Young People Ask . . .
How Can Prayer Help Me?
“It was prayer that helped me get my life back on track.”—Brad.a
MANY young people are praying—perhaps even more than you think. A Gallup Youth Survey of 13- to 17-year-olds in the United States revealed that 56 percent of them say a prayer before dinner. A survey of young adults indicated that 62 percent of them pray every day.
Even so, for many youths prayer is just an empty ritual or a mere routine. Few youths have what the Bible calls “accurate knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9, 10) As a result, God does not play a big role in their lives. One survey asked teenagers if they had ever turned to God for help in making an important decision. A girl answered: “I always turn to God in prayer to guide me to choose the right paths in life.” Still, she admitted: “I can’t remember any one decision right now.” Little wonder, then, that many youths lack confidence that prayer has any power or that it will work for them!
Nevertheless, like Brad, quoted at the outset, thousands of youths have personally experienced the power of prayer. So can you! A previous article showed why we can be confident that God will hear our prayers.b Now the question is, How can prayer help you? First, let’s examine how God answers our prayers.
How God Answers Prayers
In Bible times some men of faith did have direct—even miraculous—answers to their prayers. When King Hezekiah, for example, learned that he had a terminal illness, he supplicated God for deliverance. God responded: “I have heard your prayer. I have seen your tears. Here I am healing you.” (2 Kings 20:1-6) Other God-fearing men and women similarly experienced God’s intervention.—1 Samuel 1:1-20; Daniel 10:2-12; Acts 4:24-31; 10:1-7.
However, divine intervention was hardly the norm, even in Bible times. For the most part, God answered the prayers of his servants, not by miraculous intervention, but by helping them to “be filled with the accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension.” (Colossians 1:9, 10) Yes, God helped by strengthening his people spiritually and morally—giving them the wisdom and knowledge to make wise decisions. When Christians were in a difficult situation, God did not necessarily remove the trial. Rather, he provided them with “the power beyond what is normal” so that they could endure it!—2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:17.
Likewise today, an answer to your prayer will probably not involve something dramatic. But as he did in the past, God can give you his holy spirit and strengthen you to handle whatever situations you face. (Galatians 5:22, 23) To illustrate, let’s look at four specific ways in which prayer can help you.
Help in Making Decisions
Karen was dating a young man with seemingly high spiritual goals. “He would always tell me that he wanted to become an elder in the congregation,” she says. This all sounded good. But “he also talked a lot about the business he was starting and all the things he would be able to buy me. I began to have doubts about his sincerity.” Karen prayed about it. “I begged Jehovah to open my eyes and show me what I needed to know about him.”
Sometimes the very act of praying is beneficial, as it can help you to stop and think matters through from Jehovah’s perspective. But Karen also needed practical advice. Would she receive a miraculous answer? Well, consider a Bible account regarding King David. When he learned that his trusted friend Ahithophel was advising his traitorous son Absalom, David prayed: “Turn, please, the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness, O Jehovah!” (2 Samuel 15:31) But David also acted in harmony with his prayer. He entrusted his friend Hushai with this mission: “You must then frustrate the counsel of Ahithophel for me.” (2 Samuel 15:34) In a similar way, Karen took action in harmony with her prayer by talking with a mature Christian elder who knew her boyfriend. He confirmed her fears: Her boyfriend had made little spiritual advancement.
Karen says: “That situation opened my eyes wide to the power of prayer.” Sad to say, her former boyfriend pursued riches and stopped serving God. “If I had married him,” says Karen, “I might be coming to Christian meetings alone.” Prayer helped Karen to make a good decision.
Help in Controlling Your Emotions
“All his spirit is what a stupid one lets out,” says the Bible at Proverbs 29:11, “but he that is wise keeps it calm to the last.” The problem is that many people today live under intense emotional pressure and often lose control—sometimes with disastrous results. Young Brian recalls: “I was having problems with a workmate. One day he pulled out a knife.” What would you have done? Brian prayed. He says: “Jehovah helped me to stay calm, and I talked my workmate out of it. He dropped the knife and walked away.” Controlling his emotions helped Brian to avoid giving in to anger, and this likely saved his life.
You may not often find yourself at the point of a knife. But there will be many situations in your life where you will need to control your emotions. Prayer can help you to remain calm.
Help With Worry
Barbara recalls “going through a trialsome time” some years ago. She says: “My job, family, friends—nothing seemed to be working out. I didn’t know what to do.” Barbara instinctively prayed for help. But there was a problem. “I didn’t know what to ask Jehovah for,” she says. “Finally, I asked for peace of mind. I asked every night that he would help me not to worry about everything.”
How did that prayer help her? She says: “A few days later, I realized that although my problems hadn’t disappeared, I wasn’t so occupied or concerned with them anymore.” The Bible promises: “Let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
Help in Drawing Closer to God
Consider the experience of a youth named Paul. “I had just moved in with some relatives,” he says. “One night I found myself in massive depression. I had recently graduated from high school, and I missed all my friends. Tears came to my eyes that night as I remembered the great times we had enjoyed together.” What could Paul do? For the first time, he prayed fervently. He says: “I opened my heart and asked Jehovah for strength and peace of mind.”
What resulted? Paul recalls: “The next morning, I woke up feeling more relieved than I ever have in my life. I went from an agonizing frame of mind to having ‘the peace of God that excels all thought.’” Now that his heart was calm, Paul could look at things from a less emotional point of view. And he soon realized that the ‘good old days’ hadn’t been so good after all. (Ecclesiastes 7:10) In fact, the “friends” that he so sorely missed had not really been a good influence on him.
Above all, Paul got to experience Jehovah’s care in a personal way. He felt the truth of the words of James 4:8: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” For Paul this was a major turning point. He was moved to put Jehovah ahead of everything else in his life and to dedicate his life to him.
Talk to God!
These positive experiences provide assurance that prayer can help you. Of course, that is so only if you are serious about getting to know God, cultivating a friendship with him. Unfortunately, many youths put off doing so. Carissa was raised in a Christian home. But she admits: “I think that only in the last few years have I fully grasped the incredible significance of our unique relationship with Jehovah.” Brad, mentioned at the outset, was raised as a Christian but fell away from true worship for a number of years. “It wasn’t until I realized what I’d lost,” he says, “that I turned to Jehovah. I now know how cold and empty life can be without that relationship.”
However, do not wait for a crisis to strike before you draw close to God. Begin talking to him now—regularly! (Luke 11:9-13) “Before him pour out your heart.” (Psalm 62:8) You will soon find that prayer can really help you!
a Some names have been changed.
b See the article “Young People Ask . . . Will God Hear My Prayers?” in the June 22, 2001, issue of Awake!
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Prayer Can Help You
● Make better decisions
● Stay calm in times of stress
● Find relief from worry
● Draw closer to God