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.