Is the mere act of praying to God a guarantee that one’s supplication will be heard or granted?
ELIJAH THE TISHBITE earnestly prayed that it would not rain, and the sky withheld its water for three and a half years (James 5:17). King Hezekiah of Judah, after a prophet of God informed him that he would die, wept bitterly and cried out to the Lord—and he was given a 15-year lease on life (Isa. 38:1-5). God’s begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Himself “prayed with loud cries and tears to the One who could save him from death, and his prayer was heard because he trusted God” (Heb. 5:7 New Century Version).
Time and again, God’s faithful servants experience in their lives how powerful and effective prayer is, that is, the supplication that satisfies all the conditions for it to be heard. The Bible is unequivocal about the necessity and benefits of being prayerful. God’s people in olden times were admonished to “turn to God and present [their] case to him” (Job 5:8 Good News Bible) whenever they were afflicted. Christ commanded His disciples to “pray all the time so that you may be able to keep from going through all these things that will happen and be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36 New Life Version). Likewise, the apostles admonished the Christians to “pray on every occasion” (Eph. 6:18 GNB).
The Bible offers various reasons why God’s servants should pray constantly: so as not to faint or be discouraged (Luke 18:1), especially in times of great sorrow and anguish (Matt. 26:36-38); to have “strength against temptation” (Matt. 26:41 Easy-to-Read Version); to be cured of one’s physical or spiritual illness (James 5:14-15); and to let our requests be made known to God Who, in the abundance of His wealth and generosity, can provide us all the things we need (Phil. 4:6).
But is the mere act of praying to God a guarantee that one’s supplication will be heard or granted? Definitely not. This is why the Bible presents us with a list of conditions that should be met in order for prayers to be effective.
1. Be among those set apart or chosen by God
King David clarified that the privilege to be heard in prayer is enjoyed only by those whom God has chosen to be His own:
“But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself [and given distinction to] him who is godly [the man of loving-kindness]. The Lord listens and heeds when I call to Him.” (Ps. 4:3 Amplified Bible)
God Himself made this resolute pledge:
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (II Chr. 7:14 New International Version)
2. Possess an unshakeable faith
Christ taught His disciples:
“Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (trust and be confident) that it is granted to you, and you will [get it].” (Mark 11:24 AMP)
Faithlessness, on the other hand, hinders one from receiving anything he asks:
“But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:6-7 New Living Translation)
God states the fortune of those who trust in Him:
“The LORD says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them’.” (Ps. 91:14-15 NLT)
As having faith in God guarantees an answered prayer, harboring doubt or wavering destroys any hope of being heard.
3. Do the things that please God
Nonetheless, believing in God and in what He can possibly do will not suffice. We need to couple our faith with obedience to His will:
“And we receive from Him whatever we ask, because we [watchfully] obey His orders [observe His suggestions and injunctions, follow His plan for us] and [habitually] practice what is pleasing to Him.” (I John 3:22 AMP)
These were exactly the same conditions God gave to King Solomon for the latter’s petitions to be heard:
“The LORD said to him, ‘I have heard your prayer and your petition. I have set this Temple apart to be holy—this place you have built where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart. As for you, if you will follow me with integrity and godliness, as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations.” (I Kings 9:3-4 NLT)
4. Listen to those whom God sent
Thumbing one’s nose at God-sent messengers is a grievous sin that will cause one’s prayer to go unheeded. God expressed His displeasure with the people of ancient Israel, saying:
“… they would not listen. They turned away and stopped their ears from hearing. They made their hearts like hard stone, so that they could not hear the Law and the words which the Lord of All had sent by His Spirit through the men who spoke for Him in the past. So the Lord of All became very angry. ‘When I called, they would not listen. So when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord of All.” (Zech. 7:11-13 NLV)
In the true Church, God has placed an administration “to make the Word of God fully known” (Col. 1:25 AMP). Refusal to listen to our spiritual leaders is regarded by God and the Lord Jesus as an outright rejection of Themselves (Luke 10:16; John 13:20), and therefore, despising them and their authority will make one’s prayer abominable and unacceptable.
5. Cease from doing evil
Transgressing God’s commands and living in wickedness give us blemish before the eyes of our Creator:
“So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you. Even if you pray many times, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves. Make yourselves clean. Take your sinful actions from My eyes. Stop doing sinful things.” (Isa. 1:15-16 NLV)
Being pure and righteous, on the other hand, has immeasurable benefits. The Bible teaches that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16 NIV)—the very reason Elijah, Hezekiah, and above all, the Lord Jesus were all heard in their supplications.
6. Have a righteous motive
Any loving parent knows full well that it is both irresponsible and foolish to grant whatever our children ask. Even if we have all the resources in the world, we always make it a point that what we give them will do them good, not harm. The same is true with our loving Father in heaven. He will never grant what we ask if it is detrimental to us.
So it all boils down to our intention—the purpose behind our request. Any unrighteous motive will hinder us from getting what we are asking, as Apostle James explained:
“And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” (James 4:3 NLT)
7. Seek the Lord earnestly
When praying to God, He looks at our hearts and wants to see sincerity and earnestness:
“But from there you will search again for the LORD your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him.” (Deut. 4:29 NLT)
Our prayers, therefore, should not be a sort of ritual. We must not simply go through the motions but include our hearts, minds, and souls in seeking the Lord.
8. Be patient
Lastly, we need to be patient. There may be times when our requests are not granted immediately. But faithful servants of God do not lose heart and continue to hope in Him:
“But as for me, I will look to the Lord and confident in Him I will keep watch; I will wait with hope and expectancy for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” (Mic. 7:7 AMP)
“Be patient and wait for the LORD to act; don’t be worried about those who prosper or those who succeed in their evil plans.”
(Ps. 37:7 GNB)
We must never forget that prayer is a plea and petition to the Almighty. We should be ready to take “no” or “not yet” for an answer. Remember that the Father knows what is truly best for us, so let us humbly accept that it is He Who decides what we shall receive or when or how we shall receive the things we implore.
This article was originally published in the Pasugo: God’s Message magazine, November 2012 Issue.