IN seeking to understand the conditions of successful prayer, we must compare Scripture with Scripture, because again and again we find that one part supplies what is wanting in another.
Let us commence with 1 John 5:13-15. Here is the first condition to be attended to—we have to ask God for the things which are according to His will. And should we be little acquainted with the will of God about any matter, we must first ask Him to teach and instruct us. He loves us with an infinitely wise love, and not like foolish parents who give their children all they ask for. He desires true happiness and blessing for His children, and therefore only gives what would be for their blessing and profit to receive.
1. The Lord Jesus said we should ask in His Name if we wish our petitions granted (John 14:13, 14).
2. Another point is, that we exercise faith in the power of God, and in His willingness to hear us (Mark 11:24). We must be looking out for the answer. There are few children of God who doubt His ability to give, but many doubt His willingness, forgetting that large word of the apostle, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
3. Now, suppose those three things are found in us with regard to prayer, there is another in Psalm 66:18, which is an important one: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”
4. There remains one thing more--that we continue to wait on God till the answer comes. Here we frequently break down. We begin well, but we do not go on.
If month after month, and year after year, we have been praying, and our petitions have not been granted, the thought comes, Will God answer? Many break down because the petition is not granted so quickly as they expected. Parents pray for their children. They begin to do so; but we should never forget that we have to continue, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, until the answer comes. For God knows the best time for us, and He will in His own time give us our requests. It may be for the trial of our faith, or of our patience, or to see if we are in earnest, that He waits. For these and other reasons the petitions may not be answered so quickly as we desire.
Young workers ask God for the conversion of many souls. They go on praying and preaching, but do not get answers. It may be that they are not prepared for the blessing. If their petitions were granted, it might be an injury to their souls. Therefore He waits till they are prepared to receive the blessing. So with Sunday School teachers. They ask God for good things for their children, yet do not receive the answer. Now let us go on, and patiently, quietly wait on the Lord. The blessing most assuredly will come.
Now, are we all in the habit of thus going on patiently, perseveringly, month after month, and year after year, waiting on God? Then let us set out afresh with renewed earnestness and faith. To all our petitions, if they have been according to the will of God, and in the name of the Lord Jesus, and with faith in the willingness of God to give what we have asked, the answers must come. I have myself had to wait for a long time to get certain blessings. In many instances the answer has come instantaneously, or in the same hour, or the same day; yet in other things I have had to wait years—ten years, fifteen years, twenty years, and upwards—yet invariably at the last the answer has come. And I say it to encourage my brethren and sisters in Christ, Go on waiting, waiting, waiting. Begin afresh to bring your petitions before God. He will hear you. For one thing I have been praying for thirty-nine years and nine months, and the answer has not yet come. Last evening I prayed for it, and the evening before last I prayed again. When traveling in India and America, year after year I have been praying and I am sure that in the end the answer will come. I have received tens of thousands of answers to prayer, but in this particular I have to wait. For the conversion of the parents of one friend I prayed and the answer came when the father was between eighty and ninety years old. This very individual had cast off his son entirely; for years he did not allow him to come into his presence. At last he sent for him, and then would scarcely allow him to go out of his sight; yet for twenty years I had to pray for his conversion. So with the mother.
Therefore, begin afresh with greater earnestness than ever, and you will receive the answers at last. The Lord delights to bless His children, to give them everything that is for their blessing and comfort; and especially does He delight to bless parents in praying for their children. And if we have set them a bad example, and have let them go on in a self-willed course, then the first thing is to make honest confession of our sin, and to own that we deserve all that may have come upon us. Let us humble ourselves in the dust before God, yet pleading the merits of Jesus, and we shall find that God is ever ready in His pity and compassion to forgive us. Then with renewed earnestness let us begin to pray.
Go for yourself, with all your temporal and spiritual wants, to the Lord. Bring also the necessities of your friends and relatives to the Lord. Only make the trial, and you will perceive how able and willing He is to help you. Should you, however, not at once obtain answers to your prayers, be not discouraged: but continue patiently, believingly to wait upon God: and as assuredly as that which you ask would be for your real good, and therefore for the honor of the Lord; and as assuredly as you ask it solely on the ground of the worthiness of our Lord Jesus, so assuredly you will at last obtain the blessing. I myself have had to wait upon God concerning certain matters for years, before I obtained answers to my prayers; but at last they came. At this very time, I have still to renew my requests daily before God, respecting a certain blessing for which I have besought Him for eleven years and a half, and which I have as yet obtained only in part, but concerning which I have no doubt that the full blessing will be granted in the end.... The great point is, that we ask only for that which it would be for the glory of God to give to us; for that, and that alone, can be for our real good. But it is not enough that the thing for which we ask God to be for His honor and glory, but we must secondly ask it in the name of the Lord Jesus, viz., expect it only on the ground of His merits and worthiness. Thirdly, we should believe that God is able and willing to give us what we ask Him for. Fourthly, we should continue in prayer till the blessing is granted; without fixing to God a time when, or the circumstances under which, He should give the answer. Patience should be in exercise, in connection with our prayer. Fifthly, we should, at the same time, look out for and expect an answer till it comes. If we pray in this way, we shall not only have answers, thousands of answers to our prayers; but our own souls will be greatly refreshed and invigorated in connection with these matters.
If the obtaining of your requests were not for your real good, or were not tending to the honor of God, you might pray for a long time, without obtaining what you desire. The glory of God should be always before the children of God, in what they desire at His hands; and their own spiritual profit, being so intimately connected with the honor of God, should never be lost sight of, in their petitions. But now, suppose we are believers in the Lord Jesus, and make our requests unto God, depending alone on the Lord Jesus as the ground of having them granted; suppose, also, that, so far as we are able honestly and uprightly to judge, the obtaining of our requests would be for our real spiritual good and for the honor of God; we yet need, lastly, to continue in prayer, until the blessing is granted unto us. It is not enough to begin to pray, nor to pray aright; nor is it enough to continue for a time to pray; but we must patiently, believingly continue in prayer, until we obtain an answer; and further, we have not only to continue in prayer unto the end, but we have also to believe that God does hear us, and will answer our prayers. Most frequently we fail in not continuing in prayer until the blessing is obtained and in not expecting the blessing. – George Muller
1. Entire dependence upon the merits and mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the only ground of any claim for blessing.
"And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it" (John 14:13-14).
"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)
2. Separation from all known sin. If we regard iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not hear us, for it would be sanctioning sin.
"If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear" (Psalm 66:18).
3. Faith in God's word of promise as confirmed by His oath. Not to believe Him is to make Him both a liar and a perjurer.
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).
"For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 6:13-20).
4. Asking in accordance with His will. Our motives must be godly: we must not seek any gift of God to consume it upon our lusts.
"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).
"You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3).
5. Importunity in supplication. There must be waiting on God and waiting for God, as the husbandman has long patience to wait for the harvest.
"Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain" (James 5:7).
"Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ” Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”" (Luke 18:1-8).