We live in a fallen world where bad, evil things happen — and they are not God’s fault (more on how this fits in with the concept of biblical sovereignty in the podcast called “Why Bad Things Happen from a Biblical Perspective”: https://www.drlaurendeville.com/why-bad-things-happen-from-a-biblical-perspective/).
The bottom line is that we are now in enemy-occupied territory. Jesus conquered the enemy when He rose from the dead, taking the keys of Hades with Him (Rev 1:18), but He hasn’t yet taken possession of the earth He won back, because “He is not slow concerning His promises, as some count slowness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (1 Peter 3:9).
So it’s still the case that because God gave the earth to men, He cannot legally intervene Himself without a man on the inside. He needs a human to invite Him to intervene, just like a landlord can’t just enter a property he’s leased to someone else without an explicit invitation.
Yet God wants us to bring His kingdom and His will on earth. This is why Jesus included “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” in His template prayer when the disciples asked him to teach them to pray (Matt 6:9-13). Prayer is the only way God can intervene on earth legally. That is why prayer is so important.
How and What to Pray
Jesus’ model prayer teaches us the components and structure of a good prayer. It gives us the principles.
“Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name” — so we start with praise, with how big and awesome God is, before we ever say anything about our problem (https://www.drlaurendeville.com/effects-of-praise/).
“Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is the very next broad-strokes recommendation: prayer is about letting God do what He wants to do in the earth, but He needs us to partner with Him in order to do it.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” This is the specifics of the above as they pertain to you. Later in that same chapter, Jesus made the point that if you keep your focus on His kingdom, He’ll just take care of these little details of what you need anyway (Matt 6:33).
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” I think Jesus included the request of forgiveness because He was still teaching the disciples at the tail end of the Old Covenant. We don’t have to pray this part anymore–Jesus died for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). But we are still to forgive others their sins against us (https://www.drlaurendeville.com/how-to-forgive-pastor-david-peterson/).
“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Putting this together with what James says in James 1:13-15, God doesn’t tempt us, but when we are tempted, it’s our own desires that entice and lead us away to sin and death. Paul also tells us that when this happens, God will make a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13). But it’s up to us to take it (James 4:7), with God’s help.
“For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” This template prayer starts and ends with praise (https://www.drlaurendeville.com/effects-of-praise/), because that is the attitude of faith–focusing on how big and magnificent God is, rather than on the size of our problems. Later in His ministry, Jesus clarified,
“For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:23-24).
That’s the key to powerful, effective prayer–believe first, and then receive. Scripture qualifies this promise elsewhere–you can’t “name and claim” just anything in prayer using this verse. James tells us that if we ask and we do not receive, it might be because “you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). John tells us, “And this is the confidence we have in Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, in whatever we ask, we know that we already possess what we asked of Him,” (1 John 5:14-15).
Paul tells us in Romans 10:17 that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” The scriptures with the promise for what you are believing for are your seeds (Matt 13:18-23). They tell you what God wants for you, for those you love, and for the world around you. Your part is to hear that word, and ask and believe God for it. In so doing, you’re planting it in your heart. Then, you have to make sure that little seed is well-tended and cared for, and isn’t choked out by “the cares of the world or the deceitfulness of riches.” If you “keep it in the midst of your heart,” then it will become “life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh” (Prov 4:22).
If you can find the promise in scripture for what you’re asking for, then you don’t have to beg God to give it to you; in the Spirit realm, it’s already yours (Eph 1:3), just waiting for you to claim it, like an escrow. That’s why you can have faith that it’s coming–but you do have to ask first (Matthew 7:8, James 4:2).
Paul taught this same pattern for prayer in Phil 4:4-8. He writes, ” Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice!… Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.” We start with rejoicing, end with thanksgiving, and keep our minds stayed on the positive hope of the promise(s) we’re believing for.