Why should we pray to God?
What must we do to be heard by God?
How does God answer our prayers?
1, 2. Why should we view prayer as a great privilege, and why do we need to know what the Bible teaches about it?
COMPARED with the vast universe, the earth is very small. In fact, to Jehovah, “the Maker of heaven and earth,” the nations of mankind are like a tiny drop of water from a bucket. (Psalm 115:15; Isaiah 40:15) Yet, the Bible says: “Jehovah is near to all those calling on him, to all who call on him in truth. He satisfies the desire of those who fear him; he hears their cry for help.” (Psalm 145:18, 19) Just think of what that means! The almighty Creator is near to us and will hear us if we “call on him in truth.” What a privilege we have to approach God in prayer!
2 If we want Jehovah to listen to our prayers, however, we must pray to him in the way that he approves. How can we do this unless we understand what the Bible teaches about prayer? It is vital for us to know what the Scriptures say on this subject, for prayer helps us to draw closer to Jehovah.
WHY PRAY TO JEHOVAH?
3. What is one important reason why we should pray to Jehovah?
3 One important reason why we should pray to Jehovah is that he invites us to do so. His Word encourages us: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) Surely we would not want to ignore such a kind provision made for us by the Supreme Ruler of the universe!
4. How does regular prayer to Jehovah strengthen our relationship with him?
4 Another reason to pray is that regularly praying to Jehovah is a way to strengthen our relationship with him. True friends do not communicate only when they need something. Rather, good friends are interested in each other, and their friendship becomes stronger as they freely express their thoughts, concerns, and feelings. In some respects, the situation is similar when it comes to our relationship with Jehovah God. With the help of this book, you have learned much about what the Bible teaches regarding Jehovah, his personality, and his purposes. You have come to know him as a real Person. Prayer gives you the opportunity to express your thoughts and innermost feelings to your heavenly Father. As you do, you draw closer to Jehovah.—James 4:8.
WHAT REQUIREMENTS MUST WE MEET?
5. What shows that Jehovah does not listen to all prayers?
5 Does Jehovah listen to all prayers? Consider what he told rebellious Israelites in the days of the prophet Isaiah: “Although you offer many prayers, I am not listening; your hands are filled with blood.” (Isaiah 1:15) So certain actions can cause God not to listen to our prayers. For our prayers to be favorably heard by God, therefore, we must meet some basic requirements.
6. In order for God to listen to our prayers, what is a primary requirement, and how can we meet it?
6 A primary requirement is that we exercise faith. (Read Mark 11:24.) The apostle Paul wrote: “Without faith it is impossible to please God well, for whoever approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Having true faith is more than merely knowing that God exists and that he hears and answers prayers. Faith is proved by our actions. We must give clear evidence that we have faith by the way we live every day.—James 2:26.
7. (a) Why should we be respectful when speaking to Jehovah in prayer? (b) When praying to God, how can we show humility and sincerity?
7 Jehovah also requires that those who approach him in prayer do so with humility and sincerity. Do we not have reason to be humble when speaking to Jehovah? When people have the opportunity to speak to a king or a president, they usually do so respectfully, acknowledging the ruler’s high position. How much more so should we be respectful when approaching Jehovah! (Psalm 138:6) After all, he is “God Almighty.” (Genesis 17:1) When we pray to God, the manner in which we approach him should show that we humbly recognize our position before him. Such humility will also move us to pray from our heart in sincerity, avoiding routine, repetitive prayers.—Matthew 6:7, 8.
8. How can we act in harmony with what we pray for?
8 Another requirement for being heard by God is that we act in harmony with our prayers. Jehovah expects us to do all that is within our power to work at what we pray for. For example, if we pray, “Give us today our bread for this day,” we must work hard at whatever available job we are able to perform. (Matthew 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:10) If we pray for help in overcoming a fleshly weakness, we must be careful to avoid circumstances and situations that could lead us into temptation. (Colossians 3:5) In addition to these basic requirements, there are questions about prayer that we need to have answered.
ANSWERING SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT PRAYER
9. To whom should we pray, and through whom?
9 To whom should we pray? Jesus taught his followers to pray to “our Father in the heavens.” (Matthew 6:9) Our prayers, then, must be directed only to Jehovah God. However, Jehovah requires that we acknowledge the position of his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. As we learned in Chapter 5, Jesus was sent to the earth to serve as a ransom to redeem us from sin and death. (John 3:16; Romans 5:12) He is the appointed High Priest and Judge. (John 5:22; Hebrews 6:20) Hence, the Scriptures direct us to offer our prayers through Jesus. He himself said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) For our prayers to be heard, we must pray only to Jehovah through his Son.
10. Why is no specific position or posture required when we pray?
10 Must we assume a special position or posture when praying? No. Jehovah does not require any specific position, either of the hands or of the whole body. The Bible teaches that it is acceptable to pray in a wide variety of positions. These include sitting, bowing, kneeling, and standing. (1 Chronicles 17:16; Nehemiah 8:6; Daniel 6:10; Mark 11:25) What is truly important is, not some special posture that can be seen by others, but the right heart attitude. In fact, during our daily activities or when we are faced with an emergency, we may offer a silent prayer wherever we are. Jehovah hears such prayers, even though they may go completely unnoticed by those around us.—Nehemiah 2:1-6.
11. What are some personal concerns that are proper subjects of prayer?
11 What may we pray for? The Bible explains: “No matter what we ask according to his will, [Jehovah] hears us.” (1 John 5:14) So we may pray for anything that is in harmony with God’s will. Is it his will that we pray about personal concerns? By all means! Praying to Jehovah can be much like talking to a close friend. We may speak openly, ‘pouring out our heart’ to God. (Psalm 62:8) It is proper for us to ask for holy spirit, for it will help us to do what is right. (Luke 11:13) We can also ask for guidance in making wise decisions and for strength in coping with difficulties. (James 1:5) When we sin, we should ask for forgiveness on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice. (Ephesians 1:3, 7) Of course, personal matters should not be the only subjects of our prayers. We should broaden out our prayers to include other people—family members as well as fellow worshippers.—Acts 12:5; Colossians 4:12.
12. How may we give matters concerning our heavenly Father first importance in our prayers?
12 Matters relating to Jehovah God should be given first importance in our prayers. We certainly have reason to express heartfelt praise and thanks to him for all his goodness. (1 Chronicles 29:10-13) Jesus gave the model prayer, recorded at Matthew 6:9-13, in which he taught us to pray that God’s name be sanctified, that is, treated as sacred, or holy. (Read.) That God’s Kingdom come and that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven are mentioned next. Only after covering these important matters relating to Jehovah did Jesus give attention to personal concerns. When we likewise give God the most important place in our prayers, we show that we are interested in more than just our own welfare.
13. What do the Scriptures indicate about the length of acceptable prayers?
13 How long should our prayers be? The Bible does not place any limit on how long private or public prayers should be. They may range from a brief prayer before a meal to a long private prayer in which we pour out our heart to Jehovah. (1 Samuel 1:12, 15) However, Jesus condemned self-righteous individuals who made long, showy prayers before others. (Luke 20:46, 47) Such prayers do not impress Jehovah. What is important is that we pray from our heart. Hence, the length of acceptable prayers may vary according to needs and circumstances.
14. What does the Bible mean when it encourages us to “pray continually,” and what is comforting about this?
14 How often should we pray? The Bible encourages us to “pray continually,” to “persevere in prayer,” and to “pray constantly.” (Matthew 26:41; Romans 12:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:17) Of course, these statements do not mean that we must be praying to Jehovah every moment of the day. Rather, the Bible is urging us to pray regularly, continually thanking Jehovah for his goodness to us and looking to him for guidance, comfort, and strength. Is it not comforting to know that Jehovah puts no limit on how long or how often we can talk to him in prayer? If we truly appreciate the privilege of prayer, we will find many opportunities to pray to our heavenly Father.
15. Why should we say “Amen” at the end of personal and public prayers?
15 Why should we say “Amen” at the end of a prayer? The word “amen” means “surely,” or “so be it.” Scriptural examples show that it is appropriate to say “Amen” at the close of personal and public prayers. (1 Chronicles 16:36; Psalm 41:13) By saying “Amen” at the end of our own prayer, we affirm that our expressions were made with sincerity. When we say “Amen”—either silently or out loud—at the end of someone’s public prayer, we indicate that we are in agreement with the thoughts that were expressed.—1 Corinthians 14:16.
HOW GOD ANSWERS OUR PRAYERS
16. What confidence can we have regarding prayer?
16 Does Jehovah really answer prayers? Yes, indeed! We have a firm basis to be confident that the “Hearer of prayer” answers sincere prayers offered by millions of humans. (Psalm 65:2) Jehovah’s answer to our prayers may come in a variety of ways.
17. Why can it be said that God uses his angels and his earthly servants to answer our prayers?
17 Jehovah uses his angels and his earthly servants to answer prayers. (Hebrews 1:13, 14) There have been many experiences of individuals who prayed to God for help to understand the Bible and were soon thereafter contacted by one of Jehovah’s servants. Such experiences give evidence of angelic direction of the Kingdom-preaching work. (Revelation 14:6) To answer our prayers offered in a time of real need, Jehovah may motivate a Christian to come to our aid.—Proverbs 12:25; James 2:16.
18. How does Jehovah use his holy spirit and his Word to answer the prayers of his servants?
18 Jehovah God also uses his holy spirit and his Word, the Bible, to answer the prayers of his servants. He may answer our prayers for help to cope with trials by giving us guidance and strength by means of his holy spirit. (2 Corinthians 4:7) Often the answer to our prayers for direction comes from the Bible, where Jehovah gives us help in making wise decisions. Helpful scriptures may be found during our personal Bible study and as we read Christian publications, such as this book. Scriptural points that we need to consider may be brought to our attention by what is said at a Christian meeting or through the comments of a concerned elder in the congregation.—Galatians 6:1.
19. What should we keep in mind if our prayers sometimes seem to go unanswered?
19 If Jehovah seems to delay in answering our prayers, this is never because he is not able to answer them. Rather, we must remember that Jehovah answers prayers according to his will and in his due time. He knows our needs and how to care for them far better than we do. Often he allows us to ‘keep on asking, seeking, and knocking.’ (Luke 11:5-10) Such perseverance shows God that our desire is very deep and that our faith is genuine. Furthermore, Jehovah may answer our prayers in a way that is not obvious to us. For example, he may answer our prayer regarding a particular trial, not by removing the difficulty, but by giving us the strength to endure it.—Read Philippians 4:13.
20. Why should we take full advantage of the precious privilege of prayer?
20 How thankful we can be that the Creator of this vast universe is close to all who call on him properly in prayer! (Read Psalm 145:18.) May we take full advantage of the precious privilege of prayer. If we do, we will have the joyous prospect of drawing ever closer to Jehovah, the Hearer of prayer.