How Can I Pray so God Will Listen?

I try to have a regular prayer life, but I feel like my prayers hit the ceiling. I promise God I will change, and I end up doing the same things. How can I pray wisely and know that God will answer?



Dear Jaden,

Did you know that we can actually pray “foolish” prayers? Prayers that God will not take seriously? Prayers that are disrespectful to God? Prayers that He says He will not answer?

I’m sure you’ve heard some of these “halfway” type prayers:

“God, if you get me out of this situation, I’ll serve you forever!”

“If you get Hayden to like me, I’ll go to church every week.”

“God, if you give me an A on this test, I will never steal the answers from the smart kid’s paper again.”

“I won’t have an affair, if you make my wife less irritating.”

I didn’t expect that it was possible to pray a “foolish” prayer when I was a baby Christian. I knew—and still do—that God hears our every prayer. When He hears, He promises to RESPOND. But the response may be yes, maybe, not yet, or simply, no. Sometimes He may tell us the “why” behind His answers. And sometimes He already has … let’s take a look at Scripture to learn more.

King Solomon explains that since God is speaking to us continually, we would do well to stop and listen to what He has to say before we pray.

Solomon explains what a foolish prayer looks like in Ecclesiastes 5:1-7:

Watch your step when you enter God’s house.

Enter to learn.

That’s far better than mindlessly offering a sacrifice

Doing more harm than good.

Don’t shoot off your mouth or speak before you think.

Don’t be too quick to tell God what you think he wants to hear.

God’s in charge, not you—the less you speak, the better.

When you tell God you’ll do something, do it—now.

God takes no pleasure in foolish drivel. Vow it, then do it.

Far better not to vow in the first place than to vow and not pay up.

Don’t let your mouth make a total sinner of you.

When called to account, you won’t get by with

                 “Sorry, I didn’t mean it.”

Why risk provoking God to angry retaliation?

But against all illusion and fantasy and empty talk

There’s always this rock foundation: Fear God! (MSG)


The “sacrifice of fools” is living life or doing things that don’t please or impress God.

The Bible mentions several types of the “sacrifice of fools.”

1. Giving God our leftovers. (Malachi 1:10-15)

2. Giving God lip service without a changed life. (Ezekiel 33:31-32)

3. Making decisions without carefully involving God. (Judges 11:29-49; Matthew 14:1-12)

Our prayers, no matter what we’re asking or why, become “foolish” when we’re living in any one of these ways. Can you imagine that God wouldn’t take us seriously if we’re praying with pious words and living sinful lives? Or that He won’t grant us our heart’s desires if those desires are of the world? Or if we march forward in our own will even as we’re asking Him to do His?


Everything we do in our bodies is a sacrifice offered to God. 1 Peter 2:5 teaches, “You also, like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

The author of Hebrews applies this principle to prayer; “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.  And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (13:15-16).

Again, when we come before God in prayer, He looks at how we’re living before He answers. When we live as He calls us to live, He hears our prayers and responds. He delights in the sacrifice of His people … and He is “provoked” by the sacrifice of fools.


First, get your heart right before God. Read His Word. Chase after Jesus. Seek to grow spiritually. Fight against sin instead of conforming to it. Follow His calling for your life the best you can.

Next, listen and receive what God has to say.

God speaks in a variety of ways. His Word tells us that He speaks through the Bible, circumstances, signs and wonders, other people, preachers and prophets, the peace of God, the creation, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Recognizing when God speaks takes practice. We have to be quiet in order to hear Him. That’s not easy to do in our busy, noisy lives. It also takes an awareness of spiritual things, which means staying in a spiritual mindset (Philippians 4:8).

Third, process what you hear from God carefully, in accordance with your understanding of who God is and His priorities for your life.

 When you hear God speak to you in prayer, listen carefully. Be prepared to obey when you hear Him speak. That specific commitment has everything to do with whether or not God will hear and respond to your prayers. After all, what good is it to interact with someone if you know they’ll just ignore you?

Finally, apply God’s words to your life.

Hannah made a serious vow to God and kept it: “O Lord of heaven, if you will look down upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you, and he’ll be yours for his entire lifetime.” (1 Samuel 1:11 NLT)

God knew she was serious. She fasted and prayed for months, never leaving the temple steps. Her actions showed her serious intentions. Her heart was open to hear Him speak … and she made a commitment to obey, no matter the cost.

God answered her prayer, not only giving her a son, but a son who would be the spiritual leader of Israel.

Well Jaden,

I hope this is really helpful for you—not only to help you avoid foolish prayers but to pursue prayers that God will answer.



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