How to Pray and Be Heard by God
THE Bible says of Jehovah God: “O Hearer of prayer, even to you people of all flesh will come.” (Ps. 65:2) Yes, God does hear prayers. And persons in all the earth who love the truth, who long to do his will, and who approach him in the way he approves, can enjoy this precious privilege. (Acts 10:34, 35) Really, what a marvelous privilege it is to be able to talk to the glorious Ruler of all the universe and know that he hears you!—Ps. 8:1, 3, 4; Isa. 45:22.
Encouragingly, his written Word promises: “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.”—Phil. 4:6, 7.
However, some may personally feel uncertain about the matter of prayer because many of their prayers seem to have gone unanswered. Why is this? It is important for us to know. In his Word, God makes clear what his will is regarding prayer.
THE WAY OF APPROACH TO GOD IN PRAYER
The Bible tells us that “he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Heb. 11:6) Notice that this scripture says we are to ‘approach God.’
As the true and living God, Jehovah wants us to pray to Him, not to someone else. Prayer is part of our worship and for this reason should be directed only to the Creator, Jehovah. (Matt. 4:10) Jesus Christ taught his followers to pray to his “Father in the heavens.” (Matt. 6:9) Jesus did not teach them to pray to himself, nor to his human mother Mary, nor to any other person. Jehovah is all-powerful, all-wise, perfect in justice and in love. So, why should we go to any lesser person? Further, the inspired apostle Paul assures us that God “is not far off from each one of us,” if we seek him in the right way.—Acts 17:27.
But you may say, “How can we, as imperfect creatures with inherited sin, pray to a God who is perfect and righteous?” Jehovah has lovingly taken this into consideration and provided a “helper” to speak for us in heaven. That helper is “Jesus Christ, a righteous one.”—1 John 2:1, 2.
Jesus gave his life as a ransom for mankind. Moreover, Jehovah has appointed him as his High Priest. Jehovah requires us to recognize the position of his Son in His purpose and to offer all our prayers in his name. That is why Jesus told his followers: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Jesus also said: “If you ask the Father for anything he will give it to you in my name.” (John 16:23) For our prayers to be acceptable to God, then, we must pray to Jehovah God through his Son, that is, in the name of Jesus.
PRAYERS THAT ARE PLEASING TO GOD
At 1 Peter 3:12 we read: “The eyes of Jehovah are upon the righteous ones, and his ears are toward their supplication.” Thus, if our prayers are to please God, we must be sincere in trying to live our lives in harmony with the righteous principles of God’s Word. If one rejects God’s Word and His will he should not expect God to answer his prayers for help in time of trouble. The Bible plainly states: “He that is turning his ear away from hearing the law—even his prayer is something detestable.”—Prov. 28:9; 15:29.
Also, to those who do not respect the sacredness of life, God says: “Even though you make many prayers, I am not listening; with bloodshed your very hands have become filled.” (Isa. 1:15) In this “time of the end” when violence, immorality, dishonesty, false worship and other wrong conduct are becoming more and more common, we certainly need to consider seriously the way we live our daily lives if we want our prayers to be heard by God.—1 John 3:21, 22.
What we pray for also has much to do with determining whether God will answer our prayers. Jesus gave his disciples a model prayer to guide them as to the kind of prayer God accepts. He said: “You must pray, then, this way: ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth. Give us today our bread for this day; and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.’”—Matt. 6:9-13.
This prayer shows that God’s name and purposes should be our first concern. Next, we may ask for our material needs, for forgiveness and for deliverance from temptation and from the wicked one. Note, too, that Jesus teaches us to pray to “our Father” to “give us today our bread” and to “forgive us.” This shows that, when praying, a person should think not just of himself, or of his own problems and needs. Instead he should unselfishly broaden out his prayers to include others. We should include, not only our own family and relatives, but others who are seeking to please God, and especially those who face trials and difficulties in their service to God.—Jas. 5:16; Eph. 6:18-20.
The apostle John writes: “This is the confidence that we have toward him, that, no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14) Yes, every part of a Christian’s life is a proper matter for prayer. But the important thing is that what he requests be in harmony with God’s will. This is a foremost reason why many prayers go unanswered. The person has not really applied the Bible counsel: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him . . . Fear Jehovah.”—Prov. 3:5-7.
So, rather than deciding what we want to do or have, and praying to God about it, is it not proper to find out first what God wants of us, and then frame our prayers accordingly? Certainly we do not want to be classed among those of whom it is written: “You do ask, and yet you do not receive, because you are asking for a wrong purpose, that you may expend it upon your cravings for sensual pleasure.” We should always take Jehovah’s will into consideration in our prayers.—Jas. 4:3, 13-15.
By our study of God’s Word and by our experience in serving him in association with other true Christians we can come to understand his will. (Rom. 12:2) The psalmist prayed: “Make me understand, that I may observe your law and that I may keep it with the whole heart. Cause me to tread in the pathway of your commandments, for in it I have taken delight. Incline my heart to your reminders, and not to profits.”—Ps. 119:34-36.
If we pray to God in faith, he will generously give us the wisdom we need to cope with the problems of life. (Jas. 1:5-8) He will help us to know and do what will bring honor to his own great name, and this will result also in our own happiness.—Ps. 84:11, 12.
THE PROPER MANNER OF PRAYING
Does God require that we assume a certain position when praying or that we go to a particular building to pray? His Word shows that he does not. For example, in the days of God’s servant Ezra, worshipers prostrated themselves with their faces to the ground. Daniel prayed in his roof chamber three times daily, kneeling on his knees. Others stood. Jesus raised his eyes to heaven.—Neh. 8:6; Dan. 6:10; Mark 11:25; John 11:41.
Jesus indicated that it is good to have privacy in personal prayer, going into one’s own room to pray. (Matt. 6:6) And though Jesus himself prayed at times in public places, he strongly condemned praying before others just to be seen by them and to make a show of one’s “holiness.” He also showed that God does not approve of using the very same words over and over again in prayer. (Matt. 6:5, 7, 8) Why is this?
It is because what really matters to God is what is in our heart. “For, as regards Jehovah, his eyes are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him.” (2 Chron. 16:9) How could our prayer express what is in our heart if it is simply read out of a prayer book? So, when we pray, we should do so from the heart, with humility. “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—Jas. 4:6.
In our prayers there is no value in using language that is unusual or high-sounding. Rather, we should talk to God as we would to a close and trusted friend and as a son to his father. Our prayer may even be a silent one, in our heart. (1 Sam. 1:12, 13) At times we may not find just the right words to express our thoughts to God. But we can be confident that God knows our needs and will understand our simple prayer.
APPRECIATING THE PRIVILEGE OF PRAYER
We all reach times in our lives when no human help is available or when the help humans offer is not sufficient for our needs. Then it is to God alone that we must turn. However, if we love Jehovah and appreciate the privilege of prayer we certainly will not wait for such occasions to speak to him. Instead, we will approach him regularly, frequently, with expressions of thanksgiving and praise, as well as with our petitions and requests. (Eph. 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:17, 18) A family benefits greatly from prayer, even the simple expression of thanks to God at mealtimes, following the example of Jesus.—Matt. 14:19.
Truly, private prayer, family prayer and congregational prayer all bring marvelous benefits. Prayer shows a frank recognition of our complete dependence on God for everything. It draws us close to fellow worshipers. It brings upon us the peace of the loving Creator. It promotes the flow of God’s holy spirit in our lives. It helps us to be confident about the future. It is a gift from God and one that we should appreciate and use.