Three Conditions for the Acceptance of Prayer
“First, the supplicant should be righteous to the perfect degree, for only he is acceptable of God Almighty whose characteristic is righteousness and who has grasped firmly the subtle paths of righteousness and who is a favourite of God on account of being trustworthy, pious, and true to his pledge; and who is replete and filled with the personal love of God.
The second condition is that his resolve and attention should be of such calibre as though, to revive one person, he himself perishes and — to pull one person out of a grave — he himself enters the grave. The secret to this is that His elect are dearer to God than a handsome child — who is also the only child — is dear to its mother. Thus, when God, the Benevolent and Merciful, observes that an elect and beloved of His has reached the brink of death with spiritual labours, humble supplications, and striving, in an effort to save the life of one individual, He disapproves that he be destroyed in that state on account of His relation of love. Then, for his sake, He forgives the sin for which the other person had been seized. Therefore, if he is afflicted with a fatal disease or is overwhelmed and trapped in some calamity, then, by His power, He creates means for his deliverance. Oftentimes He is resolved to definitely destroy or ruin a person, but through the good luck of the afflicted, someone who has a good standing before God intervenes with his earnest supplications so that the record of the case that had been completed and formulated for his chastisement, has to be torn up for the matter is now transformed, dealing with a beloved rather than a stranger. How is it possible that God would inflict torment on His sincere friends?
The third condition for the acceptance of prayer is more difficult than all the conditions, inasmuch as compliance with it is not in the hands of those who are accepted of God, but is in the hands of the person who desires the supplication to be made. And it is that he should be desirous of supplication with the utmost sincerity, perfect trust, perfect certainty, perfect devotion, and perfect subservience. He should resolve in his heart that even if the supplication is not accepted, his trust and devotion would not falter. The request for supplication should not be by way of a test; rather, it should proceed from a sincere conviction.
He should fall most humbly at the door of his [the person from whom he is seeking supplication] and, so far as is possible for him, he should establish such nearness to him — with money, with service, and with obedience of every kind — so as to make a place for himself in his heart. Along with all this, he should think well of him to the extreme and should esteem him as being pious of the highest degree and should regard it a blasphemy to entertain even a single thought inconsistent with his holy stature. He should prove and show to him his sincere belief in him through varied sacrifices of this nature. He should not regard anyone in the world as his equal and should be ready to lay down his life, his property, and his honour for him and should neither utter nor let his heart entertain anything derogatory of him in any way. He should establish it to his satisfaction that he is, indeed, such a believer and follower. With all this, he should wait with patience and even if he should fail fifty times in his objective, he should not slacken in his devotion and trust. The reason is that such people have exquisitely acute sensibilities and their perspicacity can recognise the degree of a person’s sincerity from one’s countenance. These people are tender-hearted, yet they are exceedingly independent. Their hearts have been created so self-subsisting by God that they do not care the least for the arrogant, the selfish, and the hypocritical-natured person. Only those derive any benefit from these people who obey them to a degree where they are ready to lay down their lives for them. A person who thinks ill of them at every step and harbours any objection in his heart and does not have total love and devotion, derives no benefit from them and only ruins himself.”
Excerpted from The Essence of Islam Volume II (pp 214–216)