William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

When will Prayers be heard?

By Christopher Love

DOCTRINE: A man must be brought into a state of friendship or
reconciliation with God before any prayer he makes can be accepted.
I will prove this doctrine by three reasons and then apply it.

1. God does not accept the person for the prayer's sake, but the
prayer for the person's sake. We read in Genesis 4:4: "God had
respect unto Abel, and unto his offering." It was first to Abel and
then his sacrifice. God accepted his service because his person was
in a state of favor with Him. God is first pleased with the worker
before He can accept the work. This is also laid down in Hebrews
11:5: "By faith Enoch was translated, that he should not see death,
for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased
God." Now without faith in Christ to justify your person, you cannot
please God. Here lies the great difference between the papists and
us. The papists say that works justify the person; we say the person
justifies the works, for make the tree good and the fruit must be

2. Until we are brought into that state of reconciliation, we have
no share in the intercession, satisfaction, and righteousness of
Jesus Christ. And till we have a share in them, our prayers cannot
be accepted. Jacob could not receive the blessing from the father
but in the garments of his elder brother; nor can we receive
anything from the hands of God but in the robes of Christ. No prayer
can be accepted by God but in and through the intercession of Jesus
Christ. If Christ is not an intercessor in heaven, no prayer will be
heard on earth. In Revelation 8:3, it is written that there was "an
angel that came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer, and
there was given to him much incense, that he should offer it with
the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the
throne." The word in Greek has this purpose: that He should add in
prayers to the prayers of the saints. It is as if the prayer of
Christ and a believer were all one. In Isaiah 56:7 God promises, "I
will bring My people to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My
house of prayer." Our prayers are but as so many ciphers that
signify nothing till the intercession of Christ is added to them.
Without that they cannot be accepted.

3. Till we are in a state of friendship and reconciliation, we do
not have the assistance of God's Spirit to help us; and if we do not
have the assistance of the Spirit, we shall never find acceptance
with Him. All requests that are not dictated by the Spirit are but
the breathings of the flesh, which God does not regard. Now, till we
are reconciled to God, we cannot have the Spirit. Galatians 4:6:
"And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son
into your hearts crying, Abba, Father." So that till you are sons,
you cannot have the Spirit. So much for the reasons; I come now to
the application.


1. If this is so, that a man must be in a state of friendship before
his prayers can be accepted, hence learn that all that you ever do
before that state is odious to God. Not only your sinful actions,
but even your civil, your natural, yea, your religious actions. Not
that they are so in themselves, or in regard of God, but in regard
of the doer of them. Psalm 109:7: "Let his prayer be turned into
sin." You make a prayer against sin; God will turn your prayers into
sin. Many prayers cannot turn one sin into a grace, but one sin
willfully and resolutely continued in can turn all your prayers
into sin. Proverbs 21:27: "The sacrifice of the wicked is an
abomination to the Lord: how much more when he bringeth it with a
wicked mind?"

A diseased body turns food into corrupt humours which a healthy body
turns into sound nourishment. I have read of a precious stone that
had excellent virtue in it but lost all its efficacy if it was put
into a dead man's mouth. Prayer is an ordinance of great
excellency, of great efficacy, but if it is in a dead man's mouth,
if it comes out of the heart of one who is dead in trespasses and
sins, it loses all its virtue. Water that is pure in the fountain is
corrupted in the channel.

2. This doctrine overthrows one main pillar of the Romish religion,
justification by works. If God accepts the person before He accepts
the works, how can any person be justified by works? Unless your
person is justified, unless you are reconciled, your works are
wicked works, and can wicked works justify? Good works do not make a
man good, but a good man makes a work good. And shall a work that a
man made good return again and make the man good? If we had no other
reason against justification by works (said William Perkins) but
this, it would be sufficient.

3. Let this teach you not only to look to the fitness and
disposedness of your heart in prayer, but also to make inquiry what
you are who prays. It is our duty, and it is very good to look to
the qualification of the heart in prayer, to look to the
qualification of the duty. But the main work is to look after the
qualification of the person, and to see whether you are in a state
of favor and reconciliation with God. For if the person is not in
favor with God, you may be confident your petitions will not be
heard nor accepted; but God looks upon it as the corrupt breathings
of your sinful and corrupt heart. You are to look therefore in the
performance of a duty whether you can go to God in prayer as a

There are many who look after the qualification of their duty, but
few look after the qualification of the person to see whether they
are justified or not, whether God is their Friend or not. But we
should look mainly to this, for let the heart of a man be never so
well disposed, yet if your person is not justified, your prayer
cannot be accepted. God does not care for the rhetoric of prayers
(how eloquent they are), nor for the arithmetic of prayers (how
many they are), nor for the logic of them (how rational and
methodical they are), nor for the music of them (what a harmony and
melody of words you have); but God looks at the divinity of prayers,
which is from the qualification of a person, from a justified person
and in a sanctified manner. It is good to inquire, "Is my heart
right? Is my mind composed? Are my affections raised and kindled in
prayer?" Rather, chiefly inquire, "Is my person accepted by God?"
4. Let me give a caution here. Take heed that you do not mistake
this doctrine. Let no man think that because God accepts no prayer
unless the person is justified, therefore wicked men are excused
from prayer. For though God does not accept every man's prayer, yet
every man in the world ought to pray, and that for these reasons:

1.) They must pray as creatures who stand in need of their Creator.
The ravens cry and God gives them meat.
2.) The Lord blames wicked men for not praying to Him. Jeremiah
10:25: "Pour out Thy wrath upon the heathens, that know Thee not,
and upon the families that call not upon Thy name." Romans 3:11:
"There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after
3.) They are commanded to pray, Acts 8:22-23. Peter said to Simon
Magus, "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if
perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee; for I
perceive thou art in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity."


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