How often does God answer your prayers? Of course, we know that God always answers prayers, it’s just that his answer is not always what we were hoping for. ‘No’ is technically an answer to our prayers. But how often does God give you what you are asking of him in prayer? How often does God say ‘Yes’?

During Christ’s farewell speech in the John 1, no fewer than six times does Jesus link his name to answered prayers. In John 14:14 Jesus says, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

This verse does not say, “Ask me anything in my name, and you will get some sort of response,” it says, “I will do it!” Six times in one speech he makes this promise!

If you are like me, you always close your prayers with something like, “in Jesus’ name I pray… Amen,” and yet I can hardly say that all of my prayers are answered in the affirmative. So what’s the problem?

The key to answered prayer is the name of Jesus Christ, but that means more than simply closing your prayer with the right verbiage. ‘In Jesus’ Name’ is not the 'Abracadabra’ of Christianity; simply utter the words and POOF! you get what you asked for. There is more to it than that.

James 4:3-4 gives us some insight when it says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?”

If unanswered prayers are the result of ‘friendship with the world,’ that conversely suggests that answered prayers must be the result of friendship with God. Therefore, praying in the name of Jesus is not about saying the right words, but about having the right relationship.

True friendship with Christ is the key to answered prayers. But what does it mean to be God’s friend? What does praying like God’s friend -- the kind of prayer that gets answers -- look like?

In John 15:1-13 Christ restates the promise of answered prayers and links it to a need for friendship with him. In the process he gives one of the clearest explanations of what it actually means to be God’s friend.

The passage starts with a condition, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (v. 7).

Once again Christ promises to answer our prayers, but this time he replaces the phraseology of, ‘asking in my name,’ with ‘abide in me.’ The two phrases really represent same concept, so if we want to understand what it means to pray in the name of Jesus we need to first understand what it is to abide in Him.

How do we ‘abide’ in Jesus? Verse 10 gives the answer: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” So 'abiding' has something to do, at least in part, with keeping his commandments.

What are his commandments? "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (v. 12).

And, how did Christ love us? "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (v. 13).

For God, friendship is laying down your life for someone else out of an abundance of love. Jesus laid down his life for us, and his command is that we follow his example. In prayer, that means we lay down our worldly passions and become preoccupied with God’s glory instead. That is what it really means to pray in the name of Jesus.

So, how often does God answer your prayers? That depends. Are we becoming like John the Baptist, the Friend of the Bridegroom, who joyfully proclaimed that Christ must become more while he became less (John 3:29-30)? Or, is our friendship with the world still getting in the way of our friendship with God?

When friendship with Jesus is lacking, you’ll notice that answers to prayers will be too. On the other hand, when you truly pray in the name of Jesus, as his friend, he has promised to do all that you ask of him.

Publication date: June 14, 2011