When one reads about prayer in the Bible, it seems that we can just ask for anything we please and God will give it. If we want a new red convertible and ask God for it, He will give it to us. Even though He has the power to do it, it does not mean that He will give it us.
In Isaiah 59:1-8, Isaiah is telling the people why they did not receive what they had asked for. He is saying that they need to confess their sin.
Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things. No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil. They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider’s web.
Whoever eats their eggs will die, and when one is broken, an adder is hatched. Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands. Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. They pursue evil schemes; acts of violence mark their ways.
The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along them will know peace. Isaiah 59:1-8 (NIV)
If we want God to answer our prayers, we must first take care of the sin issues in our lives so God will hear our prayers.
In John 9, Jesus healed a blind man. This made the Pharisees very upset. They went to the man who had been blind and asked how he received his sight. But when he answered them, they did not believe him, so they went to his parents to ask how the man who had been blind was healed and the parents said ask their son. After some discussion, the man that had been blind made this comment:
The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” John 9:30-33 (NIV)
In 1 John 3:19-24, John writes this:
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. 1 John 5:13-15 (NIV)
When we ask God for something we should not have, the Holy Spirit will let us know if the request is wrong. He will then give us peace and let us know that God has a better idea because He knows everything. If the Holy Spirit does not indicate that the request is wrong, we can be assured that God will give us whatever we asked for because we believe in Jesus Christ and love others.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:13-14 (NIV)
When we are in tune to God the Father, prayer will always bring us peace. In other words, when we pray, we can be assured of peace, regardless of the answer God gives. If he says “Yes” we have peace and when He says “No”, we have peace because we know He has a better plan.
We can trust God because He sees the whole picture, not just a snapshot of our lives.
NOTE: All scripture printed it from the NIV version found at http://www.biblegateway.com/?version=NIV