Young People Ask . . .
Does Prayer Really Help?
“OF THOSE who pray,” said one survey, “about half employ prayer as a ‘hotline to heaven,’ requesting specific help for themselves, their families and friends.” But do such prayers really help? A young girl named Peggy felt they did. After praying to God about her problems, she said: “I felt better and I would go to sleep and I’d wake up the next morning and I wouldn’t think about it. I would forget all about it.”
Perhaps some personal problem has likewise moved you on occasion to approach God as a last resort. Like Peggy, you may even have felt better as a result. Peggy’s prayer, however, did not really help her solve her problem. And perhaps the same was true in your case. You may thus have wondered if prayer simply is something that makes you feel better. ‘How do I know,’ you ask, ‘that I’m not just talking into the air? Is there someone listening who really cares about me and can help me?’
‘God—Does He Care About Me?’
It may indeed seem hard to believe that God in heaven could be concerned about our little problems. However, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Observe intently the birds of heaven, because they do not sow seed or reap or gather into storehouses; still your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are?” Jesus continued: “Also, on the matter of clothing, why are you anxious? Take a lesson from the lilies of the field, how they are growing; they do not toil, nor do they spin; but I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these.”—Matthew 6:26, 28, 29.
Surely, then, if God cares so much for birds and lilies—would he not care about us enough to listen to our prayers? The Bible thus calls God the “Hearer of prayer.” (Psalm 65:2) He promises that when we pray to him in faith, “no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us”! (1 John 5:14) And many youths feel that this has proved true in their case.
A young girl named Kay says: “Prayer helps me to be very happy. Sometimes you just feel like expressing your inner feelings to someone, and there is no one better than Jehovah to express them to because Jehovah understands, and you know that he is the only one who can really help you.” Young Peggy (not the one mentioned at the outset) likewise feels that her prayers fall on hearing ears. Notice how she once handled a personal problem: “I just cried and cried about it. But once I stopped crying, I found myself talking to Jehovah, as if he were right there, sitting next to me and listening to what I had to say.”
How Prayer Helps
These youths have learned to follow the counsel of the psalmist: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself.” (Psalm 55:22) However, prayer helps in ways that go beyond bringing mere emotional relief. A youth named Maria speaks from personal experience: “I know that whenever I have a problem I can turn to Jehovah for guidance and he will help me.”
Maria, like Peggy and Kay, is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. All three have developed a close personal friendship with God over a period of time through prayer and study of the Bible. To these youths God is truly “a refuge and strength, a help that is readily to be found during distresses.” (Psalm 46:1) However, note that Maria does not pray for the miraculous removal of her problems. Rather, she prays “for guidance.” This points to one of the fundamental principles of prayer.
At James 1:2-5 the Bible says: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith works out endurance . . . So, 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 did not encourage us to pray for escape from “various trials.” We could, however, “keep on asking God” for the wisdom to deal with that trial! God does not ‘reproach’ us as being stupid for asking for this wisdom. Rather, he generously promises us that such wisdom “will be given.”
Suppose, then, you are faced with a difficult situation—a problem with a teacher, a disagreement with your parents. Try praying to God. At the very least, prayer focuses your heart and mind on what is important in God’s sight. This helps put your problem in perspective. Jesus further promised that his holy spirit would ‘bring back to mind all the things he had taught.’ (John 14:26) Similarly, if you pray for guidance, God can call to your mind scriptures or godly principles that bear on the matter. Of course, God will expect some effort on your part, such as researching matters in the Bible or seeking mature advice. God can bless your efforts, at times even giving “the power beyond what is normal” so that you can endure.—2 Corinthians 4:7.
How to Pray to God
Would you, too, like to enjoy a close friendship with God and know that he answers your prayers? Like Kay, Peggy, and Maria, you must begin with a study of the Bible. This will help you to learn about Jehovah God’s personality and qualities. As you learn what a kind and loving God he is, you will feel more comfortable about approaching him in prayer.
‘But what do I say to him?’ you may ask. Praying to God can be much like talking with a close friend. If you had a difficult problem on your mind, wouldn’t you speak very openly to such a friend, expressing your most intimate thoughts and concerns? God is a friend with whom you can trust your deepest thoughts, knowing he will understand exactly what you mean. But since he has far greater wisdom and power than any human, he can really help you!
However, should personal problems always dominate your prayers? Jesus gave us a model prayer known as the Lord’s Prayer, or Our Father prayer, found in the Bible at Matthew 6:9-13. Note that first in importance was the sanctification (or holding as sacred) of God’s name, Jehovah. Next was that God’s Kingdom (or heavenly government) come and that God’s will be done both in heaven and on the earth. It was only after discussing these great issues that Jesus gave attention to personal concerns, such as food, gaining forgiveness, and enduring temptation to do wrong. Your prayers can reflect the same priorities, showing God that you are not selfishly concerned with just your own problems.
Jesus, however, cautioned: “But when praying, do not say the same things over and over again, just as the people of the nations do, for they imagine they will get a hearing for their use of many words.” (Matthew 6:7) Long, complicated prayers do not impress God; neither do prayers read out of a book or recited like a rhyme, as if the choice of words were what is important. Said the psalmist: “Before him pour out your heart.” (Psalm 62:8) Do you have some sort of weakness that you have worked hard to overcome but that keeps surfacing? Is there some family problem that makes you very unhappy? These are things about which you can “pour out your heart” to God for divine help.
Keep in mind, though, that you must also be willing to accept God’s answer. Jehovah, in his wisdom, may see things you do not see. So if you ask for something and don’t receive it, this does not mean Jehovah was not listening. It could simply mean you have asked for something that was not in your best interests. As the proverb says: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) Keep praying about it, and you will eventually receive God’s direction.
When prayer becomes a regular part of your life, it can bring you into a close and happy relationship with Jehovah God, something to be treasured. If you have not yet developed the habit of prayer, now is a good time to start. Why not pray to God about your desire to establish a good relationship with him? He will surely help you.—James 4:8.
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“I know that whenever I have a problem I can turn to Jehovah for guidance and he will help me.”