Talking with God
“Persevere in prayer.”—Rom. 12:12.
1. What is the value of talking to those close to us?
TALKING with each other is a basic requirement of friendship. Not that friends have to be talking all the time, but there has to be communication. The same is true regarding the members of a family. To keep good relations between them it is imperative that they keep on talking with each other. Failure to do so would mean that they were drifting apart, even though sharing the same roof, bed and meals. Talking things over with each other results in understanding, trust and affection. Then each knows what is on the other’s mind and heart, and what his cares, needs and aspirations are. Thus their mutual appreciation increases as they communicate with each other, sharing what the vicissitudes of life bring. And as has well been said, griefs shared are halved, joys shared are doubled.
2. What is our relationship to Jehovah?
2 Due to our having made a dedication to Jehovah God we belong to him, being either his adopted sons or prospective grandsons. Jehovah God and we have mutual interests, chief of which is the vindication of Jehovah’s name, and, secondary, our own salvation. We are concerned with God’s vindication and he with our salvation. However, Jehovah God quite easily can get along without us, for if we fail him someone else will replace us. But we cannot get along without God, not if we want happiness and everlasting life. We are wholly dependent upon him and therefore always want to have the best relations with him. He is our indispensable Master, while we are his good-for-nothing slaves.—Luke 17:10.
3, 4. By what means does God talk to us, and what does he tell us therein?
3 Jehovah God himself is not a silent heavenly Father or Master. Not by any means! He is ready to speak to us at all times by means of sixty-six books, little in size, some consisting of only a single page, but weighty in contents. These enable us to appreciate just how God views matters, what he is thinking about and what we must do to please him. Thus we read that “the Lord Jehovah will not do a thing unless he has revealed his confidential matter to his servants the prophets.” In a similar vein Jesus said to his apostles: “I have called you friends, because all the things I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”—Amos 3:7; John 15:15.
4 By means of his Word Jehovah God communicates to us not only his will and purposes but also his love and affection for us. “Like a man whom his own mother keeps comforting, so I myself shall keep comforting you people.” “With a love to time indefinite I have loved you. That is why I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” “The Father himself has affection for you.” Even when his creatures take an unwise course and suffer as a result, God feels regrets and is hurt at heart. On the other hand, it makes Jehovah’s heart glad when we take a wise course. So by continually letting God talk to us by means of his Word we become ever better acquainted with his will and purposes and may bask in his love.—Isa. 66:13; Jer. 31:3; John 16:27; Judg. 10:16; Prov. 27:11.
5. Of what value is it to commit to memory portions of God’s Word?
5 Not that God’s talking to us is limited to our reading his Word. Every time we call to mind portions of it in our memories we are listening to Jehovah talk to us. We do not always have access to his written Word and we may even be deprived of it, as some have been in Communist labor camps. What a powerful reason for committing to memory as much of God’s Word as we possibly can so that at all times and under any circumstances Jehovah God can talk to us at length! Additionally, as we engage in the Christian ministry we want to lean heavily on God’s Word, for we cannot do better than let God talk to our listeners.
THE NEED TO TALK TO GOD
6. For what reasons should we talk with God?
6 It is in the very nature of things that we should talk to God. Do we have any doubt about his existence, about his being the Giver of “every good gift and every perfect present”? Of course not! Then, even as a child at the dinner table is taught to ask for food and to say “Please,” and after receiving it to say “Thank you,” so with us. We may not take God’s goodness for granted. We must ask him for what we need and then express appreciation for what we receive.—Jas. 1:17.
7. What further benefit comes from clothing our sentiments in thoughts and words?
7 But more than that, in our prayers we reach a degree of appreciation, earnestness, devotion, gratitude and regrets, repentance, that we are not likely to feel otherwise. It strengthens our feelings, our gratitude or repentance, when we seek to clothe them in words. Consider for a moment how easy it is for a young man to think regarding a young lady, “I love you!” and yet how hard it is for him to bring himself to say this in so many words! Or how prone we are to express our apology for having offended by a subdued manner or some gift, rather than to put it into words! So coming to God in prayer, speaking to him what is in our hearts and minds strengthens our gratitude or repentance, as the case may be.
8. Failure to talk to God would indicate what?
8 In fact, unless we talk to God in prayer it could not be said that we are walking with God. Our conduct may be upright and we may be busy in his service; but unless God is so real to us that we keep on talking to him, something is wrong. Then we betray that we are dedicated to a work, a cause or an organization instead of to a Personality, to our loving heavenly Father. If a husband and father worked hard to support his family but never spoke to them any more than he had to and never gave them expressions of endearment, his family might well conclude that his motive was sheer unpleasant duty instead of love. And so with us.
9-11. (a) What commands do we have regarding prayer? (b) How can these be carried out?
9 So we are commanded, “Persevere in prayer.” “With every form of prayer and supplication you carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit.” To underscore the need for us “always to pray and not to give up,” Jesus gave us the illustration of the widow who kept on importuning a judge until she obtained justice.—Rom. 12:12; Eph. 6:18; Luke 18:1-8.
10 If we appreciate the privilege of prayer we will pray not only at regular times but also “incidentally,” as opportunity affords. And so many opportunities present themselves if only we are “vigilant with a view to prayers.” Such times as upon rising and before retiring, at mealtimes, at congregational meetings and in connection with the field ministry are taken for granted. And it is quite easy to think of turning to God when we have need of special wisdom and strength, or when we receive special blessings. But, in addition, we should cultivate a proneness to prayer, so that our hearts are like the needle of a compass that, while temporarily deflected by outside influences, always reverts to pointing north. Then we will be making prayer a habit, heeding the command to “pray incessantly.”—1 Pet. 4:7; 1 Thess. 5:17.
11 But more than that, we will not only repeatedly turn to God but delight to linger in prayer, even as two friends enjoy each other’s company and delay parting. We will come not merely with petitions but with praise and thanksgiving. As the apostle Paul admonishes: “Be persevering in prayer, remaining awake in it with thanksgiving.” Then we will not be placing Jehovah God in the role of a policeman, doctor or lawyer, one merely to be consulted when in trouble, but will consider him our dearest and truest friend, to whom we enjoy talking as we walk with him.—Col. 4:2.
12. For whom only is the privilege of prayer, and upon meeting what basic conditions?
12 Among the misconceptions prevalent in the world regarding prayer is that anyone may pray with the expectation of being heard. But not so. The privilege of prayer is only for those who have, upon the basis of accurate knowledge, made a dedication of themselves to do Jehovah’s will. It is only for those who walk with God, having met him by appointment. (Amos 3:3) But even these cannot expect to be heard unless they approach God through the only channel and ask in faith. Jesus said: “I chose you, . . . in order that no matter what you ask the Father in my name he might give it to you.” “According to your faith let it happen to you.”—John 15:16; Matt. 9:29.
13. What further condition of prayer did David and Paul stress?
13 Another vital condition in our coming to God in prayer is a clear conscience. Note how earnestly King David pleaded on the basis of this before making requests for his people and his son Solomon: “I well know, O my God, that you are an examiner of the heart, and that it is in rectitude that you take pleasure. I . . . in the uprightness of my heart have voluntarily offered all these things.” (The value of what David offered was over $140,980,800.)a Note also how Paul ties in the clear conscience with prayer: “Carry on prayer for us, for we trust we have an honest conscience, as we wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” Yes, only “the prayer of the upright ones is a pleasure to” Jehovah.—1 Chron. 29:17; Heb. 13:18; Prov. 15:8.
14-16. What other quality is needed for our prayers to be heard?
14 Since in our talking to God we have need to plead for his mercy and forgiveness, he justly requires that we exercise forgiveness ourselves. Jesus illustrated the importance of this in his illustration of a king who, in settling accounts with his slaves, forgave one who owed him over $10 million. But the slave then refused to forgive one who owed him but $17. This caused the king to cancel his forgiveness and put the unmerciful slave in prison until he had fully paid his debt. “In like manner my heavenly Father will also deal with you if you do not forgive each one his brother from your hearts.”—Matt. 18:23-35.
15 Jesus made the same point when he said: “If, then, you are bringing your gift to the altar and you there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, and go away; first make your peace with your brother, and then, when you have come back, offer up your gift.” Among the gifts we can offer today is “the fruit of lips.”—Matt. 5:23, 24; Heb. 13:15.
16 The apostle Peter touches on this same subject in counseling husbands to be considerate in dealing with their wives as the weaker vessel. Failure to do so would cause the prayers of the husbands to be hindered. There must be love and unity in the marital relationship, even as in the Christian congregation, for God to hear and answer prayers.—1 Pet. 3:7.
17. For God to answer our prayers what must our actions be?
17 Nor would we overlook the condition of acting in harmony with our prayers. How, indeed, could God answer our prayers if we acted contrary to them? Do we pray for a safe arrival and then break speed laws, take needless chances or drive after we have been drinking liquor? Do we pray for wisdom and then neglect personal study, meetings and assemblies? Do we pray for the unity and peace of Jerusalem, at the same time acting tactless, harsh or perverse in our dealings with our brothers? Then we talk to God in vain. Yes, we must do our part if we expect God to do his part.
SUBSTANCE OF OUR PRAYERS
18. For what may we pray?
18 We know what we can pray for—anything in harmony with Jehovah’s will, even as Jesus showed in his model prayer. Everything that concerns us, spiritually and physically or materially, may be the subject of our petitions: “In everything by prayer and supplication . . . let your petitions be made known to God.” True, we may not pray for divine healing, for that is not in harmony with God’s will for us today, but we may pray for God’s holy spirit of wisdom and power so as to take the wisest course and have the strength to endure whatever God may permit.—Phil. 4:6; Luke 11:13.
19. How may we avoid getting in a rut with our prayers?
19 Since we pray regularly, we must exercise care that we do not get into a rut with our expressions. “When praying,” Jesus said, “do not say the same things over and over again.” How mechanical the doorstep sermons of Christian ministers would sound if they used the same ones year after year! Yet unless we give it thought we may be guilty of the very same thing in regard to our personal prayers, and what a loss in blessing that would mean! Even as Jehovah God gives us endless variety in his Word and in nature, so let us exercise care that in talking to God we do not mechanically repeat ourselves but vary the thought content of our prayers, in line with immediate circumstances, the day’s text, and so forth.—Matt. 6:7.
20, 21. What factors should be given consideration in congregational prayer?
20 Especially if ours is the privilege of publicly representing others in prayer should we give thought to such things, taking note, for example, of the theme of the congregation meeting. A little thoughtfulness by advising beforehand the one who is to enjoy this privilege will aid in having public prayer fluent, coherent, earnest, rich in thought content and apropos to the particular meeting. Such prayers should avoid both extremes as regards length; some clergymen have been known to pray as long as two hours!
21 So that all may fully benefit from congregational prayer, the one chosen to represent the congregation should be able to express himself with sufficient volume, coherently and distinctly. The purpose of praying is not to encourage the one praying or to give him experience in public praying but to represent others properly before Jehovah’s throne of undeserved kindness. Let it be noted that congregational prayer is not a mere formalism, such as is the saying of mass in a foreign tongue. Each one therefore should listen to it carefully, and it should be given in a way that would compel each listener to utter a fervent “Amen!” at its close.
22. How and where should children be taught to pray?
22 Since public prayers are not practice sessions, children should not be asked to represent adults in prayer. The place for young children to learn to pray is at a parent’s knee. You parents, take time and thought to teach your children how they should pray and what their prayers should include. Impress upon their young minds that they are talking to God and therefore are to address him with reverence, sincerity and childlike simplicity.
23. Respect for the privilege of prayer dictates what?
23 Respect for the precious privilege of prayer dictates that prayers should not be given as a part of a demonstration. That is why a male servant who accompanies a sister to her home Bible studies lets her conduct for the purpose of his offering counsel if need be, but he offers the opening and closing prayer, for prayer is never offered for the purpose of its being counseled.
24. How may our privilege of talking with God be summarized?
24 Truly, it is a great condescension on God’s part for him to let us walk and talk with him. And as we walk with him let us ever be alert to hear and heed what he has to say to us, as we ourselves keep talking with him, incessantly, persevering therein with thanksgiving as we make known our petitions. At the same time let us exercise care to conduct ourselves in line with our petitions and to keep the thought content of our prayers ever fitting to the occasion and to avoid getting in a rut. Doing so we will share in the vindication of Jehovah’s name, make his heart glad and assure ourselves much joy now and in Jehovah’s endless new world of righteousness.