How You Can Draw Close to God
1. What similarities are evident in many religions?
A TOURIST visiting an Oriental country was amazed at the religious rituals she observed at a Buddhist temple. Although the images were not those of Mary or Christ, many of the rituals resembled those of her church back home. For instance, she noted the use of rosaries and the chanting of prayers. Others too have made such comparisons. East or West, the ways in which devotees try to draw close to God or to the objects of their worship are remarkably similar.
2. How has prayer been described, and why do many people pray?
2 Many especially try to draw close to God by praying to him. Prayer has been described as “an act of communication by man with the sacred or holy—God, the gods, the transcendent realm, or supernatural powers.” (The New Encyclopædia Britannica) When approaching God in prayer, however, some think only in terms of what they can get out of it. For example, a man once asked one of Jehovah’s Witnesses: “If you pray for me, will the problems I have in my family, at work, and with my health be solved?” Apparently the man thought so, but many pray and find that their problems persist. So we might ask, ‘Just why should we draw close to God?’
WHY DRAW CLOSE TO GOD
3. To whom should our prayers be directed, and why?
3 Prayer is not an empty ritual, nor is it merely a means by which to gain something. A major reason for approaching God is to have a close relationship with him. Our prayers should therefore be directed to Jehovah God. “Jehovah is near to all those calling upon him,” said the psalmist David. (Psalm 145:18) Jehovah invites us to come into a peaceful relationship with him. (Isaiah 1:18) Those responding to this invitation agree with the psalmist who said: “As for me, the drawing near to God is good for me.” Why? Because those who draw near to Jehovah God will enjoy true happiness and peace of mind.—Psalm 73:28.
4, 5. (a) Why is it important to pray to God? (b) What kind of relationship can we build with God through prayer?
4 Why pray to God for help if he ‘knows what we need before we ask him’? (Matthew 6:8; Psalm 139:4) Prayer shows that we have faith in God and view him as the Source of “every good gift and every perfect present.” (James 1:17; Hebrews 11:6) Jehovah takes pleasure in our prayers. (Proverbs 15:8) He is glad to hear our meaningful expressions of appreciation and praise, just as a father rejoices at hearing his young child speak sincere words of gratitude. (Psalm 119:108) Where there is a good father-child relationship, there is warm communication. A child who is loved wants to talk to his father. The same is true when it comes to our relationship with God. If we really appreciate what we are learning about Jehovah and the love he has shown for us, we will have a strong desire to express ourselves to him in prayer.—1 John 4:16-18.
5 When approaching the Most High God, we should be respectful, though there is no need to worry excessively about the exact words that we use. (Hebrews 4:16) We always have access to Jehovah. And what a privilege it is that we can ‘pour out our heart’ to God in prayer! (Psalm 62:8) Appreciation for Jehovah leads to a warm relationship with him, like the one that the faithful man Abraham enjoyed as God’s friend. (James 2:23) But when praying to the Sovereign Lord of the universe, we must comply with his requirements for approaching him.
REQUIREMENTS FOR DRAWING CLOSE TO GOD
6, 7. Though God does not demand payment to hear our prayers, what does he require of us when we pray?
6 Is money needed in order to approach God? Many people pay the clergy to pray for them. Some even believe that their prayers will be heard in proportion to the size of the donation they make. However, God’s Word does not say that a monetary offering is required for us to approach Jehovah in prayer. His spiritual provisions and the blessings of a relationship with him in prayer are available without price.—Isaiah 55:1, 2.
7 What, then, is required? A right heart attitude is one essential. (2 Chronicles 6:29, 30; Proverbs 15:11) In our heart we must exercise faith in Jehovah God as the “Hearer of prayer” and “the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Psalm 65:2; Hebrews 11:6) We must also have a humble heart. (2 Kings 22:19; Psalm 51:17) In one of his illustrations, Jesus Christ showed that when approaching God a humble tax collector with a lowly heart attitude proved more righteous than an arrogant Pharisee. (Luke 18:10-14) As we approach God in prayer, let us remember that “everyone that is proud in heart is something detestable to Jehovah.”—Proverbs 16:5.
8. If we wish to have God answer our prayers, of what must we cleanse ourselves?
8 If we desire to have God answer our prayers, we have to cleanse ourselves of sinful conduct. When the disciple James encouraged others to draw close to God, he added: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you indecisive ones.” (James 4:8) Even wrongdoers can come into a peaceful relationship with Jehovah if they repent and leave their former way of life. (Proverbs 28:13) We cannot have audience with Jehovah if we merely pretend that we have cleansed our way. “The eyes of Jehovah are upon the righteous ones, and his ears are toward their supplication; but the face of Jehovah is against those doing bad things,” says God’s Word.—1 Peter 3:12.
9. Through whom should we approach Jehovah, and why?
9 The Bible states: “There is no man righteous in the earth that keeps doing good and does not sin.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20) You might therefore ask: ‘How, then, can we approach Jehovah God?’ The Bible answers: “If anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one.” (1 John 2:1) Though we are sinners, we can approach God with freeness of speech through Jesus Christ, who died as a ransom for us. (Matthew 20:28) He is the only channel through whom we can approach Jehovah God. (John 14:6) We must not take the merit of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice for granted and deliberately practice sin. (Hebrews 10:26) However, if we are doing our best to refrain from what is bad and yet err at times, we can repent and ask God for forgiveness. When we approach him with a humble heart, he will hear us.—Luke 11:4.
OPPORTUNITIES TO TALK TO GOD
10. When it comes to prayer, how can we imitate Jesus, and what are some occasions for private prayer?
10 Jesus Christ valued his relationship with Jehovah very highly. Therefore, Jesus made time to talk to God in private prayer. (Mark 1:35; Luke 22:40-46) We do well to imitate Jesus’ example and pray to God on a regular basis. (Romans 12:12) It is fitting to start the day off with words of prayer, and before going to bed, we can rightly thank Jehovah for the day’s activity. During the day, make it a point to approach God “on every occasion.” (Ephesians 6:18) We can even pray silently in our heart, knowing that Jehovah can hear us. Privately talking to God helps us to cement our relationship with him, and praying to Jehovah daily helps us to draw ever closer to him.
11. (a) Why should families pray together? (b) What does it mean when you say “Amen” at the end of a prayer?
11 Jehovah also listens to prayers offered on behalf of groups of people. (1 Kings 8:22-53) We can draw close to God as a family, with the head of the household taking the lead. This strengthens the family bond, and Jehovah becomes real to young ones as they hear their parents humbly pray to God. What if someone is representing a group in prayer, perhaps at a meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses? If we are in the audience, let us listen attentively so that at the end of the prayer, we can wholeheartedly say “Amen,” which means “So be it.”—1 Corinthians 14:16.
PRAYERS THAT JEHOVAH HEARS
12. (a) Why does God not answer some prayers? (b) Why should we not concentrate solely on personal needs when praying?
12 Some may feel that God does not answer their prayers even though they pray to him through Christ. However, the apostle John said: “No matter what it is that we ask according to [God’s] will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14) So, then, we need to ask according to God’s will. Since he is interested in our spiritual welfare, anything affecting our spirituality is an appropriate subject for prayer. We must resist the temptation to concentrate entirely on physical needs. For instance, while it is proper to pray for insight and fortitude to deal with illness, worries about health should not crowd out spiritual interests. (Psalm 41:1-3) Having become aware that she was overly concerned about her health, one Christian woman asked Jehovah for help to have the proper view of her illness. As a result, her health problems became a much smaller issue, and she felt that she was given “power beyond what is normal.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) Her desire to be of spiritual help to others intensified, and she became a full-time Kingdom proclaimer.
13. As indicated at Matthew 6:9-13, what are some suitable subjects that we can include in our prayers?
13 What may we include in our prayers so that Jehovah will be pleased to hear them? Jesus Christ taught his disciples how to pray. In the model prayer recorded at Matthew 6:9-13, he set out a pattern of subjects about which we may rightly pray. What should be of chief concern in our prayers? Jehovah God’s name and Kingdom must be the top priority. Asking for our material needs is appropriate. It is also important to ask for forgiveness of our sins and for deliverance from temptations and the wicked one, Satan the Devil. Jesus did not want us to chant this prayer or to repeat it over and over, reciting it without thinking about its meaning. (Matthew 6:7) What kind of relationship would it be if a child used the same words every time he spoke to his father?
14. Besides petitions, what prayers should we offer?
14 Besides petitions and heartfelt supplications, we should offer prayers of praise and thanksgiving. (Psalm 34:1; 92:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:18) We can also pray for others. Prayers regarding our spiritual brothers and sisters who are afflicted or persecuted show our interest in them, and Jehovah is pleased to hear us express such concern. (Luke 22:32; John 17:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:25) In fact, the apostle Paul wrote: “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 excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
PERSEVERE IN PRAYER
15. What should we remember if our prayers seem to go unanswered?
15 Though you are gaining knowledge about God, you may feel that your prayers sometimes go unanswered. This could be the case because it may not be God’s time to answer a specific prayer. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-9) Jehovah may allow a situation to continue for a while, but he does answer prayers and knows the best time to do so.—2 Corinthians 12:7-9.
16. Why should we persist in prayer, and how can doing this affect our relationship with God?
16 Our persistence in prayer reveals our heartfelt interest in what we are saying to God. (Luke 18:1-8) For example, we may ask Jehovah to help us overcome a certain weakness. By persevering in prayer and acting in harmony with our petitions, we show our sincerity. We should be specific and honest in our petitions. It is especially important to pray intensely when we are experiencing a temptation. (Matthew 6:13) As we continue to pray while trying to control our sinful urges, we will see how Jehovah helps us. This will build up our faith and strengthen our relationship with him.—1 Corinthians 10:13; Philippians 4:13.
17. How will we benefit from a prayerful attitude in serving God?
17 By cultivating a prayerful attitude in rendering sacred service to Jehovah God, we will come to realize that we do not serve him in our own strength. It is Jehovah who gets things done. (1 Corinthians 4:7) Acknowledging this will help us to be humble and will enrich our relationship with him. (1 Peter 5:5, 6) Yes, we have sound reasons to persevere in prayer. Our earnest prayers and precious knowledge of how to draw close to our loving heavenly Father will make our life truly happy.
COMMUNICATION WITH JEHOVAH NOT ONE-SIDED
18. How can we listen to God?
18 If we want God to hear our prayers, we must listen to what he says. (Zechariah 7:13) He no longer sends his messages through divinely inspired prophets and surely does not use spiritistic means. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) But we can listen to God by studying his Word, the Bible. (Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17) Just as we may need to acquire a taste for physical food that is good for us, we are urged to “form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word.” Cultivate a taste for spiritual food by reading God’s Word daily.—1 Peter 2:2, 3; Acts 17:11.
19. Of what benefit is it to meditate on what you read in the Bible?
19 Meditate on what you read in the Bible. (Psalm 1:1-3; 77:11, 12) That means to ponder over the material. You might liken this to digesting food. You can digest spiritual food by relating what you are reading to things you already know. Consider how the material affects your life, or reflect on what it reveals about Jehovah’s qualities and dealings. Thus through personal study, you can take in the spiritual food that Jehovah provides. This will draw you closer to God and will help you to deal with day-to-day problems.
20. How does attending Christian meetings help us to draw close to God?
20 You can also draw close to God by listening to his Word discussed at Christian meetings, just as the Israelites listened attentively when they gathered to hear the public reading of God’s Law. The instructors of that time put meaning into their reading of the Law, thus helping their listeners to understand and be moved to apply what they heard. This led to great joy. (Nehemiah 8:8, 12) So make it your custom to attend the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) This will help you to understand and then apply the knowledge of God in your life and will bring you happiness. Being a part of the worldwide Christian brotherhood will help you to stay close to Jehovah. And as we shall see, you can find true security among God’s people.
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE
Why should you draw close to Jehovah?
What are some requirements for drawing close to God?
What can you include in your prayers?
Why should you persevere in prayer?
How can you listen to Jehovah today?
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