There are only three avenues for the acceptance of prayer: firstly, that which is described in the verse:
اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ تُحِبُّوۡنَ اللّٰہَ فَاتَّبِعُوۡنِیۡ
(If you love Allah, follow me); secondly, that which is alluded to in the verse:
یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ امَنُوۡا صَلُّوۡا عَلَیۡہِ وَ سَلِّمُوۡا تَسۡلِیۡمًا
(O ye who believe! You also should invoke blessings on him and salute him with the salutation of peace); and thirdly, divine conferral. It is a general practice of Allah the Exalted that in the likeness of Prophets, He gives birth to many holy souls who in their very nature are vested with steadfastness. You ought to keep in mind that in their nature, human beings are of three classes.
The first class is of those who suppress their desires severely to refrain from evil. The second category is of those who “take the middle course”, i.e. they are virtuous to an extent, but not ridden completely of evil. The third class of people are those who abhor evil and exceed all others in goodness. This last group of people attain to the ranks where they are chosen and selected by God. The Prophets, peace be upon them, are from this holy class of people. This succession of people continues in every era. The world is not empty of such people. Some people make a request for prayers so that supplications may be made in their favour.
It is unfortunate, however, that such people are unaware of the etiquette of requesting for prayers. Would it be appropriate if the person in need sent someone else to request for prayers on their behalf ? Of course, this would be of no benefit. Until the person making a request for prayer does not inculcate within themselves a propensity towards virtue and obedience, a prayer cannot bring about any benefit. If an ailing person does not consider it necessary to obey their physician, how can they be cured? Just as it is necessary for a patient to follow the advice of their physician with unwavering steadfastness and perseverance, similarly, there are etiquettes and procedures, which must be followed by one who makes a request for prayer.
It is written in Tadhkira-tul-Awliya that someone made a request for prayers to a holy man, who responded to him by saying, “Bring some milk and rice.” The person was surprised but complied. The saintly man prayed and the person was granted whatever they had sought. Afterwards, the seeker was told that they were asked to bring the food items only so that a personal relationship could be developed between the two. Similarly, it is written in the account of Bawa Farid Sahib that a person lost their title deed and so they came to Bawa Farid to request for prayers, who instructed the individual to bring him some sweetmeat, halwa. When the person went to fetch some, he found his ownership document at the confectionery.
The reason I have related these incidents is to explain that until there is a relationship between a person who makes a request for prayers and the individual to whom they make the request, there can be no effect of prayer. Hence, until there is a state of agony and until a supplicant feels as perturbed as the one who requested them for prayer, there can be no effect of supplication.
At times, the greatest trial is that people are unaware of the etiquettes of prayer and on account of their inability to see any manifest benefit in prayer, they begin to think ill of God Almighty and their state becomes a pitiable one. In the end, I say that whether you pray yourself or request someone else to pray on your behalf, you must develop purity and cleanliness. Seek steadfastness and submit in a state of repentance, for this is steadfastness. It is then that your prayers will be accepted and it is then that you will experience pleasure in Prayer.
ذٰلِکَ فَضۡلُ اللّٰہِ یُؤۡتِیۡہِ مَنۡ یَّشَآءُ
That is Allah’s grace; He bestows it on whom He pleases.
(Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, Malfuzat, Vol. 1, pp. 175-177)