Prayer is sharing your heart with God.
There are no magic formula prayers that "work". God is not a slot machine. You cannot simply say the magic formula and things will work. It doesn't work that way.
God is personal. He is knowable. He desires that you seek him. One way to seek him is through prayer. As you share your heart with him, he may very well answer you. Well, he should.
If you heart is not in it, and you are just praying through the motions, do not expect God to answer you. That is really mockery of God. And the Bible says God shall not be mocked.
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)
God is not into meaningless repetition.
“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” (Matthew 6:7)
If you are living a life of sin, then God will not hear you. Do not expect an answer in such cases.
“If I regard iniquity (i.e., sin) in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” (Psalm 66:18)
“Behold, Yahweh’s hand is not shortened, that it can’t save; nor his ear dull, that it can’t hear. But your iniquities have separated you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2)
If you ask with wrong motives, God will not hear you.
“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3)
Revelation is when God speaks to you. It is kind of the flip-side of prayer. God is constantly speaking to the people he has created, but many do not perceive it. God speaks through general revelation (e.g. creation, the beauty of the skies, etc). He speaks through his word, the Bible. And there is also special revelation (which may include dreams). Let's talk about a means that God is always using, and that is through conviction. Speaking of God's Spirit, Jesus says,
“And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” (John 16:8)
Therefore, God is constantly speaking to people, because people are constantly being convicted of their sin, the need to be righteous, and of the judgment to come. But how is the world responding? Instead of coming to God, many are running away from him. There is a problem with their belief system. They actually believe God is bad and not good. Otherwise, would they not freely come to God? But by ignoring him, and the voice of conviction — which is God's voice speaking to them — they are proving that they have sin that they want to hide. This is not good.
“This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and doesn’t come to the light, lest his works would be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)
Obviously, there is a struggle. People often resist the voice of God — the conviction of God in their lives. God is calling people to "make things right" but people are not willing to "make things right." The Bible tells us why (in the above verse). People love their sin too much! But in reality, they should see God as good, and as willing to forgive their sin — if they would only put their hope and confidence in Jesus. For he died for them on the cross, and offers them complete forgiveness, if they will just trust in what he did for them on the cross, by dying for their sin.
“The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10-11)
Jesus died for you. And he paid for your sin. Will you trust in him?
“For one will hardly die for a righteous man. Yet perhaps for a good person someone would even dare to die. But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7-8)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
A primary way that we have seen is through conviction. This comes by way of God's Holy Spirit. He is the One who convicts (see John 16:8, quoted above). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, and he is speaking to people all the time, concerning this. He wants people to be convicted of their sin, so they will repent (be willing to change).
“I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all perish...” (Luke 13:3)
Perish? It means to be lost for all eternity. The good news is that you do not need to perish. That would be a choice on your part.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
God wants you to repent (turn away from your sin), so that you might receive eternal life now. You do not need to wait for it. You can trust him now, before it is too late!
“The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but he is patient with us, not wishing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
There are many other ways that God can and does speak to people. Another foundational method is through the Holy Bible.
“Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that each person who belongs to God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Thus you should be reading the Bible every day. By reading it, you will learn more about God. God can and will speak to you through it.
Well, God can use dreams, as well. But make sure they line up with God's word (the Bible).
“For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction.” (Job 33:14-16)
Thus, God desires to use dreams, sometimes, to bring us "back along the path" — if we have strayed from where we should be. Do not rely upon dreams to bring you back on the path, however, if you are ignoring the voice of conviction, and you are not reading the Bible — you should pay attention to these first, and then you will be in a much better place to even discern your dreams, and understand them clearly, if you have obeyed in the first two areas. But if you are ignoring the first two areas, then it might be (and is) very risky to just go living by your dreams. Those dreams might be wrong, because different voices can speak to you in dreams, and how do you know it is God's voice, unless you have begun to read the Bible for yourself? The Bible is your guidepost, in this respect. It will help to keep you on track.
God invites those whom he has created into a personal relationship with him. He is a good God and desires to bless people. However, men and women desires to separate themselves from him, due to a fear that their sin will be exposed. This is the wrong response. We should come to him, and trust him. God speaks through the creation, through conviction of sin, through is word, and through dreams. However, we will not hear him if our heart is not in the right place.
Come to Jesus. You will never be disappointed!
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
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