The Most Important Prayer to Pray

I am a busy pastor and professor. Like many of you, I receive many calls, texts, messages, requests, and emails daily. But only a few of them take precedence over all the others—the messages from my kids. As a father, I respond to my kids readily and attentively because of our relationship.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus stood before a huge crowd and delivered a bold declaration of what He saw as the essential aspects of living in His Kingdom. Those who heard it thought it was radical.
In it, Jesus exposed the contrast between the false religion of the Pharisees with the true standard of God. This lofty Kingdom standard espoused by Jesus can only be experienced through a relationship with God.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the first line of what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.” Here, Jesus interjects the foundation, the atmosphere, and the primary basis of answered prayer when He introduced a new way to pray.

The primary key to answered prayer is the relationship. Jesus said, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven. . .’” (Matthew 6:9). If God is your Father, then you can ask Him for anything, at any time, and from any place—and you can know He is listening to what you have to say. If the child asks for something that will be good for him or her, the father will most likely give the child what he or she asks for.

It is not approaching God as King, God, or Master. It is approaching God as Father.

The Bible presents God and our relationship with Him through several images. One is that God is the “Sovereign King of the Universe” (1 Chronicles 29:12; Psalm 10:16, 103:19). Jews traditionally opened each prayer with the words, “Blessed are you, LORD our God, King of the Universe.” When I think of God this way, I think of approaching Him cautiously and only when I have a very significant need. I see myself presenting to Him a formal petition to act on behalf of my urgent request. When a peasant approached a king in this way, the odds of getting a favorable response from the king may be small.

God is also seen in Scripture as the “Holy Lord God Almighty.” To approach God in this manner, I picture lying on my face in surrender, submission, humility, confession, brokenness, and worship. I think of the apostle John before God’s throne (Revelation 4:8) or Isaiah seeing the Lord, high and lofty, on His throne (Isaiah 6:1-5). Both were crushed by God’s immensity, majesty, glory, and holiness. The issue in approaching such a massive, mighty, Holy God is primarily about being forgiven more than it is about influencing Him to issue blessings.

Beyond that, God is “the Master” and we are His servants (Matthew 6:24). Our focus is to be on His business. When I think of God this way, I feel like I need to make an appointment to see “the Boss” about my role in His business. Nothing else is to be discussed.

But Jesus gave us an entirely new and better image. He described prayer as a child approaching a kind, generous, strong, and loving “heavenly Father.”

In the prayers of Jesus recorded in the New Testament, each one begins with the word “Father.” This must have stunned the Jews because they would never consider approaching God with the familiar word “Father.” They approached God more with formal, less personal titles like “Sovereign King of the Universe.”

It is only through Jesus that we can call God “Father.”

Prayer giant Andrew Murray, in his classic book With Christ in the School of Prayer, states, “The atmosphere in which I am to breathe and pray is God’s Father-love, God’s infinite Fatherliness.”1
I love that thought: “God’s infinite Fatherliness.”

Murray also said, “We must learn to say, ‘Daddy, Father! Our Father who is in Heaven.’ Whoever can say this, has the key to all prayer . . . the secret to effective prayer is to have the heart filled with the father-love of God.”2

How Much More

In Matthew 6:9, Jesus introduces us to the concept of coming to God personally, as approaching a Father when we pray. In Matthew 7:7–11, Jesus took it up a level by giving us promises related to the Father’s willingness to answer the prayers of His children.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened (Matthew 7:7–8).

In this passage, Jesus helps us to see that answered prayer, in part, comes from asking. But there is more:
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him?” (Matthew 7:9–11, NLT).

Jesus draws a comparison between our earthly fathers and our heavenly Father. He states that even imperfect earthly fathers will make every effort to give their children the good things that they ask for. Therefore, we should expect our good heavenly Father to give us the good things that we ask for . . . and more. Answered prayer comes because of expectation. It is approaching God as our “heavenly Father” who “gives good gifts to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11).

Is God Your Heavenly Father?

Jesus said that the special Father-child relationship with God is not automatic. We must be born into it. When Nicodemus, a very religious Pharisee, cautiously and privately approached Jesus, Jesus stunned him with His declaration: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed a second birth. His first birth was insufficient. Like the rest of us, he was born with a sin nature. No amount of religion can make up for the fact that Nicodemus was a sinner.
Nicodemus replied, “How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4).

Jesus responded that being “born again” is not only experiencing a second birth. It is also experiencing a spiritual birth.

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:5–8, ESV).

Jesus was clear: you will not experience the Kingdom of God unless you experience a second birth and a spiritual birth. As Jesus said, we must be born again into God’s family. This is through receiving and believing in Jesus (John 1:12–13, 3:16). This is through repentance and faith, turning from our sins, and turning to God. Being born again requires believing that Jesus rose from the dead, calling upon the name of the Lord, and confessing Him as Lord (Romans 10:9,13).

Do you need to join God’s family?

Have you been born again?

When were you born again?

How to Be Born Again

Jesus answered Nicodemus’ questions about being born again with the statement that has become the most quoted verse in the Bible. Note that being born again is a result of believing in Jesus.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Earlier in his Gospel, John reaffirmed the necessity of faith and added clarity to it. We are born again when, by faith, we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:12–13).

The good news is that humans can pray with confidence and expectancy to “our Father in heaven.” The bad news is we can only effectively pray to “our heavenly Father” if we have been born again into His family.

Following is a prayer. Thousands have prayed it—or something like it—when they were serious about turning their lives over to Jesus Christ. It does not contain magic words, and just saying it will not save your soul. But it incorporates the gospel and the elements of true conversion. Read through it. Decide if you believe it. If you sense the Father drawing you to Himself, you can pray it to God right now. He is listening.

Dear Heavenly God,
I admit that I have sinned. I admit that my religion alone is not going to give me a relationship with You. I admit that my goodness is not good enough. I admit that I need to be born again.

I believe that Jesus is God’s Son. I believe that Jesus never sinned. I believe that Jesus died to pay for my sins. I believe that Jesus rose from the dead to give me eternal life.

Right now, I call upon the name of the Lord Jesus to save me. I ask the Holy Spirit to come into my heart and make me a new person. I ask that I may be born again as a child of God. I surrender the throne of my heart to You. I ask You to forgive my sins and save me.

I am willing to do anything You tell me to do. I am willing to stop doing anything that displeases You. I ask for the power to follow You all the days of my life.
In Jesus’ name, amen.

The Incredible Love of the Father

God hears us when we pray, and He looks to answer our prayers with “Yes” (Matthew 7:7–11). He sees us praying in secret and loves to reward us openly (Matthew 6:6). Why?

Because our heavenly Father “loves us” with a faithful, everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). The title, “heavenly Father” reminds us that God loves us with an immense quantity and an incredible quality of love. The apostle John was overwhelmed by the love of the Father when he wrote:

See what an incredible quality of love the Father has shown to us, that we would [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! (1 John 3:1, AMP).

Being born again and coming into relationship with God is the most important key to seeing answers to your prayers! I hope you have been born again.

Dr. Dave Earley, adapted from 21 Keys to Answered Prayer (PrayerShop Publishing 2024).