“Carry On Prayer on Every Occasion in Spirit”
“Accept the . . . sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word, while with every form of prayer and supplication you carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit.”—Eph. 6:17, 18.
1. As to prayer, what has distinguished Jehovah’s people from all others?
SERVANTS of Jehovah are not only adept in using the Bible as a “sword of the spirit” in their public preaching but they also have a constant need to “carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit.” For this reason Jehovah’s witnesses are a praying people. Prayer is a prominent feature of their true worship of Jehovah today. By means of prayer they maintain direct personal relationship with God at all times. In every period of history it has been this warm, personal appeal to Jehovah by means of prayer that has distinguished Jehovah’s true worshipers from the apostates and pagans who in their imitation prayers feature formalisms and vanities of words. (Matt. 6:7) Moreover, the prayers of true worshipers are offered directly from the heart rather than being read from prayer books or aided by means of prayer beads or prayer wheels.
2. Give some views on prayer, as well as that of Jehovah’s witnesses.
2 Irreverent ones scoff at prayer as a waste of time. Say they, ‘Such communications never get higher than the head of the one who makes them.’ Others who follow a ‘religion of nature’ of their own design claim that “the only value of prayer is its subjective influence.” By that they mean that prayer ‘helps such a one to answer his own prayers, to become and be what he is praying to be.’ Then there are those, who claim to be Christians, who make long, public prayers “with their lips, yet their heart is far removed from [God].” (Matt. 15:8) One Boston newspaper mentioned: “Rev.———— delivered the most beautiful prayer ever offered to a Boston audience.”* Yes, that is it exactly. Such prayers are offered to an audience, not to God in heaven. Prayer is not an occasion to preach publicly to obtain admiration of men. (Mark 12:40) Frankly, prayer is communication that must be offered with becoming modesty and reasonable brevity. (Matt. 6:5, 6) To sincere Christians as Jehovah’s witnesses prayer is no matter of imagination, fancy or delusion. Prayer is practical, it works, it brings favorable results. This requires that Jehovah’s people live lives consistent with their prayers that God’s will be done. Note the following experiences of ancient and modern witnesses of Jehovah showing that their prayers are answered by God in heaven.
FOR DEDICATION AND BAPTISM
3, 4. Present examples as to prayer for baptism.
3 Prayer is needed in connection with dedication and water baptism. We observe that Jesus found it necessary to pray in connection with his baptism. It is written: “Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized and, as he was praying, the heaven was opened up.”—Luke 3:21.
4 In 1961, in the United States, after a year’s Bible study a married woman with an opposing husband decided to symbolize her dedication by water baptism. In prayer she mentioned that she desired to make a solemn vow to serve Jehovah, unconditionally. She realized that such a vow of dedication required exclusive devotion in spite of her husband’s opposition. She prayed that, when the next circuit assembly came with its baptismal arrangement for water immersion, it would become possible for her to symbolize her dedication. In answer to her prayer her domestic situation became sufficiently clear to enable her to attend the assembly and to be baptized. When she was being baptized she further prayed in gratefulness. Yes, prayer brought favorable results to this lady, including increased spiritual strength to fulfill her dedication vow.
THANKS AT MEALTIMES
5, 6. By examples, express results obtained from prayer at mealtimes.
5 Prayer offered at mealtimes is not to be considered a carry-over from false religious traditions. This proper practice is deeply rooted in Biblical precedent. As a matter of fact, Jesus said a blessing in the form of a prayer when he fed the five thousand from five loaves and two fishes. (Mark 6:41) Not only was there a need for Jesus to express thanks to Jehovah for this miracle, but it also resulted in bringing Jehovah’s peace upon the assembled crowd during their feeding.
6 There is the report of a family of five, all of whom last year became dedicated to Jehovah. After their baptism the father decided to put into practice the offering of prayer at each meal, just as it is done at all the Bethel homes of the office staffs of Jehovah’s witnesses in various parts of the earth. This family’s appreciation for what Jehovah provides had become keener. So with softened hearts the family felt the need to express thanks for each meal as evidence of Jehovah’s fulfilled promise to provide his servants with their daily necessities. (Matt. 6:11) No longer is the mealtime a disordered affair, with each grabbing food to be eaten as quickly as possible and then dashing out as if the home were just a quick gasoline filling station. Now the mealtime has become a happy family meeting, the taking of food is with order and manners, there is interesting Christian conversation and Jehovah’s blessing of peace has settled down upon the household. Truly such prayers bring results.
PRAYERS HINDERED DUE TO SIN
7, 8. (a) What did Peter mean by “in order for your prayers not to be hindered”? (b) Give a modern example.
7 Peter in the first century C.E. counseled husbands to conduct themselves in a proper manner toward their wives “in order for your prayers not to be hindered.” (1 Pet. 3:7) In this way Peter emphasizes that when one prays he must always be spiritually right with his God. One must be morally clean and free from guilt of willful wrongdoing. Where one stands guilty or unacceptable before God there is a ‘hindering’ to the prayer. In other words, one is hindered from praying correctly by a guilty conscience and Jehovah’s hearing ear is not favorably extended. So there is no response to the prayer. Jehovah has turned a deaf ear to the petition. For this reason the majority of the prayers of the unrighteous ones in the world are never answered.—Ps. 66:18, 19; Prov. 15:29.
8 For example, recently it was experienced in one congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses that, whenever a certain male member was asked to offer prayer for the congregation at its meetings, he repeatedly would fail to ask for forgiveness of sins. It became rather noticeable as a ‘hindering’ to the prayer. Later this man’s course of conduct came to be in question. It was found that this minister in fact had been morally unclean all this time. Though married, and his wife being an active member of the congregation, he had had immoral relations with another woman on the outside. His “hindered” prayer actually led to his exposure and final disfellowshiping.
PRAYERS OF CONFESSION OF SIN
9, 10. (a) Why are prayers of confession necessary? (b) Give an ancient and a modern example of such prayers of confession.
9 Who among us does not commit errors? (Ps. 51:5) Sins and errors committed cause strains of relationship with our God and with our brothers in the congregation. Note one of David’s prayers of confession: “My sin I finally confessed to you, and my error I did not cover. I said: ‘I shall make confession over my transgressions to Jehovah.’ And you yourself pardoned the error of my sins.” (Ps. 32:5; 2 Sam. 12:13, 14) Truly upon his earnest confession, with Jehovah’s forgiveness, David’s conscience again became clear. During these pre-Har–Magedon days each one needs to have a burden-free conscience so that he can stand up against all the opposition mounting. If anyone is carrying heavy burdens of guilt upon his conscience, then it is well for him to confess as soon as possible to Jehovah and to his brothers, so that once more he can lift up his head as clean and upright. No longer will there be a ‘hindering’ to one’s prayers.—1 Tim. 1:18, 19.
10 Three years ago a special pioneer minister of Jehovah’s witnesses had become ill during the end of the month. He was missing thirty hours for his monthly report in order to qualify for his money allowance, which then was especially needed. He dishonestly reported the full amount of time, expecting to make up the missing thirty hours of ministerial service next month. But difficulties continued and he was not able to make up the time. It seemed that Jehovah’s blessing was not upon his field preaching activities. In prayer he confessed his wrong to Jehovah. He also wrote to the Society to ask their forgiveness and offered to make an adjustment. The Society’s headquarters mercifully agreed to let the allowance stand as paid but said that the minister should make up the missing thirty hours during his vacation time that next summer. Yes, that prayer of confession brought relief to a stricken conscience and restored pleasant relationship with Jehovah and his people. Did not that prayer bring results?—Heb. 13:18.
IN TIMES OF TEMPTATION
11, 12. Why pray in times of temptation?
11 Prayer is vital in times of temptation. Jesus advised: “Keep on the watch and pray continually, that you may not enter into temptation.”—Matt. 26:41.
12 One of Jehovah’s witnesses who is a civil engineer has enjoyed a steady secular job with a construction firm in the western part of the United States. This man is also a presiding minister of a congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses and realizes that his secular job is only secondary to his primary vocation of the Christian ministry. As in Paul’s case, it is merely the ‘tentmakers’ trade.’ (Acts 18:1-4) The salary of this overseer’s secular job is good and adequate. He puts in forty hours a week at the place of business and thereafter has a free mind for his ministerial activities. Last year the owners of the business made him a tempting offer to become the factory supervisor. They offered an increased salary and other so-called benefits. But there were also increased responsibilities that might bring many sleepless nights and extra activities beyond the present forty hours a week. This tempting offer was taken to Jehovah in prayer. The result was that he was strengthened to turn down the offer. Today he continues to enjoy freedom for his very busy ministerial schedule.
PRAYERS WHEN ILL PHYSICALLY
13, 14. (a) What is the purpose in praying when one is physically ill? (b) Relate a modern experience as to this.
13 Who is it that has not been physically ill some time or other during his life? Yes, David, once ill, wrote of Jehovah’s dealing with sick ones: “Jehovah himself will sustain him upon a divan of illness; all his bed you will certainly change during his sickness.” (Ps. 41:3) Jehovah’s people do not pray for faith healing. Rather, they pray that wise steps may be taken to cope with their particular health problem. In addition, prayer brings one consolation from Jehovah that enables him to exercise patience and long-suffering to put up with the illness until the healing forces of the physical body are able to bring about restoration to health.
14 A lady minister of Jehovah some time back faced a serious problem of having an operation for a malignant growth. None of the local doctors would agree to perform the operation without a blood transfusion. In harmony with her prayer for guidance, a diligent search was made in other parts of the country for a surgeon who would perform the operation without blood. Such a surgeon was found. He operated successfully without a blood transfusion. The sister has been restored to health for further ministerial service. It was through prayer that the sister’s faith was strengthened not to take a blood transfusion at any cost. Likewise, a way out of her problem was found.—1 Cor. 10:13.
PRAYERS AS TO SPIRITUAL SICKNESS
15, 16. (a) What does James say as to praying for those spiritually sick? (b) Is such a practice helpful?
15 Another form of illness is that termed “spiritual sickness.” Such is a condition in which one’s faith in God is at a low ebb. Prayer is vitally necessary to overcome this dangerous condition into which one has slipped. James gives advice on this matter: “Is there anyone sick among you? Let him call the older men of the congregation to him, and let them pray over him, greasing him with oil in the name of Jehovah. And the prayer of faith will make the indisposed one well, and Jehovah will raise him up.”—Jas. 5:14, 15.
16 Some years back one of the anointed ministers of Jehovah had become spiritually ill. Two of the older brothers were asked to visit him. They found that the anointed brother had lost confidence and that he had not prayed to Jehovah for three months. No wonder he was spiritually ill! As soothing oil, the Bible as the Word of God was used by these visiting ministers to restore perception as to Jehovah’s purposes in the mind and heart of this ailing one. They prayed with the sick brother in his own home to bring about this restoration to spiritual better health. That visit brought results. In this connection James goes on to record: “A righteous man’s supplication, when it is at work, has much force.”—Jas. 5:16.
PRAYERS DURING PERSECUTION
17, 18. (a) What is gained in praying during times of persecution? (b) Give examples.
17 As Jesus was persecuted in his days on earth so are Jehovah’s people today subjected to many differing forms of persecution. (John 15:20) Some suffer in literal prisons because of their faithful stand as ministers of God. Others undergo severe suffering of evil in their own homes or in their own surrounding community because of their stand as one of Jehovah’s witnesses. Prayer is a must to endure such persecutions. The prophets of old, yes, Job too, are examples of enduring persecution where needed prayer brought results. “Brothers, take as a pattern of the suffering of evil and the exercising of patience the prophets, who spoke in the name of Jehovah. . . . You have heard of the endurance of Job . . . Is there anyone suffering evil among you? Let him carry on prayer.”—Jas. 5:10, 11, 13.
18 In 1958 Harold King, a British-born Gilead missionary of Jehovah’s witnesses, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in Shanghai, Communist China, for preaching the good news of God’s kingdom. He finally was released in the latter part of May 1963 after four years and seven months of incarceration. While imprisoned, King prayed regularly, of which he writes: “I prayed three times a day in full sight of all who might pass by my cell.” Brother King’s prayers brought results, not only in that he had been kept safe during all those years of imprisonment, but, more importantly, he survived spiritually sound.
PRAY TO MAKE RIGHT DECISIONS
19, 20. How does prayer help one to make right decisions?
19 Young and old, all of us are constantly called upon to exercise wisdom in making right decisions. James again counsels us: “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. But let him keep on asking in faith, not doubting.”—Jas. 1:5, 6.
20 There is the case of the teen-age ordained minister of Jehovah in the United States of America. During his high-school days he built a good record in sports as well as academically. Near the time for his graduation he was offered a football scholarship to attend college. Outstanding sports leaders visited him to encourage him to accept. This young man was now called upon to make a vital decision. For days the battle continued in his mind; one day he would decide to accept the scholarship, the next day he would decide for the full-time ministerial service. Finally he made it a matter of prayer to Jehovah for wisdom. Along with his daily appeals he spent afterschool hours in the public preaching work. In response to his prayers he was strengthened to decide for the full-time pioneer service and to reject the scholarship offer. A right decision was made.
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
21, 22. (a) Explain prayers of intercession. (b) What have been some occasions in the past and present for such prayers?
21 Prayers of intercession for our faithful brothers in trouble, while under arrest or in court for trial are always proper and needed. Before Paul was arrested the second time and brought before the Roman court he wrote to Timothy: “I therefore exhort, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, offerings of thanks, be made concerning all sorts of men, concerning kings and all those who are in high station; in order that we may go on leading a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion.”—1 Tim. 2:1, 2.
22 Likewise today there are from time to time important legal issues involving the ministry of Jehovah’s witnesses that require settlement in the high courts. Such have appeared in Canada, the United States, Britain, South Africa, Switzerland, Australia, the Philippine Republic and in other countries. At such times in those countries Jehovah’s witnesses have offered prayers of intercession to Jehovah. They have asked God that, if it is his will, he may intercede, granting these high judges special wisdom to rule in their favor, that their God-given preaching work may proceed in peace. Many Supreme Court victories have come to Jehovah’s people in answer to such prayers of intercession.
PRAY TO RECEIVE ENCOURAGEMENT
23, 24. Give examples of prayers that brought receiving of encouragement.
23 In these days of increased pressures we all need encouragement. Situations develop where one becomes discouraged. Nehemiah was downhearted at the news of Jerusalem’s lack of wall protection. He prayed about the matter. “It came about that, as soon as I heard these words, I sat down and began to weep and mourn for days, and I was continually fasting and praying before the God of the heavens.” (Neh. 1:4) Nehemiah’s prayer brought results. The Persian king commissioned him to go to Jerusalem to supervise its wall construction.
24 In California a father and a son came into the truth and became dedicated, but not so the mother. In time the mother became ill with heart trouble, and was given only a short time to live. The father and son became very downhearted. Finally, in their sorrow they prayed to Jehovah for help that the mother would become a believer. Soon the mother began to make inquiries as to the Bible. In her remaining days she embraced the truth, witnessed by means of the telephone, and died with a hope of living in the new order of things. Yes, the earnest prayers of the father and son brought results. Both father and son are now full-time pioneer ministers.
PRAYER IN TIMES OF DANGER
25, 26. How have prayers offered in times of danger been answered?
25 Times of extreme danger bring need for urgent prayer. Jonah was in such extreme danger in the belly of the big fish, from where he prayed. It is written: “Then Jonah prayed to Jehovah his God from the inward parts of the fish.” (Jonah 2:1) Jonah’s deliverance was the answer to that prayer.
26 On April 8, 1963, in South Dakota a dedicated witness of Jehovah and her two daughters were all dressed, ready to attend the local congregation meeting for the annual Memorial service in connection with Christ’s death. All of a sudden her opposing husband stood in the doorway with a loaded shotgun pointed at her to prevent her from leaving the house. In this desperate situation she immediately prayed silently to Jehovah. After some minutes her husband began to calm down. He listened to her earnest appeal and finally permitted her to attend the closing part of the Memorial service. Her prayer brought further results in that her husband is now more tolerant and listens to explanations of the Bible.
27, 28. Why are prayers as to organizational problems necessary?
27 Even Jesus found it necessary to pray to solve organizational problems. It is written that Jesus prayed the night before he made the organizational appointment of his twelve apostles, to ascertain the divine will. (Luke 6:12, 13) Jesus thus received the mind of Jehovah on the matter before he announced the twelve appointments.
28 A minister of Jehovah’s witnesses was sent to serve where the need is great as a congregation overseer in a small town in California. The circuit servant told him that this congregation was known as a “trouble congregation,” but no one knew why. After the very first meeting he attended, their coldness confirmed that difficulties existed. The new congregation servant repeatedly prayed about this organizational problem. In a few weeks evidence of immorality was revealed that necessitated the disfellowshiping of a sister and the putting of two others on probation. Not only were these prayers answered in producing a cleansed congregation, but in the second year the congregation had a 40-percent increase in ministers preaching from house to house.
FURTHER ADVANTAGES AND BLESSINGS
29-31. (a) Present some further advantages and blessings brought by prayer. (b) What follow-up must there be to prayer?
29 The above are only a few of the many different occasions and situations in which Jehovah’s witnesses today approach Jehovah’s “house of prayer” for help. With all these petitions there have also ascended, like incense, warm expressions of love and praise together with thanksgiving to Jehovah the Hearer of prayer. Are there any further advantages in worshiping Jehovah by means of prayer? Yes, there are. Prayer continually draws one close to Jehovah. (Jas. 4:8) Thus one gains an intimate fellowship with the Father, our great life source. Prayer keeps one’s heart clean and strong. There is nothing that one withholds from his great Friend in heaven. With an open heart and a clear conscience true communication with our God is maintained.
30 Prayer brings Jehovah’s abiding peace upon one. Without this peace no lasting success is possible. Jehovah’s support is assured through prayer. Prayer also results in an increased flow of Jehovah’s spirit upon one. These are days when physical might or brain power do not assure Har–Magedon safety. Rather, it is those who have been guided by Jehovah’s spirit that come off victorious. (Zech. 4:6) It is prayer that brings true courage. It brings, likewise, an optimistic outlook. Prayer is the means by which one maintains a strong tie of dedication to Jehovah. God hears the daily calls of his dedicated servants. He grants answers to such prayers that are in harmony with his will and Word.
31 Remember, it is not the abundance of words that counts in saying “Lord, Lord.” (Matt. 7:21-23) But it is the following up of the prayer with positive action in doing God’s will that counts. Whether we are dedicated ones of the anointed remnant or are of the “other sheep,” let all of us, young and old, male and female, “carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit.” As a praying people let us delight for all time to come to worship Jehovah our God in his “house of prayer.”
Watch Tower, 1916, page 20, ¶9.