What Do You Say to God?
THE idea that people can talk to God, and that he may listen, overwhelms many persons. Some feel incapable of addressing God properly, so they use a book of printed prayers, which they read on certain occasions. Others resort to “tongues,” using a babble of words that they do not know. They hope that the holy spirit will put these words into an approved prayer that they themselves do not even understand.
Is this the way that God desires his creatures to pray to him?
True, Jesus Christ encouraged: “Keep on asking, and it will be given you.” (Matt. 7:7) However, he did not mean that we should say the same thing over and over again from a printed prayer book. “When praying,” Jesus said, “do not say the same things over and over again.” (Matt. 6:7) Instead, our prayers should be spontaneous—not a babble of words we do not understand but an expression of what we have to say to a loving and exalted God.
Prayer permits us to express our worship of and love for the Creator. We can pour out our feelings and desires. The psalmist wrote: “Before him pour out your heart. God is a refuge for us.”—Ps. 62:8.
Freeness of Speech
When you have a friend, you talk to him. You speak freely, and are at ease. You can express your feelings to persons who love you. We can talk that way to God.
The Bible says that Abraham had faith in God, and “came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend.’” (Jas. 2:23) That was an outstanding privilege for Abraham. But Jesus showed that we, too, can be loved by Jehovah. He said: “He that has my commandments and observes them, that one is he who loves me. In turn he that loves me will be loved by my Father.” (John 14:21) So, faith and obedience open the way of access to the Father.
Really, God is very approachable if we but seek him. “In fact,” the Christian apostle Paul said, “he is not far off from each one of us.” (Acts 17:27) However, a basic requirement for freely speaking to God is faith in his Son, Jesus Christ. As the Bible says: “By means of [Jesus] we have this freeness of speech and an approach with confidence through our faith in him.”—Eph. 3:12.
Knowing that God welcomes our prayers, and that we can have “freeness of speech” through faith in Jesus, we should be encouraged to talk regularly with God. There are many things we can say to Him.
Expressions of Appreciation
The Bible provides numerous examples. Just think about the many grand things that Jehovah God has done for our benefit, even as the psalmist David noted: “Many things you yourself have done, O Jehovah my God, even your wonderful works and your thoughts toward us; there is none to be compared to you. Were I inclined to tell and speak of them, they have become more numerous than I can recount.”—Ps. 40:5.
Surely this is true! Consider the food we eat. Is it not something for which to thank Jehovah God? Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul thanked God for these provisions. (Matt. 14:19; Acts 27:35) Even a child at the dinner table is taught to say “Please” and “Thank you.” Should we be less appreciative of the provisions that God makes?
Jesus said that God “makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45) Should we not also be thankful for that? Really, are not the provisions of God for which we can be thankful almost endless?
Did you ever thank God for the flavor of a meal? For the ability to appreciate sounds and music? For the fragrance of the air after a late summer rain? For the beauty of wild flowers on a springtime mountainside?
None of these things had to be pleasurable. Eating, for example, could have been a chore—an unpleasant duty, performed daily in order to stay alive. But God made us in such a way that these things would be pleasurable to us, and we could enjoy them. Have you thanked God for that? Remember the apostle Paul’s words: “In connection with everything give thanks.”—1 Thess. 5:18.
Have you ever felt the vastness of God’s creation—by gazing, for example, at the starry vault of the heavens from the nighttime splendor of an Alpine valley? or by driving hour after hour across the magnificent expanses of the great open plains, with neither people nor habitation in view? Such fleeting moments of meditation on the works of God overwhelm us with man’s insignificance in relation to the vast expanse of the created universe, only hinted at by the distant stars above.
Such precious moments of solitude are delightful occasions on which to speak to the great Creator, relating our desire to serve him, and to receive his favor. No “prayer book” or “unintelligible words” are needed. You simply open your heart and mind and address the Creator as you would any respected authority for whom you have deep affection.
Regarding Our Troubles
When is a true friend especially appreciated? Is it not in times of trouble? How fine it is that we can call upon Jehovah then! In fact, God’s Word invites: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you.”—Ps. 55:22.
The Bible gives specific examples of praying to God regarding one’s troubles. For example, the person who is physically ill can pray to God, asking that “Jehovah himself will sustain him upon a divan of illness.” (Ps. 41:3) King Hezekiah of Judah did. (2 Ki. 20:1-6) However, we should not expect Jehovah to heal us miraculously, but, rather, pray that wise steps may be taken to cope with our particular health problem. We can pray for consolation from Jehovah, and for patience until the body’s marvelous healing forces can restore health.
We can also pray for guidance and strength should we be unjustly treated. The apostle Paul and Silas did. They were thrown into prison because of their preaching work, and while there, the Bible says, “Paul and Silas were praying and praising God with song.” And Jehovah God delivered them.—Acts 16:23-35.
Should one even have wickedly opposed God, he may, in repentance, pray when in adversity, and be helped by Jehovah. While Judah’s wicked king Manasseh was suffering in a Babylonish prison, he prayed to God, and the Bible says that God “let himself be entreated by him and He heard his request for favor and restored him to Jerusalem and to his kingship; and Manasseh came to know that Jehovah is the true God.” Despite Manasseh’s evil past, he secured relief and comfort when he truly repented and humbly turned to God.—2 Chron. 33:10-13.
How merciful and forgiving Jehovah God is! Surely we are encouraged to call upon him, freely pouring out to him our troubles and requesting his favor.
We should, however, always remember to consider God’s affairs as more important than our own. Thus the model prayer that Jesus gave puts the requests for God’s name to be sanctified, for his kingdom to come, and for his will to take place ahead of the request for one’s material needs.—Matt. 6:9-13.
We, too, in our prayers should first remember God’s name and kingdom before adding a request for our material needs. Jesus instructed us to say: “Give us our bread for the day according to the day’s requirement.” (Luke 11:3) This is a modest request. It is neither selfish nor materialistic. The expression “give us” includes others. “The day’s requirement” is not an excessive amount. The apostle said, “Having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” (1 Tim. 6:8) So, we can pray for the necessities of life, but it would be improper to ask for more than that.
There are so many spiritual needs about which we can speak to Jehovah. Consider, for instance, the requests to God made by an ancient Bible psalmist: “Teach me your regulations. Make me understand the way of your own orders, that I may concern myself with your wonderful works. Cause me to tread in the pathway of your commandments . . . Teach me goodness, sensibleness and knowledge themselves . . . Make me understand, that I may learn your commandments.” Can we not speak to God about similar matters, asking his help and guidance always to do what is just and proper?—Ps. 119:26, 27, 35, 66, 73.
Early Christians give us many ideas as to what we can say to God. They prayed for holy spirit. (Acts 8:14, 15) They prayed for the success of their ministry, and, to be able “to keep speaking [God’s] word with all boldness.” (Acts 4:29) They thanked God for his leadership and protection. And they requested him to give them “all freeness of speech to make known the sacred secret of the good news.” Can we not pray regarding similar matters?—2 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 6:18, 19.
Also, there are so many things we can say to God in behalf of others. As an example, the apostle Paul prayed that the Colossians “be filled with the accurate knowledge of [God’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension.” And he wrote the Philippians: “This is what I continue praying, that your love may abound yet more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment.” How rich our prayers will be if we, too, are conscious of others and speak to God in their behalf!—Col. 1:9, 10; Phil. 1:9-11.
When we examine God’s Word and think about all his marvelous provisions, both material and spiritual, surely we find a lot to speak to God about. And when we really reflect on all that Jehovah has done for us, are we not encouraged to heed the apostolic instruction, “Persevere in prayer”?—Rom. 12:12.