he did “a lot of praying, that is for sure.” Wallenda focused on succeeding and not on failing. He prayed in faith, not doubt. And his prayers were answered.
In this instance Wallenda asked, and God answered. There was no resistance in the spiritual realm. There was no need for Wallenda to move his prayer efforts to the next level — the level of seeking, which we will explore next. When you receive an immediate answer or one that does not experience any delay, you know that the prayer effort does not call for a more intense prayer strategy.
Strategy #2: Seek
Not all prayers are answered suddenly. In instances when you don’t receive an answer or you experience a sense of uneasiness, you may need to move your prayer efforts to the next level — seeking. That is the additional attitude Jesus teaches us to have when it comes to prayer. It can easily appear as if God is silent. But don’t be mistaken; even if God is silent, His silence does not necessarily translate into a no.
It may be that we must move our prayer efforts to seeking. To seek means to search out, to inquire, to pursue an answer from God. This seeking after God is focused, passionate, and intense. It happens when our need is so great that we concentrate our prayer efforts on finding the mind of God — His solution, His remedy to our dilemma.
This recommended behavior is not one that promotes stubbornness or a flawed theology. It’s just the opposite. The prophet Jeremiah declared, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12–13). God initiated the use of this approach. He invites us to seek Him. Jesus simply highlighted it as He taught on prayer.
God uses this delay to mature you by teaching you to pursue Him in prayer. This method of prayer builds relationship. It deepens your confidence in the Almighty to provide you with needed help. It moves your relationship with God away from the surface and takes it into the deep waters — the place where true intimacy occurs. While seeking God, we search our hearts to determine if we’ve offended Him by our behavior, thoughts, or other undesirous acts. During these times of seeking, we appeal for forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration of biblical practices.
We want nothing to hinder God’s willingness to answer our prayers. We want nothing to hinder the purity of our relationships with God. Seeking God gives us a focused time to accomplish what John Owen, the Puritan preacher, calls “true prayer.” He says, “In true prayer, the Spirit of Christ reveals to us our own needs, so that we can take these needs to Christ.” If there is a need for repentance, it is brought to our attention in this extended time of seeking God. If God has a conflict with us, the Holy Spirit will make it known that we’ve consciously or unconsciously done something to displease God. We need to settle it before He can respond to our request.
Strategy #3: Knock
Jesus assures us, “Knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). The third level of prayer engagement when facing resistance is knocking. To repeatedly knock on someone’s door — God’s door — reflects one thing: you have confidence your knock will be answered. Knocking on His door suggests that we’re battling spiritual forces through a concentrated time of soul-searching, fasting, and focused prayers. These disciplines are all part and parcel of warfare praying. They are not the arm-twisting behavior of Christians attempting to manipulate God. Such an outlook is not scriptural.
Jesus invites us to knock until the door is opened. In His humanity He often fasted and went on private prayer retreats to discern the will of God. These times of prevailing prayer also provided Him with the needed strength to do the will of God. Are you willing to engage God on that level? We are in a high-stakes spiritual war. We must see ourselves as soldiers in combat. Luxury and civilian-like living is not our posture. It’s vital that we take seriously the teachings of Jesus as it relates to prayer. God is willing to do His part. He’s willing to open His coffers and grant our requests. We must do our part. Knock in prayer!
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If we apply this threefold strategy to our prayers, we should be able to maximize our results while minimizing our frustrations. Being clear minded and self-controlled helps us not only to pray, but also to pray more strategically (1 Peter 4:7). To become clear minded you have to set aside uninterrupted time to seek God. You cannot pray strategically if you’re running from one emergency to another. Or if your schedule is so tight that your mind is cluttered with an extensive to-do list, strategic praying goes out the window.
As you bring greater balance to your life and schedule, you will automatically reap the benefits in your prayer life. Your prayers will become more effective and more strategic.
By David D. Ireland
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