- Petition God through sincere prayer (Hebrews 5:7);
- Read and take to heart God’s Word (Revelation 1:3);
- Deliberately and through faith pursue obedience to that Word (Psalm 5:12); and
- Express compassion and generosity through our giving (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).
A clear conscience and a pure heart are absolute necessities for prevailing prayer. I cannot confidently ask God for answers when I cling to the sins that nailed His Son to the cross of Calvary. I cannot live in iniquity and enjoy the Lord’s favor simultaneously. These are impossibilities in God’s moral universe. This truth highlights the enormous fallacy of teaching that certain prayers brings success and blessing apart from the spiritual condition of the petitioner. Prayers taken from Scripture, even the Lord’s Prayer, will be null and void if people harbor hidden sin in their hearts. “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18 NASB). One Sunday morning, as people gathered to pray at the front of the church after service, I saw a man motioning me to come and pray for him. When I asked how I could help, he replied that he was requesting prayer for physical healing. But something about him troubled me. When I asked if he was a Christian, he said, “Yeah, of course, I’ve been in church almost all of my life.” “What church are you presently a member of?” I countered. “Oh, I kind of just move around as the Spirit leads. I haven’t been a member anywhere for years.” For some reason, I felt no peace about praying for him. Then I noticed a woman standing a few feet behind him. When I asked about her, he said, “Yeah, that’s my girlfriend.” I felt God leading me to ask another question, one that required some boldness. “Where does she live?” I asked. “What do you mean, where does she live? I came up for prayer for this problem, and you’re asking about my girlfriend?” I didn’t budge, feeling sure God was helping me. “You know exactly what I mean. Where does she live?” “Okay, we live together. But God knows I really love her, and we’re definitely gonna make it right one day. We have a special relationship the Lord understands. But forget that – are you gonna pray for my healing or not?” “Let me get this straight,” I answered. “You’re living in fornication with this lady and know that it’s wrong before God. And you now want me to ask that same God to heal you while you live in this mess. Sir, there’s not one chance in a billion that God will answer you or anyone else who prays about it. He would have to violate His Word to hear you. And if He answered you, He would be encouraging your horrible lifestyle.” I’m not sure he heard the last sentence because he walked out in a huff before I finished speaking. I regretted this, but it was better than carrying on a meaningless charade and failing to tell him the truth as it is in Jesus. No wonder so many prayers never make it past the ceiling! If we want our petitions to be heard and answered, we cannot violate God’s spiritual laws. This is the most difficult part about prayer by far. It’s easy to ask God for the things we want and need. But it’s not so simple to adjust our hearts and lives to His Word. Because Satan understands the potential of prayer far better than we, he has developed cunning strategies to clog the asking-receiving channel. An unforgiving spirit, bitterness, secret [or not-so-secret] sexual sins – the list [of transgressions] is endless – can stymie our praying. Every sin we hide and justify becomes a hindrance to bold, confident prayer to the Father.