Praying With Expectation

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice.
In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.
(Psalm 5:3 NIV)

WHENEVER you pray, pray with expectation. That’s what David, the psalm writer, did. He had a need, he had a prayer, and he had an expectation. The NKJV says it this way: “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning I will direct it to You. And I will look up.”

When need arose in his life, David laid out his requests in prayer, and looked to the Lord in expectation. This was not the outward directing of his physical eyes, but the inward disposition of his heart — to be ready for the readiness of God.

Centuries later, the Lord Jesus, who is called Son of David, epitomized this disposition of the heart in His own life and ministry. He continually looked to the Father in everything He did. Whenever He prayed, He always expected to receive the answer.  What is more, He taught His disciples to do the same.

The expectation of Jesus

Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (Mark 11:24; The NIV says, “believe that you have received them”)

Jesus’ teaching is clear: When you pray, expecting that you have received, you will have whatever you ask. In another place He said:

Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his sons asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good things to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:7-11)

When you ask, expect to receive. When you seek, expect to find. When you knock, expect the door to be opened. The reason for this is that, if we know the Lord Jesus Christ, we now have God as our heavenly Father, and He is a giver of good gifts. He won’t give us something bad and try to make us think it is something good. God is a good Father, and good fathers don’t do that. God will give what we ask, so ask with expectation.

This kind of expectation arises out of a proper orientation of the heart, focusing ourselves on the Lord. Jesus said,

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. (John 15:7) 

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. (John 15:16)

Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:23-24)

You see, this is all about Jesus — abiding in Him, being chosen and appointed by Him, asking the Father in His name. If it were all about us, our prospects would be limited and doubtful, and our heart would accuse us: “You’re not worthy.” But because it is all about Jesus, we can expect to walk in His joy, experience His fruitfulness, and have our prayers answered just as His were answered — because He is worthy!

James, the brother of Jesus, also taught about expectancy in prayer. When we look at his epistle we can see four types or levels of expectation: no expectation, wrong expectation, double-minded expectation, and single-minded expectation.

Praying with no expectation

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in you members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. (James 4:1-2)

Certainly, this reveals a lack of expectation. Many Christians do not have because they do not ask, and they do not ask because they do not have an expectation of receiving. So they go looking for their answers in all the wrong places.

We need to pray with expectation, or else there is no point in praying at all. There are many people who pray without having any expectation of receiving. So they receive exactly what they expect — nothing! Then they shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, you never know what God is going to do.” Prayer becomes less and less of a concern in their lives, not because they tried it and found it lacking, but because they never really tried it in the first place. The problem is that they either do not know, or else do not believe what God has said in His Word, for He has said many things about what He is going to do. This means that we can know what God is going to do — He is going to keep His Word! So find out what God’s Word has to say, then pray with the expectation that He is going to do it.

Praying with wrong expectation

James said, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Some Christians, even when they do ask, still do not receive because they ask with the wrong motivation. Their expectation is twisted because they have made it all about themselves instead of about Jesus.

Jesus taught us to ask in His name, but many Christians use “in Jesus’ name” as nothing more than a tagline at the end of their prayers, as if it were some sort of magic phrase. Praying in Jesus’ name is not about magic, its about authority, the authority we have in Jesus. Jesus gave us this authority so we could see His purpose fulfilled and His work done on the earth, as it is in heaven. To ask in Jesus’ name is to ask as He would ask. When we do, we can expect to receive the answer to our prayers, just as Jesus received the answer to His.

Praying with double-minded expectation

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5-8)

This is a prayer of double-minded expectation because it is offered by a double-minded man. The double-minded man is confused in his expectations. He asks with the expectation that he will receive — but he also asks with doubt, the expectation that he will be denied. No wonder he is unstable in all his ways! His prayer is so confused and self-contradictory, how could God ever answer it? It makes no sense.

What the double-minded man really needs to do is press into the stability of God by getting into the Word of God, where faith comes and doubt leaves. Then his expectation will become strong and focused, and he will be confident in his prayer.

Praying with single-minded expectation

Finally, James talked about praying with single-minded expectation — the prayer of faith.

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. (James 5:14-15)

The prayer of faith is a prayer of expectation, single-minded and focused on God. It is based on the promise of God and therefore looks for that promise to be fulfilled. In this instance, the promise is for healing, so we can be confident in God when we pray for healing. But God has promised us many other things for which we can confidently pray. The promise of God is whatever He says He will do. In other words, it is the will of God.

Now, the will of God is not some vague thing, obscure and unknowable. It is clear and knowable, and is revealed to us in the Word of God. The Bible says that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). When we hear the Word of God, we begin to discover the will of God. As we do, faith starts to show up. When we exercise that faith and start taking God at His Word, our expectation grows strong, so we can know that we will have whatever we ask in prayer.

Developing your expectation in prayer

Here are five things you can do which will help you develop your expectation when you pray, so you can see your prayers answered. 


© 2004 by Jeff Doles.
All rights reserved.

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“JEFF DOLES is a Christian author, blogger and Bible teacher. His books include The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth: Keys to the Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Matthew and Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles. He and his wife, Suzanne, are the founders of Walking Barefoot Ministries. Visit their website at”

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