The whole idea of petition is to approach God’s throne to try to get Him to hear us so that He may give us what we desire. This is one of the chief principles of prayer, and it is recognized most often when the need is the greatest, when we feel desperate.
David often felt this desperation and is a good example of one who prayed for God to listen to him and hear him. In Psalms 102:1-2 he prayed, “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come to You. Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble; incline Your ear to me; in the day that I call, answer me speedily.” Again in Psalms 142:6 (NIV) David prays, “Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.”
This principle must be used whenever we pray, not just when we feel desperate. I think when we feel desperate is when we seek Him the most, when we are at our wits end, when we are fearful and don’t know what to do. But even for the little things, for everyday needs we should still use this principle; for all true prayer is an attempt to get God to hear us. It is the very nature of prayer.
So how do we do it? How do we get God’s ear? Here are three ideas:
1. Be attentive to God. When we are attentive to God He will be attentive to us. We do this by waiting on Him in prayer and meditation. When you meditate, meditate on the Word so that you are setting your mind on things above, not on things on the earth (Col. 3:2). And when you pray, add fasting to your prayers. Follow the example of Esther and her people who fasted for three days before she made her request of the king. And the king did indeed hear her request (Est. 4:16-5:3).
Through all your efforts to be attentive, try to realize God’s presence, that you are actually sitting before Him and are directing your prayers before Him alone. Say with David in Psalms 5:1-3,
Give ear to my words, O Lord,
Consider my meditation.
2 Give heed to the voice of my cry,
My King and my God,
For to You I will pray.
3 My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.
2. Purify yourself. Before Joshua and the people of Israel set out to claim the Promised Land for themselves, Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (Josh. 3:5-6).
If we want God to do wonders among us—to hear our prayers and to bring us the answers that He desires for us, we must purify our hearts and bodies. Let us, therefore, be diligent to confess our sins so that we are made clean (1 Jn. 1:9); and let us strive daily to be pure and godly. David said in Psalms 4:3, “But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly; the Lord will hear when I call to Him.”
3. Pour out your soul to God. When we are in great trouble and despair and feel grieved, if we will trust God and pour out our heart and soul to Him, He will hear us. The Psalmist in Psalms 42:1-4 prayed,
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
“Where is your God?”
4 When I remember these things,
I pour out my soul within me…
Again, in Psalms 142:1-2, David said,
I cry out to the Lord with my voice;
With my voice to the Lord I make my supplication.
2 I pour out my complaint before Him;
I declare before Him my trouble.
In 1 Samuel 1:12-15 is the story of when Hannah was deeply troubled about being barren. It appeared to Eli that she was drunk. But she said to him, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord” (NIV).
Well, God immediately heard Hannah’s honest prayer. And the very next time Hannah slept with her husband Elkanah, she conceived; and she gave birth to Samuel (1 Sam. 1:19-20).