To capture its full body of richness and flavor, incense must be beaten and ground into a very fine powder. Likewise, your prayers should be “finely ground”—specific and highly detailed. They should “smell good” to God. But if you are not careful, they could smell like something else.

Prayers that consist of the “gimmes,” or that start out with self-righteous attitudes, are a foul stench to God’s nostrils, like sulfur dioxide—rotten egg gas—or burned rubber.

Always thank God: Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thes. 5:18) You should always give thanks to God in your prayers. If you do not, you will miss a vital key to having your prayers answered.

Pray from the heart: When most pray, they mumble a few words and hope for the best. Or, like the Pharisees 2,000 years ago, they give long, monotonous prayers that go no higher than the ceiling (Luke 18:10-12). Either way, they are not putting their hearts into their requests.

Regarding the modern-day descendants of Israel, the Prophet Isaiah wrote, “And there is none that calls upon your name, that stirs up himself to take hold of you: for you have hid your face from us, and have consumed us, because of our iniquities” (64:7).

The prophet Hosea adds, “Woe unto them! For they have fled from Me: Destruction unto them! Because they have transgressed against Me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against Me. And they have not cried unto Me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds” (7:13-14).

Contrast this with what James wrote: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (5:16). Always be fervent!

God used the Prophet Elijah as an example (vs. 17-18). Elijah was human, fallible. He had the same passions and frustrations that people still struggle with today.

Yet Elijah was a righteous man—he obeyed God. And when he prayed, he did it from the heart. Study his example in I Kings 17, 18 and 19.

Look at Christ’s example: “Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared” (Heb. 5:7).

Fervent, heartfelt, sincere prayer gets results.

And as you have seen, God’s Word shows that there are many conditions for answered prayer. You can discover other conditions by thoroughly studying the Bible.