“Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you. For everyone asking receives, and everyone seeking finds, and to everyone knocking it will be opened.”—LUKE 11:9, 10.
SHOWING full confidence in the words of Jesus Christ quoted above, many Christians turn to God in prayer about their problems and anxieties, certain that he loves and cares for them. Some, however, experience frustration as they wait for their prayers to be answered. Do you feel that your prayers are ineffective? Does God listen when you pray?
Even if our prayers seem to go unanswered, this does not mean that God did not hear them. The Bible assures us: “The eyes of Jehovah are upon the righteous ones, and his ears are toward their supplication.” (1 Peter 3:12) So Jehovah God hears the prayers of righteous ones, whether they are spoken audibly or uttered in the heart. (Jeremiah 17:10) Jehovah also examines the thoughts and feelings behind each prayer, which even the one praying may neither fully understand nor be aware of.—Romans 8:26, 27.
However, prayers must meet certain requirements if they are to be acceptable to God. First, they must be directed exclusively to God—not to Jesus, to a “saint,” or to an idol. (Exodus 20:4, 5) Prayers must also be offered in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. (John 14:6) Does this mean that our prayers are heard by Jesus first and that he relays the message to God? No. Rather, by praying to Jehovah in the name of Jesus, we identify ourselves as Christ’s disciples and we acknowledge that it is only because of his ransom that we are able to approach God.—Hebrews 4:14-16.
Prayers must be offered in faith. The apostle Paul pointed out: “Without faith it is impossible to please [God] well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) How does a person know if he has that kind of faith? The Bible writer James answers: “I shall show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18) Yes, faith produces actions, and they, in turn, show that we love God and are trying to please him.
Worshipers of God must also be persistent when praying. Jesus made this clear at Luke 11:9, 10, quoted at the outset. After all, if a person prays just once about a matter, does this not indicate that he or she is not really serious about the request?
What God Promises
No matter how frequently and earnestly we pray, we still live in “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1) While it is true that Jesus said his followers would be happy, he did not say that their lives would be problem free. (Matthew 5:3-11) He did say, though, that his disciples could be happy despite mourning, hunger, thirst, or persecution.
The happiness that Jesus spoke of is not dependent on our having ideal circumstances. Rather, it is an inner contentment that we have because we serve God. Hence, we can attain a measure of happiness even amid turmoil.—2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
Dealing With Personal Problems
Is it futile, then, to pray to God regarding such personal matters as finding a suitable marriage mate or dealing with family, health, or employment problems? No, for although God does not promise to change the circumstances of our life miraculously, he will give us the wisdom to cope with them. James wrote in connection with trials: “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching; and it will be given him.” (James 1:5) So through his holy spirit, Jehovah will guide us. This will help us to understand and apply Bible principles in making decisions.
Of course, God’s spirit does not make our decisions for us. On the contrary, personal effort is required. For example, if we have a problem, have we done research on it and investigated the various aspects and elements of the situation? This would be a work that shows God that we have faith. (James 2:18) Have we been persistent in trying to resolve our problem, continually asking for God’s guidance? (Matthew 7:7, 8) Have we carefully examined Bible principles that apply to the situation? God’s Word can make us “fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
While it is true that God is able to intervene in human affairs and remove all our problems, he has allowed us to express our free will. Regrettably, many use their free will to the detriment of others. Hence, some problems we pray about may continue until God’s new world. (Acts 17:30, 31) It could be a situation that exists in the area in which we live, such as crime or outright warfare; or it might involve our bearing up under hardship brought on by opposers. (1 Peter 4:4) We must acknowledge that in this ungodly world, some situations will not change for the better.
Nevertheless, God loves his worshipers and wants to help them. When his Kingdom exercises uncontested rulership over the earth, he will fully eliminate the horrible problems of this world. (Revelation 21:3, 4) Until that time we should persistently ask for his guidance in dealing with the problems of life. If we do so, we can be sure that Jehovah will live up to the promise recorded in the Bible at Isaiah 41:10: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not gaze about, for I am your God. I will fortify you. I will really help you. I will really keep fast hold of you with my right hand of righteousness.”