Survival Principles #20

How to Pray and Be Heard


Lion’s Den Survival Principles is a series designed to help Christians thrive in the often hostile world of media and entertainment. The principles from Scripture, however, can apply to every situation where you find yourself in the midst of lions!

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How to Pray and Be Heard

“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant . . . we do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.”
— Daniel 9:17-18 (NIV)

Parenting six children into adulthood is a formidable task. One of the challenges is helping each child understand how to make requests that are likely to be heard and answered. In our home, we used the concept of “magic words”—words like “please” and “thank you.” My wife and I tended not to respond to requests that were expressed as demands, ones spoken in arrogance, or ones that lacked the appropriate “magic words.” How many times we prompted, “Can you say the magic word?” Commonly, the question was met with a more contrite, “Please?” I also remember, more than once, correcting a child when he asked something of my wife disrespectfully, “Remember to whom you’re speaking!”

Daniel knew God’s “magic words” in prayer, the words to which He surely responds. Daniel shows this in his awesome petition for Israel in Daniel 9:4-19. This prayer of nearly 500 words is filled with magic words like “We have sinned,” “We have been wicked,” and “We have rebelled.” Daniel makes reference to his nation’s sin and moral depravity more than twenty times in a prayer that would be fewer than two typewritten pages!

Survival Principle: If you want God to hear your prayers, be sure you acknowledge and express that you don’t deserve to be heard.

Jesus made this same point as He defined the kind of prayers God hears in Luke 18:10-14. The Pharisee was not heard because his prayer made it clear that he thought he deserved to be heard. The tax collector was heard with his prayer (delivered while beating his breast), “God have mercy on me a sinner.” It was transparently undeserving. Daniel was lavish in his expressions of repentance and contrition, because he knew to whom he was speaking— the perfect, holy, sinless, completely righteous God of Heaven who can tolerate not even one hint of sin.

Survival Principle: In prayer, remember to whom you are speaking, or God won’t “remember” what you say.

When I complained to a local policeman at a Rotary Club luncheon that I thought it was a waste of police resources to cite speeders on the street behind my house when there were more terrible crimes being committed in our city, he said tersely, “Nobody gets as many tickets as he deserves.” Daniel, remembering that “with God nobody gets what he truly deserves,” made his prayers on the basis of God’s mercy, not his own merit.

Survival Principle: Never ask God for what you deserve; that’s asking for hell. You don’t want justice! Beg for mercy.

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