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Conditions of Acceptable Prayer
by Dale Hendricks

THROUGHOUT THE NEW TESTAMENT we read of many things that God has promised His faithful children. In many instances, He sets forth various conditions to be fulfilled in the life of the Christian. One such promise is in regard to the answering of our prayers. Jesus said: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you: for every one that asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it will be opened" Matt. 7:7-8. Scriptures like this teach that our prayers will be answered, and this should be a source of great joy to all who are children of God. The privilege of going to God in prayer, and the promise that God will hear and answer our prayers is one of the most glorious of the manifold blessings we enjoy. Since this wonderful promise is based on numerous conditions, let us notice some of the conditions of acceptable prayer.

1) It must be asked in faith. James teaches that we must believe unwaveringly that we will receive that for which we pray, provided it is the will of God (Jas. 1:6). Christ set forth the same principle: "And whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive" (Matt. 21:22). Moody once said, "If we are about to pray for bread, and fail to bring a basket to receive it, we reveal a doubting spirit, which may be the only reason that our prayer is not answered." A confident spirit of expectancy must always characterize our prayers.

2) It must be offered according to the will of God. "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us" (1 John 5:14). Our attitude in regard to our prayers should always be: "Your will be done." Jesus Christ even subjected His own prayers to this standard. In Gethsemane He prayed: "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will" (Matt. 26:39). He went on to repeat this a second and a third time (vs. 42, 44). Let us realize, as Christ did, that our prayers must be offered according to the will of God, and that a failure to so pray will result in our prayer becoming nothing more than an abomination in the sight of God (Prov. 28:9).

3) It must be offered from a humble heart. In one of His parables Christ stressed that it is the humble individual who is forgiven and not the proud. "He spoke a parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself: "God, I thank you that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess." And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other, for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14). When we bow our heads in prayer we should be humbled by the fact that we are but clay in the hands of the great Potter (cf. Rom. 9:20-21; Jer. 18:4-10; 4:9-10). We must humble ourselves before God because pride in a man destroys the possibility of having his prayers answered (James 4:10).

4) It must be offered in the name of Christ. Three times in His last discourse with the disciples, Jesus emphasized praying in His name (John 14:13-14; 15:16 16:24, 26). Offering a prayer "in Christ's name" involves more than just uttering these words at the end of the prayer. It is praying "in Him," with all His endorsement. John 14 refers to the authority behind a prayer that we have uttered.

5) It must be prayed by one who is in the right spiritual condition. The popular doctrine of the so-called "religious" world today is that any man can pray and his prayer will be heard and accepted by God. Notice what the Bible says in refutation of such a belief. "Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him" (John 9:31). Obedience to God's will is necessary if our prayer is to be heard. In 1 John 3:22 we read: "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight." Peter affirms: "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil" (1 Pet. 3:12).

Prayer, brethren, is an essential in the lives of God's people, and we may rest assured that prayer does avail; our loving Father does hear His children's prayers: (1 John 5:14-15). He hears and He answers, but only if we are meeting the conditions set forth by Him in His word. Do your prayers meet these conditions? It is the hope of this writer that they do.

Let us recognize the importance of acceptable prayer and heed the admonition of the apostle Paul: "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess. 5:15-16).

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