Request an Exam Copy

The Effectiveness of Prayer

Categories Theology Systematic Theology

When we ask for things in prayer, God often responds to those prayers. Jesus makes this clear when he says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:9 – 10). Our failure to ask God for things is often the reason we do not receive what he delights to give to us. James says, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2).

The Scriptures give many examples of God responding, even changing the way he acts, in response to the prayers of individuals. For example, when the Lord told Moses he would destroy the people of Israel for their sin, Moses responded with the following prayer: “Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people” (Ex. 32:12). In response, “the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people” (Ex. 32:14). On a more personal level, John tells us that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). These two examples, along with the many others in the Bible, should encourage us to pray more, boldly asking the Lord to work in ways only he can work.

On our own, though, we have no right to boldly ask God for anything. Our own personal sin should disqualify us from requesting anything from a holy God. But if our faith is in Jesus, the Bible tells us he is the reason our prayers are effective. He stands as the “one mediator between God and men” (1 Tim. 2:5). Or, as Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Therefore, God is under no obligation to answer the prayers of those who have rejected his Son. Although he is aware of such prayers and at times out of his mercy chooses to answer them, he does not promise to hear and answer the prayers of unbelievers as he does the prayers of believers that are in accordance with his will.

Because Jesus is the only true mediator between a holy God and sinful men, he could tell his disciples, “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you” (John 16:23). When he said this, Jesus did not mean that we must tack the phrase “in Jesus’ name” onto every one of our prayers. Instead, he meant that our prayers should be prayed based on his authority as our mediator and in accordance with his character. This is, in part, what John meant when he wrote to those “who believe in the name of the Son of God” and said, “If we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:13 – 14).


Professors: Request an exam copy of Grudem's Systematic Theology, Second Edition, here.

Photo by 
Umit Bulut on Unsplash.

Systematic Theology, Second Edition Wayne A. Grudem
'After a quarter century of remarkable usefulness globally, Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology, in its second edition, remains remarkable for its extraordinary ...
Hardcover, Printed Caseside
Not Available Request an Exam Copy
Systematic Theology 1 Instructor: Dr. Wayne Grudem
Systematic Theology 1, taught by Wayne Grudem, features a strong emphasis on the scriptural basis for each doctrine; clear teaching, with technical terms kept to a minimum; and a contemporary approach.
Course Details
  • 15 Units

  • 4.5 hours of video

  • Self-paced

  • Beginner

View Course
How Enhanced Editions Stack Up Against Print Textbooks
How Enhanced Editions Stack Up Against Print Textbooks Usually, better educational resources cost more money. But that’s not the case with our new Enhanced Editions textbooks....
Your form could not be submitted. Please check errors and resubmit.

Thank you!
Sign up complete.

Subscribe to the Blog Get expert commentary on biblical languages, fresh explorations in theology, hand-picked book excerpts, author videos, and info on limited-time sales.
By submitting your email address, you understand that you will receive email communications from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (501 Nelson Place, Nashville, TN 37214 USA) providing information about products and services of HCCP and its affiliates. You may unsubscribe from these email communications at any time. If you have any questions, please review our Privacy Policy or email us at This form is protected by reCAPTCHA.