The Conditions of Effectual Prayer
‘And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.’—Matt. xxi. 22.
HAVE we not sometimes been tempted to think that here, at least, is a case in which our Lord has not literally and always kept His word? in which we do not get quite so much as the plain English of the promise might lead us to expect? If so, well may He say to us, ‘Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God ?’1 If we had known the Scriptures by searching, we might have known more of the power of God by experience in this matter. For this is no unconditional promise; this marvellous ‘whatsoever’ depends upon five great conditions; and, if we honestly examine, we shall find that every case of seeming failure in the promise can be accounted for by our own failure in one or more of these.
1. ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do.’2 Really, not verbally only, in the name of Jesus; asking not in our own name at all;
1 Mark xii. 24. 2 John xiv. 13; ib. xiv. 6.
signing our petition, as it were, with His name only;1 coming to the Father by our Advocate, our Representative.2 Do we always ask thus?
2. ‘Believing, ye shall receive.” The faith heroes of old ‘through faith . . . obtained promises,’* and there is no new way of obtaining them. Is it any wonder that, when we stagger at any promise of God through unbelief,5 we do not receive it? Not that the faith merits the answer, or in any way earns it or works it out, but God has made believing a condition of receiving, and the Giver has a sovereign right to choose His own terms of gift.
3. ‘If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’6 Ah! here is a deeper secret of asking and not having, because we ask amiss.7 Not, have we come to Christ? but, are we abiding in Him?— not, do we hear His words? but, are they abiding in us? Can we put in this claim to the glorious ‘whatsoever’? And, if not, why not? for ‘this is His commandment,’ ‘Abide in Me.’8 And this leads us to see the root of our failure in another condition, for,—
4. ‘Whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.’s Only as we are abiding in Him can we bring forth the fruit of obedience, for without (/’. e. apart from) Him we can do nothing;10 only in walking by faith can we
1 Phil. ii. 10 (Gr.) 8 I John ii. I. 8 Matt. xxi. 22.
4 Heb. xi. 33. 6 Rom. iv. 20. « John xv. 7.
r Jas. iv. 3. 8 John xv. 4.
• 1 John Hi. 22; Ps. lxvi. 18. 10 John xv. 4.
do those things that are pleasing in His sight,1 for without faith it is impossible to please Him.2
5. ‘If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.” When what we ask is founded on a promise or any written evidence of what the will of the Lord is,4 this is comfortingly clear. But what about petitions which may or may not be according to His will? Surely, then, the condition can only be fulfilled by a complete blending of our own will with His ;6 by His so taking our will, so undertaking it and influencing it for us, that we are led to desire and ask the very thing He is purposing to give. Then, of course, our prayer is answered; and the very pressure of spirit to pray becomes the pledge and earnest of the answer, for it is the working of His will in us.
Two comforting thoughts arise.
First, the very consciousness of our failure in these great conditions shows us the wonderful kindness and mercy of our King, who has answered so many a prayer in spite of it, according to His own heart, and not according to our fulfilment, giving us ‘of His royal bounty’6 that to which we had forfeited all shadow of claim.
Secondly, that He who knoweth our frame7 knows also the possibilities of His grace, and would never tantalize us by offering magnificent gifts on impossible conditions. ‘Will he give him a stone?’8 Would an earthly parent? Wou\&you? Therefore the very annexing of these intrinsically most blessed
1 2 Cor, V. 7. 2 Heb. xi. 6. 3 i John v. 14.
< Eph. V. 17. 6 Phil. ii. 13. 6 i Kings x. 13.
7 Ps. ciii. 14 J Phil. iv. 13. 8 Luke xi. 11.
conditions implies that His grace is sufficient* for their fulfilment, and should lure us on to a blessed life of faith, abiding in Jesus,* walking in obedience ‘unto all pleasing,’3 and a will possessed by His own divine will.
Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much.