The Subjective Conditions of Prayer
We have already discussed the basic principles of prayer and the three types of prayer. Today we focus on the subjective conditions of prayer.
Biblical prayers are conditional, either explicitly or implicitly. For example, Jesus taught at least three conditions for individual prayer, namely the necessity of faith, the necessity of abiding in Christ, and praying in the name of Jesus Christ. What are the subjective conditions of prayer and what are the objective conditions of prayer?
Personal Prerequisites of Prayer
The following thirteen personal prerequisites of prayer have been identified:
- Sincerity: Praying in sincerity is an important prerequisite to prayer. Job said his prayer was pure, sincere (Job 16:17). Matthew 6:5 teaches that one is not to pray hypocritically, so one must instead pray sincerely.
- Reverence: Ecclesiastes 5:2 warns not to be rash with one’s mouth. Similarly, Hebrews 12:28-29 speaks of [coming] to God with reverence and awe. A second personal prerequisite to prayer is reverence.
- Humility: A third personal prerequisite is humility. Psalm 10:17 states that Jehovah heard the desire of the meek. See also Luke 18:9-14.
- Persistence: In Luke 11:5-13, Jesus taught a parable to encourage persistent action: ask, seek and knock.
- Submission: We must be in submission to God’s will so that we are willing to receive whatever answer to our prayers He so chooses to give. ‘Your will be done’ (Matthew 6:10). See also Matthew 26:39, 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 and 1 John 5:14.
- Obedience: A sixth prerequisite of personal prayer is obedience (1 John 3:22).
- Earnestness: In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus showed earnestness when He prayed (Luke 22:44; see also Acts 12:5).
- Abiding in Christ: We must be / remain in fellowship with Christ, as Jesus said in John 15:7: ‘If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you’. This ‘whatsoever’ is in accordance with what He determines.
- Forgiveness: In Matthew 6:12, Jesus said we can ask for forgiveness of our sins because we forgive those who sin against us. Fruchtenbaum (2005:4) writes that ‘a forgiving spirit is a vital prerequisite to prayer life. If we have a bitter spirit, we may be mouthing prayers, but these prayers are unreal and, even worse, they are not heard’.
- Repentance: See the prayer that the publican prayed in Luke 18:13-14. Merely confessing our sins without true repentance does not avail.
- Righteousness and godliness: This personal prerequisite is illustrated by Psalm 34:15: ‘The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry’. See also Psalm 145:19, Proverbs 15:8 and 1 Peter 3:12.
- Boldness: According to Hebrews 4:16, we are to approach God’s throne with boldness.
- Fervency: According to James 5:16-18, the fervent prayer of a righteous person avails much.
Confession of Sins
Confessing sin is an important element as a subjective condition to prayer. Psalm 66:18 states: ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear’. We need to confess our sins, wipe ‘our slate clean’ as part of our prayer life (see also Isaiah 59:1-2). Ideally, we should confess our sins when we first become aware of them, but there are two time limits that the Bible provides. First, let not the sun go down on your wrath (Ephesians 4:26). Second, we are to examine ourselves before we partake of communion (1 Corinthians 11:23-33).
We are to be mentally alert and wakeful when we pray (Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38-39).
According to Matthew 21:21-22, we must have ‘faith and doubt not…and all things whatsoever you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive’. The same is taught in James 1:6-8, ‘But ask in faith, not doubting’. What is it that must be believed? First, that God is, that God exists (Hebrews 11:6). Second, we must believe that God is able to hear and that He answers prayer (cf. Psalm 4:1; 6:9; 39:12; 54:2). Third, we must believe that God wants to answer our prayers (cf. Psalm 66:19-20; Matthew 7:9-11; Hebrews 11:6). Fourth, faith must be based on the promises of God as stated in Scripture (cf. Philippians 4:19).
In Accordance with the Will of God
Our prayers should be in accordance with the will of God. We can glean certain principles from texts such as Matthew 21:21-22; 26:39, 42; Mark 11:22-24; John 14:13-14; 15:7, 16; 16:23-24; and 1 John 5:14-15. According to Fruchtenbaum (2005:9-10), there are five principles of praying in accordance with the will of God — and we conclude by quoting him:
‘First, God will answer every prayer positively that is consistent with His own purposes and with our own best good. In other words, God will say, “yes” to every prayer we pray that is consistent with His own purposes and for our own best good. If it is not for our own best good or if it is not consistent with His own purposes, God will say, “no.” The second principle is that God’s will is what He purposes and plans. So if our prayer request is consistent with His purposes and plans, He will say, “yes.” If they are inconsistent, then He will say, “no.” The third principle is that God binds Himself to answer every prayer that comes within the scope of His will. The fourth principle is that prayer is a means of aligning our desires with the will of God. It is the means by which we grow sensitive to the will of God and, therefore, align our own desires with the will of God. The fifth principle is that when the will of God is clear, we can ask with full confidence.’
If you would like to read more about The Subjective Conditions of Prayer, we suggest you read the original article and source of this post, The Conditions of Prayer, written by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum and published by Ariel Ministries in San Antonio.
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