1. Pray More. The average Christian spends a very limited amount of time in prayer. We often reserve prayer for emergency use only. How much time would you estimate you spent in prayer yesterday? How much time last week? More Daniels are needed today (Dan. 6:10).
2. Be More Specific in Prayer. Prayers are often far too general, too vague. More praying should be done for specific people, specific needs, etc. Prayer should be fitted to the occasion and need. Too often our prayers are like that of the young boy when he and a friend found themselves in the pathway of what appeared to be sure disaster with no way of escape. One of the boys prayed the only prayer he had ever heard his father pray, and that before meals. He said, "God, make us thankful for what we are about to receive!" It may be that our prayers are often no more appropriate for the occasion than was his.
3. Pray with Greater Faith. James said that weak faith and futile prayers are connected (James 1:6). Doubts and uncertainties hinder prayers. The source for a greater faith is God's Word (Romans 10:17).
4. Rise Above the Sin of Covetousness. James also tells us that a covetous spirit hinders our prayers (4:2). Selfish hearts do not gain the ear of God. A loving and giving God is seeking to bless those with generous spirits.
5. Pray with Greater Zeal and Fervency. Another important ingredients is enthusiasm or fervency, so declares James (5:16). Prayers coming only from the lips, and not from the hearts, are hollow and empty. The Pharisees of Jesus' day prayed such prayers.
6. Grow More Godly. The more righteous we become, the more prayer accomplishes (James 5:16; 1 Peter 3:12). Elijah's success in prayer was directly related to his righteousness in life. The rebellious spirit and the unrepented sins will always hinder our prayers (Proverbs 1:28; Isaiah 59:2).
7. Improve Marital Relationships. Peter tells us that relationships between husbands and wives either help or hinder prayers (1 Peter 3:7). When relationships break down between marriage partners, our relationship with God is affected.
8. Grow in Humility. The first beatitude named by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount was on humility (Matthew 5:3). The proud heart is rejected by God (James 4:6). The Pharisee's prayer was rejected because of pride (Luke 18).
9. Cultivate a Forgiving Spirit. Jesus declared that we cannot expect forgiveness from God if we refuse to forgive our fellowman (Matthew 6:12). This is just one of numerous biblical warnings that God's treatment of us is connected with our treatment of others.
10. Persistence in Prayer. Jesus taught two parables regarding the importance of persistence in prayer (Luke, chapters 11 and 18). In each instance, perseverance was a key ingredient to success.
11. Combine Action With Prayers. Pray as though everything depends upon God. Then work as though everything depends upon you. Somewhere, I read about a farmer with this sign on his farm: "Pray for a good harvest, but keep on plowing."