It is not wrong to seek forgiveness, healing or provision. But what is our motive? Would what we ask for improve our walk with God, or take us away from Him?

Simon the Sorcerer asked for the power of the Holy Spirit. That seems like a good request. But, unfortunately, Simon wanted this power for an unholy and selfish motive (Acts 8:18-23). He wanted it for his own gain and glory.

We are “but flesh”, so it is difficult to always pray with completely pure motives. We are warned, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…” (Jer 17:9,10).

But God promises to reveal to us what is in our hearts that might hinder our walk with Him (Phil 3:15). Jesus taught us in His model of prayer: “Your Kingdom come. Your will be done” (Matt 6:10). We must want the will of God above all else. Our life, our heart, our desires, our spirit must be freshly consecrated to God each day (Deut 6:5). He is the Sovereign Lord, our faithful and trustworthy Father. We can ask for His help that we might pray according to His will – and He will assist us.

If our heart is consumed with God and our will is yielded to His, we can better pray according to the Lord’s desires. “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass” (Ps 37:3-5). When our trust and delight is in the Lord, He will give us the right desires to pray for and He will bring the fulfillment.

There may be times when we are not sure how to pray according to God’s will. We are not always able to discern what is best in every situation. At these times, we can pray in the spirit (with our spiritual language), trusting the Holy Spirit to lead us and help us to pray.

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:26,27).

  1. Doubt is also an obstacle to effective prayer.

Throughout the Bible, faith (the opposite of doubt) in God is necessary to effective prayer. Jesus declared this guiding principle, “According to your faith let it be to you” (Matt 9:29). The Bible teaches, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6).

The Holy Spirit speaks by the Apostle James: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (Jas 1:5-7).