Praying Lesson 14: Prerequisites to Effective Prayer

Lesson 14: Prerequisites to Effective Prayer

Jesus assured his disciples, “Ask, and it shall be given you” (Mt 7:7), and that “all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Mt 21:22). Why do believers not usually experience this sort of answered prayer? What other factors pertain to answered prayer?

Today, we’ll explore several biblical requirements for effective prayer.

  1. Hindrances to effective prayer
    1. Unbelief  (Mt 21:21; James 1:6-7). “Wavering” (KJV) is “doubting.” The word literally means “to divide, to discriminate,” in the sense of being internally divided or doubtful. “Double-minded” (James 1:8) is another way of expressing the same idea.
    2. Disobedience  (Isa 59:1-4; James 4:4). God refuses to hear the prayers of unrepentant, worldly people.
    3. An unforgiving spirit (Mark 11:25; cf. Mt 6:12-15). God’s willingness to forgive us is limited by our willingness to forgive others. A bitter, unforgiving spirit marks an unbeliever.
    4. Unconfessed sin (Psalm 66:18; Prov 15:29). To “regard” iniquity (KJV) is literally to “look upon it” with affection and approval. We naturally gaze upon what we find attractive and turn away from what we find repugnant. Hypocritical prayer is ineffective.
    5. Failure to ask or asking with wrong motives (James 4:1-3). “Amiss” (KJV) is literally “badly, evilly.” Prayer must not be for the gratification of one’s sinful passions. Those who intend to (lit.) “squander it on your pleasures” (James 4:3) should not expect anything from God.
  2. Prerequisites to effective prayer
    1. Pray  (Mt 7:7,21:22;Lk 18:1;James 4:2)
      1. Prayer is a basic Christian responsibility (see Lesson 1 on the importance of prayer).
      2. Lack of prayer is one obvious reason our desires remain unmet.
    2. Pray in faith (Mk 11:24) and according to God’s will.
      1. We must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Heb 11:1, 6).
      2. We must have confidence that “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14-15).
      3. We must trust that God can do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph 3:20). All things are possible with God (Mt 19:26).

Note: Believing a thing will not necessarily make it happen. We must take into consideration all the other prerequisites to prayer as well. Further, unanswered prayer does not necessarily imply that one does not have faith. Even a small amount of faith is enough to move mountains (Mk 17:20).

  1. Pray in the name of Jesus (Jn 14:14,16:23).
    1. Specifically, prayer should be made to God the Father, through the authority of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
    2. The “name” of Jesus stands for his entire person, character, and nature. To pray “in Jesus’ name” means that we are asking for things that would be consistent with Jesus character. All the blessings we enjoy as Christians come to us via Jesus’ “name,” i.e., his person and work. We should ask only for things that are consistent with Jesus’ great name.
    3. Further, we approach God through the merits of Jesus, not by virtue of our own goodness or work. We have the right to come to God in prayer only because of our union with Christ and his intercession on our behalf. Jesus’ name stands for his authority or privilege; this is the basis for our bold approach to God in prayer.

Note:  Merely tacking on the phrase “in Jesus’ name, amen” to prayer does not satisfy this condition. On the other hand, not saying this phrase does not mean you are not praying in Jesus’ name.

  1. Pray while abiding in Christ (Jn 15:7). Failure to abide in the vine results in fruitlessness, which indicates an immature (at best) or unsaved (at worst) condition. Perseverance in the faith is necessary for prayer to be effectual.
  2. Prayer must be offered by those who have forgiven those who offend them (Mt 18:21f;Mk 11:25-26). Extending forgiveness to others is a mark of genuine Christianity.
    1. Theologically speaking, we know that God’s forgiveness of our sins does not depend upon our forgiveness of others. Justification comes by faith, not by works (Rom 5:1). All our sins are forgiven at the point of salvation.
    2. Failure to forgive others indicates an unregenerate heart.
    3. What is the proper way to handle offenses among brethren? Mt 18:15-17
    4. Prayer must be accompanied by obedience and a desire to please God (1 Jn 3:22).
      1. Obedience – obey his commandments, and particularly, the command to love one another.
      2. Pleasing God – Even when we don’t have a direct command to follow, our desire should be to do what would please God. Broader biblical principles guide us in this case.
    5. Prayer must persevere (Lk 18:1; Rom 12:12; Col 4:2; 1 Thes 5:17). We must continue in prayer steadfastly, attentively, and carefully.

Only when we meet the prerequisites to we have assurance of answered prayer.


Lessons in this Course
Table of Contents
Prayer Lesson 1: The Importance of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 2: Overcoming the Difficulties of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 3: What is Prayer?
Prayer Lesson 4: Our Perspective on Prayer
Praying Lesson 5: Praying in Jesus’ Name
Praying Lesson 6: How Not to Pray
Praying Lesson 7: The Model Prayer Matt 6:9-15
Praying Lesson 8: Pray-ers that Pleases God
Praying Lesson 9: Persistence in Prayer
Praying Lesson 10: Learning from Paul’s Prayers
Praying Lesson 11: Learning from OT Prayers
Praying Lesson 12: Prayer as an Expression of Spirituality
Praying Lesson 13: The Five Different Kinds of Prayer in the Psalms
Praying Lesson 14: Prerequisites to Effective Prayer
Praying Lesson 15: Prayer and Fasting

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