Holiness As A
Prerequisite For Answered Prayer
By Dave Butts
Holiness might be considered a strange topic by many to be addressed at
the beginning of the third millennium after Christ. In our culture today, it’s
almost a forgotten topic. It is
given brief consideration but not taken seriously by many. The reason lies in
the fact that many aren’t living holy lives and have very little to say to
others about holiness.
I want to say at the outset to those who may get uncomfortable about the topic of holiness, that the doctrine of grace and freedom in Christ are absolutely true. But when those absolutely essential doctrines are taught without the balancing view of God’s holiness and the intended holiness of the believer, we swing way out of balance. Most Christians today could testify that they would have avoided a great deal of harm in their lives had they been taught more of holiness and practiced more of it in their lives.
Let’s lay it out very clearly. God
not only commands us to be holy, but He has provided for us a way to holiness
and therefore leaves us without excuse. We cannot blame our society or culture
for our unholiness. Believers in
New Testament times were in a society as immoral as can be imagined…. yet were
taught and expected to be holy.
Listen to the commands of God’s unchanging Word:
“Since we have
these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that
contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy;
without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb.12:14).
“…for it is written: Be holy, because I am holy” (1
“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people
ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives” (2
“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1
Since I have been given a ministry of prayer, I typically write
concerning prayer. This article too, is ultimately about prayer. We will not
have powerful, effective prayer lives until we get serious about living a life
of holiness. God’s Word teaches us that God does not normally answer the
prayers of those who are not walking in holiness:
Psalm 66:18 says, “If
I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”
“…your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not
“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an
idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and
vindication from God, his Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob” (Psalm
Regardless of our prayer skills or lack of, we will not become a mighty
people of prayer until we begin to develop a passion for the holy life.
I believe that the scriptures we have just looked at show us the way to
live a life of holiness. The key to our holiness is nothing less than the
holiness of God Himself. We are to be holy…because He is holy! Look at what
the scriptures say of His holiness:
“Who among the
gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you--majestic in holiness, awesome in
glory, working wonders?”
“And they were calling to one another: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord
Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory”
“Who will not fear you, O
Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will
come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed”
apart…different…unique… perfect…. that’s the God we worship.
The key to our holiness is to remember that we worship a Holy God. And He
has called us to be holy, as He is holy. How can that be? How is it even
possible that we sinful creatures can even aspire to holiness? It’s because
God says so!
It’s really a matter of family characteristics. It is our Father’s
nature to be holy. Christians have been born again into God’s family. His
genetic structure for holiness has been given to us because of Jesus. When Jesus
became Savior and Lord of our lives, we experienced the new birth. The Holy(and
I really mean Holy) Spirit came to dwell within us. We still have much of the
sin nature within us, but there is also a new nature….a new genetic code if
you will….a code of holiness that comes straight from our heavenly Father.
Holiness then, becomes a possibility, where before it was an impossibility.
The problem arises when we leave it here at the level of theological
truth. If we’re not careful we can end up believing that our holiness consists
only of the imputed righteousness that comes from Jesus. That can lead us to
worry less about sin, because after all…we’re forgiven in Jesus and made
right through His death and resurrection.
This however, is not where God leaves us…a holiness that is not a real
holiness at all. Instead you find in scripture the truth that holiness can never
be accomplished by any of us by just trying hard.
Jesus’ death is absolutely essential for us to experience the new birth
and new life in Christ…and it is His righteousness that is now at work in
us…AND…it IS at work in us! God’s
Word is clear that He expects us to long for and strive for practical holiness
The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:1 that we are, “perfecting
holiness out of reverence for God.” To perfect holiness means to work on
it or to strive for it. The motive Paul gives for doing this is out of reverence
for God. Developing holiness is wanting to be like our heavenly Father.
There’s no greater compliment to a Dad, than when a son or daughter wants to
be like him. We give God pleasure as we long for and strive for holiness…to be
like our Heavenly Father.
The author of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 12:14, “Make
every effort…to be holy.” This is not just a passive acceptance of
something. This striving for holiness is not to be confused with your salvation.
You accepted Christ’s gift of salvation by faith…but now there is effort
involved if you want to live a holy life. Paul would say it this way… “work
out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Why with
fear and trembling? Because we are doing this under the eye of a Holy God.
Without Jesus, there is no possibility of holiness for us. With Jesus, we
have been born again into the family of God and God’s holiness has been placed
within us. Now we strive with everything within us to live out that life of
holiness as we keep our eyes on our Holy God.
Peter said it this way in 1 Peter 3:10-12:
“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and
his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek
peace and pursue it.” And then Peter turns to answered prayer: “For
the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their
prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
So how do we live holy lives? We make the Word of God our foundation. We
strive to do what it says and to flee from all that it forbids. We keep our
mouths from gossip, and our hands from mischief. We seek to do good and not
harm. Paul wrote these practical words to the Thessalonians: “Live
in peace with each other. And we urge you brothers, warn those who are idle,
encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that
nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to
everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all
circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess.