Authored by Marie Story
It seems to me that prayer often works a lot like baking a loaf of bread: You’ve got to mix the ingredients, knead the dough, proof the dough, then bake the finished loaf. Maybe this whole idea sounds silly, but let me explain.
Step one: mix the ingredients. When baking bread, you can’t just throw a bunch of random stuff in a bowl and expect to get a loaf of bread. If you expect to get something even semi-edible, specific ingredients are needed.
Similarly, if you spout off a prayer haphazardly, without much thought or focus as to what you’re saying, don’t be surprised if you don’t get much of an answer.
There are specific ingredients that go into prayer and which help to ensure an answer. Of course, that doesn’t mean that every time you pray you have to include all these ingredients; God hears every type and style of prayer, and He loves to answer prayer even if we don’t really know how or what to pray for. But it’s helpful to know what “ingredients” go into prayer, because then you can have faith that you’ve done your part in prayer and the rest is up to God. Here are a few important ingredients:
Ingredient number one: Pray in Jesus’ name. In John 14:14 Jesus said, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”1
Ingredient number two: Be definite and specific. Tell Jesus your needs and how you’d like Him to supply for you. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”2 In order to “seek” in the right places and “knock” on the right doors, you have to know what you’re after and what you’re looking for.
Ingredient number three: Claim God’s promises. When Jesus was talking to His Father, in John 17, He said, “Your Word is true.”3 God’s words and His promises are real and authentic. When we claim His promises, we have real power attached to our prayers, because God will make good on His promises.
Ingredient number four: Have faith for the answer. James 1:6–7 says, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”4
Ingredient number five: Surround your prayer with praise and thanksgiving. Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”5
These are some basic ingredients of prayer, just as flour, salt, water, and yeast are the base ingredients for bread.
When you put your prayer ingredients together, even if you forget to add in a few, or you mess up on the order, God has promised to hear and answer. “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.”6
Step two: kneading your dough. Once your ingredients are mixed, then you’ve got to knead the dough. Kneading is the part that really takes work. When baking bread, you’ve got to roll your dough over and over, folding and compressing it for a good length of time.
We don’t always look at prayer as real work—it’s often the last thing we turn to after we’ve worked at a problem on our own for a while—but sometimes God expects us to keep praying until we receive the answer. Luke 18:1 says, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”7 Jesus even told a parable to help get this point across better:
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”8
So if you don’t receive an answer after one prayer, keep at it!
Step three: proofing the bread. The final step in making a loaf of bread, right before it goes into the oven to be baked, is the proving or proofing period. It’s the step where you leave the bread to rise. There’s not too much you can do to it at this point to make it go any faster. You just have to walk away and trust that it’s going to work. Patience is like the “proofing” of your prayer.9
Sometimes the dough even has to be punched down after you’ve waited a while, and left to rise again. This too is often how prayer works. You’ve done your part in prayer, you’ve had faith, you’ve prayed regularly, you’ve been patient, yet along comes a blow that seems like a big “no” or a “wait” to your request. Faith is what will allow you to keep trusting even when it seems that all the air has been knocked out of your prayers. Faith is like the yeast in your dough that will make it rise even after it’s been punched down. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the substance”—the proof or guarantee—“of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.”10
In fact, the waiting part continues when it comes to baking bread, because once you’ve put it all together, then you’ve got to put it in the oven and let God do the rest. This can sometimes be the hardest part of the prayer process—waiting for the answer. You can smell the bread baking—you feel that God is working—but this is the part where you just have to wait. It takes God time to work, and the bigger your request, often the longer it takes for you to see the answer. Little bread rolls will bake in minutes, whereas a full-size loaf can take nearly an hour. The delay doesn’t mean that no bread is coming; it just means you’ve got to be patient a little longer.
Once it’s in the oven, you have to trust that it’s going to bake. You can keep opening the oven and poking at it, but it’s not gonna bake any faster. Hebrews 11:6 says that when we come to God with a request we have to “believe that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” You’ve just got to leave it there and wait till God’s timer “dings.”
Remember, sometimes God’s delays are just as much a part of the answer as the actual fulfillment of your prayer. The answer is on its way—it’s “baking”—and you just have to be patient as God gets all the pieces in place to bring it to you.
Some bread takes longer to cook than others. Some bread just needs a few ingredients, while other types require a larger variety of elements. Some bread is quick to make—you mix your ingredients and pop them in the oven, or even on a griddle on the stove—while others demand a longer proving process—even a day or two—before they’re ready to bake.
So it is with our prayers. Put your prayer ingredients together, “prove” them with your faith, and trust God for the results.
Jesus said that if we ask for bread, He’s not gonna give us a stone.11 When you mix flour, salt, water, yeast, and a hot oven, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get bread—some better than others, but bread, nonetheless. If you’ve done your job of praying, you have to trust that the answer is what’s going to come out in the end. Of course, with prayer, you have to leave it up to God as to what type of bread your prayers will result in—what type of answers you’ll receive.
Unlike baking actual bread, the answer to your prayers may sometimes show up a little altered or different than what you expected. This is because God likes to add some of His ingredients and seasonings in the mix when the prayer is in the making process. He may alter the answer somewhat so that it’s more suited to your needs, or at other times, He may give you a completely different style, flavor, or type of answer than you were asking for, because He knows that something different is better for you and is going to make you happier in the end.
What results are you seeing from your prayers? Are you feeling frustrated because some prayer hasn’t been answered yet? If so, remember all that goes into baking a good loaf of bread, and try to apply some of those same principles to prayer.
George Mueller is one of the greatest examples to me of someone who lived a life of prayer. He went so far as to never ask anyone but God for the supply of his needs, and he never failed to receive an answer. His recipe for a miracle: “More prayer, more exercise of faith, more patient waiting, and the result will be blessing, abundant blessing.”
1 New International Version.
2 New International Version.
3 John 17:17 NIV.
4 New International Version.
5 Philippians 4:6 NIV.
6 Isaiah 65:24 NIV.
7 King James Version.
8 Luke 18:1-8 NIV.
9 Hebrews 10:36.
10 King James Version.
11 Luke 11:11 KJV.
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). (CC). Copyright © 2011 by The Family International