What's the Secret to Answered Prayer?

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When I was 12 years old, I heard that when we prayed, we were supposed to go into our closet and pray to God who sees us in that secret place. So I got myself a cardboard box, covered it with a piece of fabric, set a candle on the top and placed it all in my walk-in closet. I would go into my closet, light my candle and pour my heart out to God. 

It's a wonder I didn't burn the house down! 

I was looking for the secret to answered prayer. 

Some people look so desperately for the secret to answered prayer that they leave the Christian faith behind for spiritual practices that are a bit more hands on. I've known people who simply gave up on prayer all together because God didn't respond to their prayers the way they wanted Him to--or, because He didn't respond to them at all.

That's what happened to Saul. In I Samuel 28, we read of the time when the Philistine army assembled (yet again) against the Israelites and Saul was understandably frightened. He cried out to the LORD and God refused to answer him. He cast lots before the LORD, and the lots didn't work. (I'm not exactly sure how lots worked in biblical times, but somehow they gave direction and answer when they "worked.") He consulted his prophets and the prophets heard nothing from God. So, Saul found a medium...a woman who had learned the practice of calling forth spirits from the dead. Saul disguised himself as an ordinary man rather than the king, and asked the medium to call forth the spirit of Samuel.

This is where the story gets interesting. Samuel's spirit comes forth from the dead and delivers an ominous message to Saul, telling him that on the next day he and his sons were going to die and the entire Israelite army was about to be defeated. 

If I had been Saul, I think I would have rather not known what was coming my way.

In this particular situation, it's not Samuel that Saul is seeing...it's a demonic spirit clothed in the image of Samuel who came to torment Saul (Throughout Saul's life he was tormented by evil spirits. read this article for more insight into this passage of Scripture. "What Happened at En Dor?" )

I'm getting a little off course here to make the point that praying people are desperate to hear the voice of God. We are all looking for the secret to answered prayer.

I think I've found it.

The secret to answered prayer is believing God.

The secret is believing God is able and  willing.

The only way we can believe God is to know Him. We get to know Him in His Word and in our lives. We look back and remember His faithfulness. We look around and recognize His presence so that we can look forward and believe His promises.

God's given us a book filled with promises that come from His heart to ours. He tells us what He's up to and invites us in to relationship with Him where He will share things that are hidden to others. But the only way to get this close to God is to trust Him.

And if our hearts are slow to respond, we simply obey Him until our hearts catch up with our actions. God's made the way clear to us.

He longs for us to experience Him through answering us when we pray: I John 5:14-15.

He wants us to come often and boldly into His throne room to present our requests to Him: Hebrews 4:16

He is eager to support, encourage and sustain us as we wait patiently for Him: Romans 8:31

And He most certainly DOES answer the prayers of those who believe: Mark 9:23


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