1) The most obvious requirement of acceptable prayer is sincerity.
God cannot be deceived and He will not be mocked by flatterers. It is a great insult when we pronounce empty words before our Almighty, All-knowing King.
Placebo Prayers: when our hearts do not bind with our words. They are not prayers; they are mockeries.
Who do we think we are fooling?
God is an infinitely exalted Being. He is unmatched in His holiness. The Lord God is boundless in His knowledge and power. God is to be held in awe and esteem by all who address Him. This holy fear is the first aspect of true faith and understanding of Him. We ought to serve Him with amazement, wonder, and with godly respect.
Observe that whenever heaven is opened to our view, those who come into His presence are seen as prostrated, powerless creatures. We offend God, therefore, when we address Him as we would a fellow mortal or use forms of expression that are filled with undue familiarity. Nothing is more characteristic of the prayers recorded in the Bible than the spirit of reverence.
The Psalms may be regarded as a prayer book. Every Psalm is a prayer whether of worship, song of thanksgiving, of confession, or to put forward any requests we may have of our heavenly Father.
In many cases all these prayer elements are blended together. They relate to all circumstances in the inward and outward life. They recognize the control of God over all events and over the hearts of men. He is Lord! The Psalms assume that He is ever-near and ever-watchful, sustaining us our unique relationship we have with our loving Father.
Those who are true sons of the King, having been born anew and called by His name, are adopted children of God. The spirit of adoption works in such a way that we can cry out to the all-powerful Lord, “Abba! Father!” Praying in this way is called by Paul “crying.” Crying is a natural expression of desire and dependence. Children who cannot speak vent their desires by crying. We should otherwise be stunned and speechless, but we cry instead. Therefore — we of all sinful people — who were once children of the devil and sons of wrath, have now been saved by Christ’s blood; thus given new life, and are now adopted sons of the King with the promise of the King’s inheritance can address God as our Father!
But with all this, there is never any forgetfulness of His immense majesty. There is a tendency to address God as though He were one of ourselves.
This includes two things: first, a proper sense of our insignificance as creatures; secondly, a proper understanding of our uncleanness in the sight of God, for we are all terrible sinners. It is the opposite of self-righteousness, of self-complacency and self-confidence.
It is the spirit manifested by Job, when he placed his hand upon his mouth, and his mouth in the dust, and said, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
The publican, who was afraid to lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat upon his breast saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
This language of prayer is often ridiculed, and is regarded as backward or embarrassing. Some may feel it is hyperbolical. Others say such language has no place in the modern world where man is otherwise preoccupied with building his self-esteem.
It expresses the state of mind which cannot fail to be produced by a proper apprehension of our character as sinners in the sight of a just and holy God. Indeed there is no language which can give adequate expression to the sense of sin which the people of God often experience.
This is so important that on three different occasions our Lord impressed its necessity upon his disciples:
1) The Syrophenician woman, who could not be prevented from crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.”
2) Also in the parable of the unjust judge, who said, “Because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she wearies me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge says. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.”
3) Again in Luke 11:5-8, we read of the man who refused to give his friend bread, of whom Christ said, “Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needs.”
God deals with us as a wise benefactor. He requires that we should appreciate the value of the blessings for which we ask. We should always manifest a proper seriousness of desire when we address our Lord.
If a man begs for his own life or for the life of one dear to him, there is no repressing his persistence.If the life of the body is to be earnestly sought, to the point of the requestor being troublesome, demanding, or insistent, can we expect that the life of the soul will be granted to those who do not seek it with the same intensity?
We should, as the Scriptures instruct, pray always without becoming weary.
Every Christian who properly values his relationship to God will be set out to pray, “Lord, not my will but Your will be done.”
Even most children feel the propensity to subject their frail little wills to earthly fathers. How much more should we submit to the will of our all-knowing, all-powerful Father in heaven. He alone discerns what is best for us. Yet, we know that granting our every request might, in many cases, may be harmful and cause more injury than good. Our loving and compassionate Father in heaven knows what our true needs are.
Our Lord in the garden of Gethsemane set us an example in this matter. His pattern of prayer should never be forgotten.
We must believe. Believe what? There are at least four fundamental things: 1) That God is; 2) That He is able to hear and answer our prayers; 3) That He is disposed to answer them; 4) That He certainly will answer them, if consistent with his own wise purposes and with our best good.
For this faith we have the most express assurances in the Bible. It is not only said, “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find,” but our Lord says explicitly, “Whatsoever you ask in My name, that will I do.”
Certain promises of God are conditional. The condition, if not stated outright has an implied stipulation. It cannot be supposed that God has subjected Himself in any way by promising, without condition, to do whatever we ask. No rational man could wish this to be the case. He would desire restrictions that would benefit him in the long run. In 1 John 5:14, the condition elsewhere implied is expressed. “This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to his will, He hears us.”
The promise, however, gives the assurance that all prayers offered in faith for things according to the will of God will be answered. This is the case of Paul when he prayed to be delivered from the thorn in the flesh in a way we do not expect.
Lack of confidence in the promises of God is one of the greatest and most common defects in the prayers of Christians. Every father desires the confidence of his children and Almighty God is our Father, whose power and resources are boundless.
7) Prayers must be offered in the name of Christ.
Our Lord said to his disciples: “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” and “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” and “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do…”
To believe “in the name of the only begotten Son of God” is to believe that Christ is the Son of God and that He is manifested as the only Savior of men. To act in the name of someone is often to act by his authority. Thus our Lord speaks of the works which He did “in his Father’s name;” that is, by the Father’s authority and in the use of His ability.
Of the Apostles it is frequently said that they produced miracles in the name of Christ, meaning that the miracles were fashioned by His authority and power. We are not to trust in our own merits, or our own character, nor even simply to God’s mercy; we are to plead the merits and worth of Christ.
It is only in the Lord Jesus Christ, by virtue of His mediation and worth, that any blessing is conferred on His people.