Subscribe to this page via e-mail here - Subscribe

Article 87 - Prayer #3

Seven Lessons on Prayer

Jon Gary Williams

Lesson 3 - Conditions of Acceptable Prayer

It is so important to consider the conditions God has set forth for prayer. If these conditions are
neglected, prayer will lose its meaning and purpose.

1) Pray believing God can do what we ask

James wrote, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally ...but let him as in faith, with no doubting..." (Jam. 1:5,6)

We must pray in faith, without doubt. But, notice - we are to have faith, not that God will do what we ask, but that he can do what we ask. There is a difference. The fact is, God, in his infinite wisdom, may have plans for you other than what you ask. Someone once said, "If you want make God laugh, tell him your plans." Our heavenly Father has told us over and over, that He hears our prayers - but never has He told us He is going to fulfill exactly what we ask.

That God hears us is always modified by whether or not what we ask is according to his will.
(We will return to this thought later.)

2) Pray being obedient to God's word

Solomon could not have made this clearer. "One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination." (Prov. 28:9)

Remember how God speaks to us - through His word. His word is the foundation of our faith. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom.10:17) How could praying to God be genuine, if one is not obedient to his word? The two cannot be separated.

What is it that God tells us through his word? Among other things, we are told not to live immorally, not to use vulgar language, not to have bitterness and hate in the heart. How can prayer be effective if any of these things are practiced? So, for our prayers to be acceptable, it is essential that we adhere to God's word.

3) Pray with a submissive will - - that it be God's will

What did Jesus say to pray? "Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in
heaven." (Matt. 6:10) Jesus himself set the example in this. He prayed, "Oh my Father, if it is
possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."
(Mt. 26:39)

John wrote, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according
to His will, He hears us."
(I Jn. 5:14 ) This is something fundamental to acceptable prayer. As we approach God in prayer, we should always keep this before us.

There may be things for which we pray that do not conform to God's will. Hence, we want Him to know that His will is more important than ours. We must realize the depth in which God sees things - so much deeper than our understanding of things.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Is. 5:8)

God's response to our prayers may likely be different from what we expect.

4) Pray with a forgiving spirit -- Matt.6:12,14,15

This is something so fundamental to prayer - how can we expect forgiveness without being forgiving? Jesus made this point clear.

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matt. 6:14,15)

Here again, Jesus set an example. On the cross Jesus said, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do." (Lk. 23:34)

Now, we must admit, being forgiving is not always easy to do. Sometimes, to find compassion and forgiveness, we have to dig down deep. This takes lots of humility and meekness. We must rid ourselves of selfishness.

But think. Isn't this a test of our faith - a test of how much we are like Jesus? Ask yourself, how forgiving am I - and does this have any effect on my prayers?

5) Pray with a proper motive

James wrote, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures." (Jam. 4:3) The word "amiss" is from kakos (a strong term), meaning to ask with an evil, wicked motive, or praying for selfish reasons.

James is talking about self-gratifications. This means asking for meaningless things - things on which to squander selfishly. Now, this is a rather severe example of praying amiss. And we might say, "Why, I would never do this." But, maybe we do, and just fail to realize it. We may need to back away and evaluate our prayers.

The point is, effective prayer must always be sincere. We must ask: "When I pray, what about my motives?"

6) Pray with a pure heart

The Psalmist said, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear." (Ps. 66:18) This, in a sense, summarizes all the others. After all, all these conditions have to do with the heart, don't they.

How can we expect God to accept our prayers, if the heart is impure? Entertaining impure attitudes and thoughts in the heart creates a wall between us and God. We need to continually
seek to remove that wall.

David further said, "Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You." (Ps. 119:11) And, again, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." (Ps. 51:10)

7) Pray with humility

"Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear." (Ps. 10:17)

Will God receive prayers of the haughty? The answer is obvious. The fact is, we cannot separate humility from genuine prayer, for in true prayer we are completely given over to God.

Paul warned, "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think..." (Rom. 12:3) We must come before God with a heart filled with humility - a heart of meekness & submission.

8) Pray through Jesus

The apostle Paul set an example in this. "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all..." (Rom. 1:8)

We must always remember that Jesus is our mediator. "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus." (I Tim. 2:5) Jesus Himself said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (Jn.14:6 )

It is God's plan for us to come to Him through His son, for Jesus is the one who opens the door to the Father for us. Thus, it is always proper to approach God in this way.

Click here for Lesson 4: Hindrances To Acceptable Prayer