The first of the essential conditions of prayer is faith. We should couple our prayer with firm and unshakable faith that we may receive what we ask for. This was enjoined on us by the Lord Himself: “Therefor I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will.” (Mark 11:24). Likewise the Apostle says: “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1: 6,7)
The second condition is that we must link to our petition a strong and firm hope, so that if our prayer is not answered quickly or not answered at all, we should not give up. Rather, we should persist in our petitions and call on the Almighty, night and day, as He instructed us to do in Luke 11:5,18, and in the night of His betrayal when He repeated three times the same words in His prayer. (Matthew 26:44)
The fact that our petitions are not always granted does not mean that God is unaware of them, or that He does not care for us. You see, God has His divine purposes, one of which is that if He granted us our requests easily we might come to regard the matter too lightly, and this would lead to ingratitude on our part. Also, the denial of a petition may be for reasons quite unknown to us. One of these reasons could be that a particular request might not be to our good. Since God knows better than we do what is good for each one of us, He does not pay attention to some of our petitions, simply because He is merciful towards His servants and wants them to be saved. (I Timothy 2:4).
It is also possible that a particular petition may not be in harmony with the holiness of God and His divine will. Therefor, be careful, O you who seek to pray in the spirit and truth, not to ask of your Lord anything that is in conflict with His perfection -thus revert in harm to you. Rather, accept God’s plan for you. This is what you mean when you say in your prayer: “Your will be done, as it is in heaven so on earth.” Will it be palatable to
us, then, after we have called Him “our Father” and submitted to Him our will, to worry or loose our hope just because He did not answer our prayer?
The third condition is that our prayer should be offered in much love to God and to the neighbor. As to love to God, it is love that stirs man to glorify his Creator Who, through this love, dwells in his heart and makes Himself an abode there. As to the love of neighbor, it is incumbent on us to forgive those who trespass against us so that He may see our love towards them and thus treat us as we treat them, as He made clear in Matthew 6:14, 15. Also, we should pray for the wellbeing of all our Christian brethren, asking for repentance for sinners, guidance for strays, persistence for the repentant, and relief for those who are in distress of any kind.
Clarity of thoughts should be added to the above. In this connection Mor Isaac the Elder says: “Purity of prayer does not mean that no idea whatsoever should occur to the mind. It does mean, however, that one should not entertain such ideas and thus stray.”
One should also understand prayer. He who does not understand what he says had better keep silent.
Magnification of the Lord by the soul is part of prayer, as one contemplates the greatness of the majesty of God before Whom he stands. As such, he realizes that he is unworthy to address Him, being himself of dust and in the likeness of the worms therein.
A sense of awe that stems from the omnipotence of The Mighty and Awe-Inspiring Lord of Lords should be present at prayer at all times. Father Oghris says: “A prayer that is devoid of fear, tremble, concern and purity is useless”.
Remembering his sins at prayer, one should develop a sense of shame. As such, one should dare not lift his eyes towards heaven. Rather, he should call upon God with a contrite heart saying: “O God, I have sinned against heaven and before You; I am no longer worthy to be called Your son…”
Hope is another element of prayer, called for by the abundant mercy of God towards the world. Once it gets strong, it imparts the soul an ineffable joy.
Let your prayer be based on seeking God’s good pleasure, His glory, the extension of His Kingdom and all other graces that are in harmony with the Divine Will. However, if the object of the prayer is to realize worldly expectations or empty pleasures, it will only bring disappointment. This is what the Lord meant when He said, “You ask but you do not receive because you ask for bad things. Do not multiply words as the pagans do.” (Matthew. 6:7).
– Patriarch Mor Ignatius Ephrem Barsoum