Your Prayers Tell on You
What do your prayers reveal about yourself? Why is listening an important part of prayer? And how should one pray to be heard?
WHEN you pray to God in his appointed way, he listens. But after praying, day after day, week after week, what sort of person do your prayers reveal you to be?
In your prayers do you show yourself a grateful, considerate, conscientious Christian? Does God see in your prayers a lover of righteousness, one anxious for the vindication of his name and purpose? What sort of impression do you leave by what you say in your prayers?
Do your prayers show you to be a happy servant, thankful for life, appreciative of his Word, one desirous of seeing the organization of Jehovah grow to where it will fill the whole earth with justice and righteousness? Just what kind of person do you show yourself to be in your prayers to God? Your prayers do mirror what you really are. They tell on you.
By listening to your prayers God knows exactly what you are thinking about, what concerns you most, where your interests lie, and what your desires and regrets are. He becomes acquainted with the real you. He knows how you feel about your brothers in the ministry and about people in general. He knows whether you are compassionate toward those suffering for righteousness’ sake. He is aware of your thoughts toward the least and the greatest, toward the rich and the poor. He knows how you feel about those persons of good will who are reaching out for truth and life. He can see by what you say whether you are conscious of your spiritual needs.
By your prayers and the very manner in which you pray Jehovah knows whether you keenly desire the things you ask for, or if what you say is a mere recital of words.
Your prayers reveal how much you rely upon God, because daily the servant of Jehovah is confronted with difficult tasks. Many spiritual walls need to be reinforced, others need to be rebuilt completely—walls of faith, hope and courage that have crumbled down or that have been made weak. Prayer to Jehovah will help you to rebuild these walls in yourself and in others. Your prayer to Jehovah shows that you recognize him as a strong tower, a tower of strength in the time of need. Prayer is a demonstration of your faith. It says you believe.—Ps. 61:3; Prov. 18:10.
LISTENING IS A PART OF PRAYER
Prayer is not all talking. Listening, too, is a part of prayer. If you were to appear before an earthly king, would you do nothing but talk? Would you not listen to what he had to say? Certainly you would. Then when you kneel before Jehovah, the King of Eternity, listen. And when you speak make sure your words show proper respect, that they are gracious and kind. Your words then will speak well of you.—Jer. 10:10, AV, margin.
Your decorum in prayer will also tell on you. If you yawn in prayer or rush through a few repetitive words, will this speak well of you? Would you behave that way when standing before an earthly king? Then do not conduct yourself that way before Jehovah the Sovereign of the universe. Your conduct shows whether you respect the dignity and honor of his high office and whether you understand and appreciate your privilege to address him in prayer. Observing your conduct in prayer will make you more aware of the blessing bestowed upon you through this privilege of prayer. Then not only your prayers but your conduct will speak well of you.
Listening to God is also an essential part of prayer. How does one do this? One listens to God by letting the words of the Bible pass through his mind and heart. The Bible is the inspired Word of God put into the language of men. So by listening to the Holy Scriptures the words of the prophets, the thoughts of the apostles and the wisdom of Jesus Christ all flow through the mind, refreshing it and building it up. In this way one can spend all night in prayer with God and hardly say a word. When you listen you learn. When we listen to the words of the Scriptures we show ourselves learners of God.—2 Tim. 3:16, 17.
If in our private prayers we rush or we just offer up short prayers time after time, does not this tell on us? We do not rush away from those we love, do we? As for our short prayers, do they not show the extent of our concern for the household of God, what we think of our ministry and the work entrusted to us? Those who keenly sense their privileges and responsibilities know the need of spending much time with Jehovah in prayer. They realize prayer makes better men, that it improves the heart attitude and mental appreciation for life. Prayer matures one to salvation.
When praying there must be calmness, there must be time and deliberation. Do not rush your prayers, or memorize them, because by so doing you degrade the privilege of prayer into a worthless thing. If more time were spent in prayer by individuals and families, it would work wonders to invigorate their spirituality. Individuals would find themselves happier. Families would experience group prayer a unifying force. Prayer aids to overcome differences. It promotes friendship and peace. It seems to cause people to forget their jealousies and envies. When members of a family pray earnestly together, seldom do you find them fighting each other. James admonishes us to “pray for one another,” and Paul tells Christians to “persevere in prayer.”—Jas. 5:16; Rom. 12:12.
PRAYER FOR OTHERS
When we pray to God we do a good thing, but when we pray to God in behalf of our brothers we do something far better. We show ourselves loving, concerned and mature. When we pray for others we give proof to God of our interest in the lives of men, we show an active concern about them. Our prayers for God’s household show that we are interested in the congregation, its activity and welfare.
Since prayer is an energizing force, it will transform our disposition toward those for whom we pray. It is quite impossible to petition God to show love toward someone we do not particularly like and still continue bitter toward this one. If we keep on praying, all animosity will pass away and we will find ourselves liking this person instead of disliking him. Being loving toward your brothers speaks well of you.—1 John 4:20, 21.
Too often we do not pray fervently enough for our brothers. It may be because we do not know them personally or that we are too preoccupied with our own pursuits and pleasures. Perhaps it is that we are lacking in affection, in our love for them. If we love enough we will remember them in our prayers. Praying for others should be as natural as praying for ourselves.
When we pray for others we become more charitable and patient toward them. We find ourselves becoming friendlier and happier because of it. When we know others are praying for us, it gives us courage and power. The apostles encouraged the brothers to pray for them. “Carry on prayer for us,” said Paul. “And Jehovah himself turned back the captive condition of Job when he prayed in behalf of his companions.” Jesus instructed his followers even “to pray for those persecuting you; that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens.” Praying for others is Christlike; it is a loving practice.—2 Thess. 3:1; Job 42:7-10; Matt. 5:44, 45.
Our praying for others is not done in self-righteousness. Our prayers for them are prompted by God’s mercy and kindness toward us. We show by our petitions that we want all men to come to an accurate knowledge of the truth and be saved. We, like God, want none to die. Prayer for others uproots bitterness and malicious thinking from our own minds, making room for upbuilding thoughts to flourish. Praying for others inspires harmony, creates unity and co-operation.—2 Cor. 9:14.
If we pray for all the brothers, that means we will come to love brothers we find difficult to like right now. Our loving them does not mean just putting up with them, or being kind and polite to them. It means loving them the way Christ loved us. Jesus’ love knew no bounds, nor must ours. His love saw the need of giving his all; so must ours. Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have [this] love among yourselves.” Your prayers reveal whether you love this way or not.—John 13:34, 35.
PRAY THAT YOU BE HONEST
When you pray to God that he make grow in you the love of righteousness, goodness, kindness, honesty and the other fruits of the spirit, do you really mean it? Most of us are aware that there is a certain amount of deceit in our nature. How often do we say and do things we do not mean? We often compliment when inwardly we condemn. So are we honest when we say we want to be honest, which means being honest in everything and to everybody? Honesty in business may cost us sales. Honest expression may mean loss of favor, promotion, or even a job. Do you still want to be honest? If you want to be honest regardless of the cost, then pray for it. Work for it. Do not pray for things that you do not honestly want. Be sincere in your prayers. Be honest and your prayers will speak well of you.
Honesty cleanses the inner man. It builds integrity and uprightness. It braces up the mind for Christian activity. Honesty inspires trust and harmony. Christian love and faith are enhanced. Where there is an exchange of honest opinions there will be freedom of thought and expression. Everyone is benefited in the atmosphere of honesty. Jehovah says: “The prayer of the upright ones is a pleasure to him.”—Prov. 15:8.
Many prayers go unanswered because they are asked amiss. Some are said in doubt and without conviction. They are not really honest prayers. James says: “Let not that man [a doubter] suppose that he will receive anything from Jehovah; he is an indecisive man, unsteady in all his ways.” We must believe that Jehovah provides. He gives us what we need, not necessarily what we want. David prayed for a pure heart and a new and steadfast spirit. And his prayer was answered. We may pray for the same thing, but that may not be what we need or want. Some pray, “God make me pure—but not yet.” Others say, “God make me rich and kind and good,” but all week long their actions show their prayer to be a mere recital of words.—Jas. 1:7, 8.
Since Christianity is not the way to worldly fame and fortune, true prayer does not include such things. Instead, a Christian prays that he will not fall victim to materialism. His desire is not to pamper the flesh or please the eye, but to give of himself and what he has. Doubtless more prayers would be answered if people, besides asking all the time, would also sacrifice. Your willing sacrifices speak well of you.
PRAYER NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EFFORT
Prayer is not the only thing there is to the worship of God. People spend countless hours praying for God to give them things and to take them to heaven, but they may never put their lives in order. These people must learn that how we live is as important as the repeating of daily prayers. One decent act of justice toward one’s brother is worth more than a thousand prayers hailing God as the Source of justice. If we would pray right we must also live right.
We must educate ourselves to the fact that true prayer is not a substitute for intelligent effort. Some people resort to prayer principally as a means of getting things from God when other means have failed. Others pray only when there is a crisis. Such prayers are very selfish and they are something detestable to Jehovah, who answers proper prayer. Do we expect God to perform a miracle for our benefit every time we pray? Unfortunately some people do. Jehovah’s guidance is a supplement to, not a substitute for, our own thinking and working. As an earthly father expects his son to display a little initiative, using his mind to search out and to make wise decisions for himself and come to him with only the most difficult problems for guidance, so, too, our heavenly Father desires the same of us. Jehovah has given us his Word, the Bible. He expects us to use it wisely to his praise and to come to him for guidance in understanding and using it or wishing to express thanks to him. If we do so, our prayers will be a pleasure to him.
If we are sincere in our prayers, we will endure much to see that they are fulfilled. First, we will pray, then we will work hard toward the accomplishment of our prayer in faith. When Jehovah sees that we are not to be turned aside by hard work, sweat, blood and tears, our prayer will be answered if it is in accord with his will.
Now, then, when you pray be aware that you are painting a vivid picture of yourself before God. Show respect in your conduct, pray with sincerity and conviction. Be honest. Be assured that true prayer never goes unanswered. Above all, be humble and appreciative of the privilege of prayer. Your prayers will not lie. They will tell the truth about you.