There is really only one reason that God answers our prayers. Christians are easily confused about this.
Many believers think that if they have a good day, if they treat their co-workers well, if they don’t kick the dog, and if they for the most part obey God, then they can pray. The better they are, therefore, the more their prayers will be answered. But it never works this way. Never.
This thinking is commonplace: Jesus said that the Gentiles thought this way…
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Matthew 6:7 (ESV)
Maybe it wasn’t their many good deeds, but it was their many words. No matter, it’s the same thing. They thought they would be heard because they talked a lot; we think we will be heard because we do a lot. We may be saved by grace, but we get our prayers answered through works. However, the Lord teaches that there is only one reason that God answers our prayers, and that reason is the name we call God: Father.
That’s how Jesus taught his disciples to pray:
“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven…'” Matthew 6:9 (ESV)
You parents, what would you think if your child thought he needed to do a number of chores to get a hug and a kiss from you? That would be awful. Terrible. The truth is that if you are normal, you want to give hugs, kisses and even stuff to your kids. It seems natural to me that we are tempted to spoil our kids. We are wise to hold back on this, of course, but it seems like the desire to bless them is the mark of a healthy parent-child relationship:
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11 (ESV)
And so we see this same dynamic happening in John 16. Here Jesus is explaining that the key to having our prayers answered is knowing God as Father, and the only way we can know God in this way…is through His Son:
Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to 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 (ESV)
We have no hope of salvation apart from Christ. We have no hope of answered prayers apart from Him either, but in Him, apparently…whatever we ask, our Father will give it to us.