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Prayer Conditioning

God wills that we pray believing, but we do not always know how we should pray. We do not know what is best. Therefore, while we should pray believing that he will answer, we must not necessarily expect the exact object of our request. He might have something different in store for us.


Believe not precisely that you shall receive this you pray for; but either this, or some other; something as good or better in reference to God’s glory and your happiness; this is sufficient when you are not certain whether that you pray for be best for you; I say not, whether it seem, but whether it be. In this case, it is not required you should believe determinately that you shall receive what you pray for, but disjunctively, either this, or some other. In such a condition was Paul: Philip. i. 23, 24, ‘I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.’ When you are in such a strait you may pray for what you apprehend to be best, but not believe you shall be heard in that precisely; but either in that, or some other thing better or equivalent; so in praying for riches, posterity, deliverance, and indeed all things that are in their own nature, or to you, indifferent; you may desire riches, &c., but it is not necessary you should be confident that God will make you rich; but either do this or something as good.

—David Clarkson, Faith in Prayer, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:217.

Furthermore, God’s answers to our prayers are conditioned on the righteousness of our requests, and our preparedness to receive them. It may be that the change we need is in ourselves.

We are to pray for nothing but what is commanded or promised; and the things we are to pray for are held forth in the word with two sorts of conditions, some annexed to the promise, some to the thing promised. Spiritual blessings are conditional, because sometimes conditions are annexed to the promises, whereby God engages himself to give them. Now when he has already wrought the conditions, we may pray in faith for them absolutely, as before. When the conditions are not wrought, then we should [pray] for the conditions themselves, not for the blessings conditionally: as Mat. v. 6, that we may hunger and thirst after righteousness; and Rev. ii. 10, that we may be faithful unto death. Temporal blessings are conditional, because conditions are annexed to the things themselves, and they are such as these: if it seem good, if it be thy will, if it be for thy glory, if it be for my soul’s good. Temporal favours are to be asked in faith, but faith must act conditionally. The like is to be observed about the removal of afflictions, and vouchsafing of spiritual favours that tend to our well-being: faith in asking these must be acted, but acted conditionally, and with submission. An example we have in David, a man strong in faith and much in prayer: 2 Sam. xv. 25, 26, ‘If I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and shew me both it and his habitation. But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here I am, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.’ And in Christ himself, his faith acted conditionally: Mat. xxvi. 39, ‘If it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.’

Ibid., 217–218.

Posted 2017·09·22 by David Kjos
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Posted in: David Clarkson · Prayer · Works of David Clarkson

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