Jehovah God, the Hearer of Prayer
1. How did David when young prove his faith and devotion toward Jehovah?
DAVID was a man of faith who earnestly sought God. He was richly rewarded in his search. In his youth he was anointed by Samuel, under God’s direction, to be Israel’s future king, being the one that Jehovah found “agreeable to his heart.” Not long after, in the well-known encounter with the Philistine giant, Goliath, David proved his strong faith and devotion to Jehovah in action. Even earlier, as a shepherd boy, he had shown that same spirit in slaying a lion and a bear when rescuing his father’s sheep from the very mouths of those fierce creatures. David had a good background, and we can learn much from him.—1 Sam. 13:14; 16:11-13; 17:34-36, 45-47.
2. When enthroned in Zion, what action did David take, and why?
2 When David eventually came to the throne and captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites, particularly the “stronghold of Zion,” he established his throne in that city. At the first opportunity, David brought the sacred Ark with great rejoicing up to Zion. He appreciated that it represented Jehovah’s presence, that it was the “ark of the true God, where a name is called on, the name of Jehovah of armies, sitting on the cherubs.”—2 Sam. 5:5-7; 6:2.
3. What next step did David desire to take, and with what outcome?
3 David was not satisfied with that however. As he later said on one occasion: “It was close to my heart to build a resting house for the ark of the covenant of Jehovah and as the footstool of our God.” Though not permitted to build this house, or temple, himself, having spilled much blood in war, yet Jehovah allowed David to go a long way toward fulfilling his heart’s desire. In preparation, he gathered a vast quantity of the required building materials, some of it at great cost to himself. As he said: “According to all my power I have prepared for the house of my God . . . [and] there is yet a special property of mine, gold and silver; I do give it to the house of my God over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house.”—1 Chron. 28:2, 3; 29:2, 3.
4. How does David’s prayer compare with the Lord’s prayer?
4 Finally, David blessed Jehovah before all the congregation in prayer, in language of the utmost dignity and reverence. It is very interesting to note how closely his thoughts run parallel with the main points contained in what is known as the Lord’s prayer. (Matt. 6:9-13) Foremost in mind, David exalts and sanctifies God’s name, ascribing to him “the greatness and the mightiness and the beauty and the excellency and the dignity . . . we are thanking you and praising your beauteous name.” Stressing the importance of God’s kingdom and of God’s will being done in heaven and earth, he prays: “For everything in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Jehovah, the One also lifting yourself up as head over all. . . . you are dominating everything.” As in the Lord’s prayer there follows the petition for personal needs to be supplied and request for forgiveness of sins, so likewise David goes on to acknowledge for himself and all the people their complete dependence on Jehovah’s provisions and their own personal unworthiness. Lastly, David expresses the essence of the spirit of dedication and whole-souled devotion in these words: “O Jehovah our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build for you a house for your holy name, from your hand it is, and to you it all belongs.”—1 Chron. 29:10-16.
5. In what way does Psalm 122 show keen appreciation of God’s house and city?
5 God’s house and God’s city, these were manifestly the two things uppermost in David’s mind and dear to his heart. His close identification therewith greatly aided and guided him in his prayers. A fine example of this is seen in Psalm 122, which we recommend that you read. Every line tells of his keen desire, in company with others, to worship and “give thanks to the name of Jehovah” at Jehovah’s house, situated “within your gates, O Jerusalem . . . a city that has been joined together in oneness.” He specially asks his people to pray “for the peace of Jerusalem.” Why? Partly, as he says, “for the sake of my brothers and my companions I will now speak: ‘May there be peace within you.’” But more important: “For the sake of the house of Jehovah our God I will keep seeking good for you.”
6. Regarding the approach to God in prayer, what does Psalm 65 indicate?
6 In line with our theme, note also David’s words recorded in Psalm 65. Showing that worship can be expressed by way of contrast, he prays: “For you there is praise—silence—, O God, in Zion; and to you the vow will be paid.” He then says: “O Hearer of prayer, even to you people of all flesh will come.” Does this mean an unconditional approach, that we can find God everywhere, anywhere, as some believe? By no means. Notice what David was next inspired to say: “Happy is the one you choose and cause to approach, that he may reside in your courtyards. He will certainly be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holy place of your temple.”—Ps. 65:1-4.
7. How widespread is the appeal in God’s Word to come near to him?
7 However, we note that David did not say that only his own people, the Israelites, could approach God. He definitely said that to Jehovah, the “Hearer of prayer, even to you people of all flesh will come.” What a gracious invitation is implied in these words! In close harmony with this, how appealing and definite are the words recorded by Isaiah: “And the foreigners that have joined themselves to Jehovah to minister to him and to love the name of Jehovah, in order to become servants to him . . . I will also bring them to my holy mountain [Zion] and make them rejoice inside my house of prayer . . . For my own house will be called even a house of prayer for all the peoples.”—Isa. 56:6, 7; see also 2 Chronicles 6:32, 33.
8. How has Jehovah shown great mercy, first to spiritual Israel, then also to many “foreigners”?
8 Do you see yourself as one of these “foreigners,” that is, not as a spiritual Israelite with the heavenly hope, yet rejoicing in coming to know Jehovah and to love and serve him? Have you responded to the invitation to join with other sincere worshipers and come to Jehovah’s house of prayer? Even those of spiritual Israel needed to be gathered in this way, for during the World War I period they incurred Jehovah’s anger and fell into a sick, dispersed condition. But Jehovah, in his great mercy, restored them to his favor, besides opening the way for a great crowd of sheeplike people to be gathered in close union with the remnant of spiritual Israel. Isaiah’s prophecy goes on to confirm this very clearly, saying: “The utterance of the Lord Jehovah, who is collecting together the dispersed ones of Israel, is: ‘I shall collect together to him others besides those already collected together of his.’”—Isa. 56:8; see also Isaiah 12:1; Revelation 7:13-15.
9. Who first taught David the true knowledge of God, and with what results?
9 That David knew how to pray is abundantly evident from his many psalms. But who taught him? He must have responded well to his parents’ instruction and training. They carried out the commandment given through Moses, to “love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your vital force. And these words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son” at all times. (Deut. 6:4-7) Thus David learned to appreciate and to fulfill the primary requirements of first imbibing accurate knowledge from a reliable source, God’s written Word. He being teachable and having the right heart condition, this knowledge and understanding strengthened his faith, which, as we have seen, he was not slow to demonstrate from his early youth onward. Along with his faith, there was built up in him a great love and loyalty toward Jehovah, which nothing could break, even though once or twice he grievously erred.
10. Is a course similar to David’s possible and necessary today, this leading to what question?
10 You may not have the same advantages as David enjoyed from early infancy, but there is no other way. There is no shortcut. You can start by taking in accurate knowledge and gain a proper understanding of God’s will and purpose as revealed in his Word. This course must be maintained. You must keep searching and digging as for hid treasure, building a foundation that grows ever broader and deeper. (Prov. 2:1-9) This intake of knowledge and understanding must be responded to and acted on, allowing it to produce a strong faith in Jehovah and love for him, leading to dedication. It can be done. It has been done from earliest times, commencing with Abel. It is being done today by men and women and young folk of varying temperaments and from all walks of life, some with a poor and adverse background. Granted, we all need much help and encouragement, and this includes learning how to pray. However, like David, we can be greatly aided by maintaining close association with God’s city and God’s house. But where are these to be found today? Is it a literal city and a literal house?
GOD’S MODERN CITY AND HOUSE
11. (a) In what way was the Law ‘a shadow of good things to come’? (b) How does Paul speak of and identify God’s spiritual house?
11 God’s Word gives a clear and encouraging answer to these questions. The Bible shows that these things that God used in his dealings with ancient Israel were pictures, foreshadowing far better things, commencing with Christ Jesus, the Greater David. Paul says that the entire arrangement of the Law, given through Moses, was “a shadow of the good things to come.” When Christ Jesus came, he brought an end to that typical arrangement, figuratively “nailing it to the torture stake.” Through him, God established a better arrangement and made him a “mediator of a new covenant,” for the purpose of producing a new people, a spiritual Israel, the Christian congregation. There is still a remnant of this people on earth today, forming the nucleus of Jehovah’s witnesses. It is this people, anointed with God’s holy spirit and with the heavenly hope, who fulfill the prophetic picture of God’s city and house, or temple. Using both illustrations, Paul, when writing to the Christians at Ephesus, says: “You are fellow citizens of the holy ones and are members of the household of God.” After mentioning the apostles and Christ Jesus, “the foundation cornerstone,” he continues: “In union with him the whole building, being harmoniously joined together, is growing into a holy temple for Jehovah. In union with him you, too, are being built up together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit.” What a lofty, yet intimate, conception of the close relationship between Jehovah and the entire Christian congregation, the temple class.—Heb. 9:15; 10:1; Col. 2:14; Eph. 2:19-22.
12. According to Psalm 132, where does Jehovah find delight in dwelling, and with what encouragement to us?
12 However, this is not the first time such a thought had been expressed. When Paul wrote those words he likely had in mind what the psalmist was inspired to record in fine poetic form in Psalm 132, entitled “A Song of the Ascents.” He first tells of his avowed determination to give himself no rest “until I find a place for Jehovah, a grand tabernacle for the Powerful One of Jacob.” He describes the bringing of the ark in triumphal procession up to Zion, and says: “Do arise, O Jehovah, to your resting place, you and the ark of your strength.” He then tells how Jehovah himself feels toward this house and this city that he has chosen: “For Jehovah has chosen Zion; he has longed for it as a dwelling for himself: ‘This is my resting place forever; here I shall dwell, for I have longed for it.’” (Ps. 132:1-5, 8, 13, 14) Can we not say that since Jehovah feels that way about it, then surely prayer and communion with him is not going to be difficult for anyone who sincerely identifies himself with that dwelling place?
13. How does Paul liken the Christian congregation to a full-grown man?
13 That temple class was clearly seen in Paul’s day in the various Christian congregations. Still more clearly is it seen in our day, especially since 1919, when many of Jesus’ prophetic parables are being fulfilled, such as ‘gathering the wheat into the storehouse,’ and ‘collecting the fine fish into vessels.’ (Matt. 13:30, 48; 24:31) Paul looked forward to this time when the Christian congregation would come to its maturity as a “full-grown man, to the measure of growth that belongs to the fullness of the Christ.” He explains how this growth and fine relationship are maintained, first “through every joint that gives what is needed,” also “according to the functioning of each respective member in due measure,” and thus this “makes for the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”—Eph. 4:13-16.
14. In what respects do Jehovah’s witnesses today meet the requirements referred to by Paul?
14 This happy and healthy condition is to be found today in the fine large family of Jehovah’s witnesses. All are dedicated to Jehovah, as Scripturally evidenced by water immersion and their subsequent course of action. They meet the primary requirements of taking in accurate knowledge by continual study of the Bible, building up their faith and spirit of devotion to Jehovah. Though only a minority, a remnant, have the heavenly hope, yet all of them world wide are ‘harmoniously joined together and made to co-operate’ through the major joints, or links, seen in those appointed to positions of oversight. However, as Paul said, the growth is also maintained by “each respective member in due measure,” each one taking his part, whether young or old, male or female, some in a small measure to begin with, others in a greater measure of responsibility. As Paul said earlier in that same letter, it was God’s good pleasure “at the full limit of the appointed times . . . to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” This gathering of Christians into a close unity is according to God’s will, and to him all the credit is due. It is “God who makes it grow.”—Eph. 4:16; 1:9, 10; 1 Cor. 3:7.
TEACH US TO PRAY
15. (a) What association should we seek, and why? (b) When asked to be taught how to pray, how did Jesus respond?
15 In view of this, is it not reasonable to conclude that for ourselves, individually, we will be greatly helped in maintaining personal relationship with Jehovah and communion with him in prayer by a close association with this body of dedicated worshipers of Jehovah, among whom he dwells? They would consider it a real privilege and a pleasure to encourage and aid you in this precious and vital aspect of your Christian life. When one of the disciples said to Jesus: “Lord, teach us how to pray,” he readily responded with a model prayer. He followed this up with an illustration stressing the need for persistence in prayer. This did not imply that the heavenly Father was slow to listen or respond, for Jesus concluded by saying that as imperfect, sinful parents ‘know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him!’—Luke 11:1-13.
16. How do Jehovah’s witnesses follow Jesus’ example in this regard, and on what is their unity based?
16 Similarly, Jehovah’s witnesses, as disciples of Jesus, will gladly do all they can in this regard, by direct guidance, based on God’s Word, also by example. When contacting someone who shows interest, they seek to arrange for a regular home Bible study with that person, which study is opened and concluded with a brief prayer whenever possible. All their meetings and sessions, except public meetings, include this same feature, prayer, in which all present sincerely join. By attending and sharing in the spirit of these meetings, you will find an atmosphere conducive to prayer. We do not mean this in the way of an emotional appeal or excitement, but it is because all assembled are united in feeding at Jehovah’s table on the upbuilding spiritual food from his Word. They are united, too, in their devotion to Jehovah and in the service of his Kingdom interests, also in their genuine, warm, unselfish love for one another. Naturally, your feelings may be deeply stirred on such occasions, but feelings in themselves are not the criterion or the chief aim in view.—Matt. 18:20.
17. How is help given in meeting personal problems?
17 Additionally, you will be helped in the more personal aspects of prayer, such as the proper things to include in your petitions and expressions of praise and thanksgiving. Problems may arise in your life, as they do in the lives of all seeking to be true Christians; and, in all these things, however complex, you will find you will be helped to get God’s viewpoint on the matter. You will learn how to put into practice the apostle’s fine exhortation: “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.
18. How can sincere seekers be aided in approaching God, and with what Scriptural support?
18 We could, of course, enlarge on many more details, but in this review on the subject of prayer our main purpose has been to show sincere seekers from the Scriptures where to find God and how to approach him through the one and only channel, Christ Jesus. Regarding him, Paul said: “For we have as high priest, not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin. Let us, therefore, approach with freeness of speech to the throne of undeserved kindness, that we may obtain mercy and find undeserved kindness for help at the right time.”—Heb. 4:15, 16; John 14:13, 14.
TWO PICTURES OF CLOSE ASSOCIATION
19, 20. (a) Collectively, what fine association is now enjoyed, giving rise to what question? (b) What remarkable thing did John see in vision, and with what effect? (c) How is this closeness emphasized?
19 The Scriptures emphasize the importance of close association in a remarkable way. For your encouragement, we will consider two pictures of this, from the two viewpoints, collective and personal.
20 As already mentioned, there is still a remnant of the anointed temple class on earth, built up “into a place for God to inhabit by spirit,” making it possible for a “great crowd” of “other sheep” to enjoy close fellowship with such. (Eph. 2:22; Rev. 7:9, 15; John 10:16) Some will ask, Will that blessing be lost when all of the temple class are eventually united with Christ Jesus on his heavenly throne, after Armageddon? Not according to what John saw in vision. He saw and described the “holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” It defies imagination! Not only are the city’s measurements far beyond our experience, being 375 miles (3,000 furlongs) in each direction, in length, breadth and height, but the entire city is seen to descend out of heaven. No, not by a literal descent of the heavenly government, but by a turning of its attention and activities toward this earth. Nevertheless, with what effect as regards those on earth? It is as John hears announced: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them.” (Rev. 21:2, 3, 16) A closer association could not be expressed in words. If you reside with someone, you live in the same house with that one, do you not? That is the picture. What a joy and a comfort to all those in harmony with that heavenly government, giving them a sense of its immediate nearness! Also note that every time John refers to this city he is inspired to mention its descent. He mentions it three times for emphasis. The first instance is when he records the promise given to “the one that conquers” in the congregation at Philadelphia: “I will write upon him the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which descends out of heaven from my God.” (Rev. 3:12; 21:2, 10) This precedes the message to the congregation in Laodicea, where we find our other illustration. It is a personal one and has reference, not to God’s house, but to your own house.
21. (a) What counsel and illustration did Jesus give at Revelation 3:19, 20? (b) How would we benefit by responding to the knocking that Jesus mentioned?
21 What a sorry condition that last-named congregation was in! Lukewarm and ready to be vomited out of the Lord’s mouth. Yet we find given to any individuals in that congregation ready to listen, this friendly word of warning and counsel: “All those for whom I have affection I reprove and discipline. Therefore be zealous and repent.” Now notice what Jesus next says: “Look! I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into his house and take the evening meal with him and he with me.” (Rev. 3:19, 20) No, he does not tell you to come and knock on the door of his house, wondering what the summons thither might mean. Instead, he pictures himself as standing and knocking at your door. What an amazing picture! Imagine it is your house and you are on your own, about to have the usual evening meal. Then suddenly you hear a knocking and a voice announcing who it is. The Lord himself! Why, of course, you would immediately invite him in. No need to worry about what is in the larder, for you would know he had not come to eat you out of house and home, as we sometimes say. Rather, you would know that the real purpose of his call was to give you the benefit of a rich, upbuilding, spiritual feast and to enjoy precious communion with him in the homely atmosphere of personal friendship. Is that not what Jesus did when on earth and invited in for an evening meal, such as with Lazarus and his sisters?—Luke 10:38-42.
22. How does dedication involve a two-way invitation, resulting in what blessings?
22 For one thing, this illustration shows that our dedication involves a two-way invitation. First, Jehovah, through Christ Jesus, invites you to give yourself in full and unreserved dedication to him. Secondly, Christ Jesus, speaking for his Father and himself, asks you to invite him into your house, into your mind and heart and your whole life. For what purpose? He wants you to let him talk to you in the quietness of your own mind and heart. How so? Through his Father’s Word and also his organization, that is, at the meetings and in fellowship with his people. That means, as you eagerly listen, there will be a free flow of Jehovah’s spirit. In such an atmosphere there would surely be no difficulty or barrier in the matter of prayer, no more than there is in fellowship with your brothers and sisters at the meetings.
23. What fine lesson of humility is here seen regarding the shepherding work?
23 Furthermore, what a striking lesson we have here of true humility. Even the risen Lord does not demand entrance, saying, Come on, open up! Instead, he pictures himself as standing out there, patiently knocking and waiting to see if you will be good enough to hear and respond. When on earth, Jesus said he was “mild-tempered and lowly in heart.” He still is, and in this he sets a fine example for us. Much emphasis is placed in these days on the shepherding work being done mainly by the appointed servants and overseers in the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses. These have a duty to call on all of Jehovah’s little ones, paying special attention to any who have become like sick or straying sheep. When making such calls, how careful these servants must be to have the same motive and show the same friendly and humble spirit as Jesus portrayed in his illustration.—Matt. 11:29; 18:12-14; Heb. 13:8.
24. How does this same lesson apply to all of Jehovah’s witnesses?
24 However, all of Jehovah’s witnesses can take the same lesson to heart. All of our work in calling on the people, from the first call onward, includes the aspect of shepherding. We are looking for sheeplike people. In a literal way, we keep “standing at the door and knocking.” Yes, we feel it is an obligation to keep on calling, but though many may fail to respond or show a sheeplike attitude, we must never, either literally or figuratively, put our foot in the door, insisting on delivering our message at all costs. We cannot demand either a hearing or an entrance, but we should let the people know we are there and by a sincere, friendly manner, “together with a mild temper and deep respect,” show that our motive is good.—Rev. 3:20; 1 Pet. 3:15.
25. In what further way will true humility be an invaluable help to us?
25 Finally, this lesson of humility is going to be a great help to us with regard to our prayers to the “Hearer of prayer.” A truly humble mind and heart will go a long way in enabling us at all times to “approach with freeness of speech to the throne of undeserved kindness,” assured of being heard and finding mercy and help at just the right time.—Heb. 4:16.