How Important Is Prayer to You?
DO YOU pray? If you do, you must give some importance to prayer, and that is fine. But just how important is it to you? Do you engage in it only when with a group that is led in prayer by someone else? Do you ever go off by yourself and pray to your Creator in private? Or do you feel so busy that you tend to neglect personal prayer? Do you make it part of your daily living?
Some persons fail to appreciate fully the importance of prayer because they have made it a mechanical repetition of memorized words. How can they put their heart into such a prayer? How can it have any real meaning to them? In many instances it has become part of a nightly routine before going to bed and is given as little thought as brushing their teeth and opening the window.
Would not a nightly prayer be more meaningful if the one praying would speak spontaneously from his heart rather than repeat the same words each time? Would it not be giving prayer greater importance if one would concentrate on what one says? Since a person is speaking to his Creator, should it be allowed to deteriorate into a mechanical action? A person is not likely to speak to a friend or a fleshly father in an indifferent and mechanical way; so why speak in that manner to the heavenly Father?
It may be that you have difficulty in being attentive to prayer because it is a one-sided conversation with a silent Listener. But this fact does not detract from its importance.
A FORM OF WORSHIP
Prayer is actually a form of worship of our Creator. By means of it you can praise and honor God. You can acknowledge his position as supreme Sovereign and declare your submission to his will. You can show that you recognize him as the Provider of your spiritual and physical needs by thanking him for these provisions. In prayer you can praise him for his magnificent works of creation. Since prayer is an important way in which you can worship Jehovah God, it deserves a place of great importance in your life.
King David, an ancestor of Jesus Christ, showed genuine appreciation for the importance of prayer. He gives us a fine example of using it to worship his Creator. In it he acknowledges the greatness and supremacy of Jehovah God, and he expresses gratitude and praise. Here is what he prayed on one occasion, as recorded at 1 Chronicles 29:10-13:
“Blessed may you be, O Jehovah the God of Israel our father, from time indefinite even to time indefinite. Yours, O Jehovah, are the greatness and the mightiness and the beauty and the excellency and the dignity; 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. The riches and the glory are on account of you, and you are dominating everything; and in your hand there are power and mightiness, and in your hand is ability to make great and to give strength to all. And now, O our God, we are thanking you and praising your beauteous name.”
If you use prayer to give worshipful thanks and praises to God as David did, it will make prayer more important to you. Certainly we owe our heavenly Father daily expressions of heartfelt devotion.
WHAT TO SAY
There are so many things that can be said when speaking to God in prayer. Your wonder at his wisdom as manifested in creation, your daily joys, griefs and problems, your concern about other people and the caring for the interests of his kingdom on earth can all be subjects for prayer.
On one occasion King Jehoshaphat had a very serious problem, and he presented it to Jehovah God in prayer. After recounting what Jehovah had done for the descendants of Abraham, he said:
“And now here the sons of Ammon, and Moab and the mountainous region of Seir, whom you did not allow Israel to invade when they were coming out of the land of Egypt, but they turned away from them and did not annihilate them, yes, here they are rewarding us by coming in to drive us out from your possession that you caused us to possess. O our God, will you not execute judgment upon them? For in us there is no power before this large crowd that is coming against us; and we ourselves do not know what we ought to do, but our eyes are toward you.”—2 Chron. 20:10-12.
Note that Jehoshaphat did not try to obligate God to act in his behalf but left it up to him as to whether he would or not. This is the proper attitude for us to take, and if God decides not to take the action we ask for, we should not complain. He is not our servant. Rather Christians are his servants. We should be willing to submit to his will. This is what Jesus Christ did.
On the night that Jesus instituted the memorial of his death he went out to the Mount of Olives with his apostles. There he drew away from them a little distance in order to pray by himself. Note that in his prayer he did not try to obligate God to save him from the violent death awaiting him. He said: “Father, if you wish, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, let, not my will, but yours take place.” (Luke 22:42) Because Jehovah God chose not to take the “cup” away, Jesus did not lose faith and turn his back on him. He was willing to submit to whatever God’s will might prove to be. Should that not also be our attitude and our expression?
Expressions of appreciation in prayer are always in order. In fact, at each meal a brief prayer of gratitude ought to be given for the food and the companionship of those joining with us in the meal. No matter who buys and prepares the food, Jehovah God is actually the Provider of it because he created our food sources—the plants, fruits, fish and animals. Jesus Christ prayed on such occasions even when the food was no more than a few loaves of bread and some fish. (Matt. 14:17-19) It is also good to conclude each day by giving thanks to Jehovah for having lived another day.
Concern for others can be expressed in prayer by asking our heavenly Father to strengthen those who are undergoing difficult circumstances such as illness, or persecution for keeping integrity to him. Prayer for rulers to treat fellow Christians justly is not amiss.—1 Tim. 2:1, 2.
Things pertaining to Jehovah’s purposes such as the vindication of his name, the destruction of the wicked, the unopposed rule of the earth by his kingdom and the public proclamation of the good news of his kingdom are all suitable subjects for prayer. So there is much that a person can incorporate in his prayers.
WHERE TO PRAY
Prayer can be offered to Jehovah God anywhere, even while walking down a busy street or when standing before government officials. Nehemiah offered a prayer when he was standing before Persian King Artaxerxes, whom he was serving with wine. (Neh. 2:1-4) While looking at magnificent scenery you might be moved to utter a silent, worshipful prayer of wonderment over Jehovah’s creative power. So where you are and the position you are in are not the deciding factors as to whether you can pray or not.
It is not necessary to go to a religious building in order to pray. Jesus and his disciples prayed in private homes and in the open countryside. However, they did not employ images as aids to prayer because they knew that such things are disgusting to God and brought his anger upon the nation of Israel.—Lev. 26:30; 2 Ki. 17:16-18; 2 Cor. 4:18; 5:7; 1 John 5:21.
Privacy is desirable for personal prayers. In contrast to hypocrites who like to gain public attention by being seen praying in public, Jesus said: “You, however, when you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father.” (Matt. 6:6) Privacy helps concentration and increases the feeling of intimacy with our heavenly Father.
On one occasion Jesus got up early in the morning and sought out a lonely place so he might have privacy during personal prayer. (Mark 1:35) When the apostle Peter prayed for the resurrection of Tabitha, he “put everybody outside and, bending his knees, he prayed.” (Acts 9:40) There are many examples in the Bible of persons seeking privacy for personal prayers.—Acts 10:9.
RESPONSE TO PRAYER
It does not seem to a casual observer that Jehovah God at this time responds to prayers as dramatically as he did on occasions in Bible times. The response to Jehoshaphat’s prayer for help was action being taken by Jehovah to set the hearts of the enemy against one another so that they killed one another. (2 Chron. 20:23) In response to a prayer by Elijah, fire came down and consumed a sacrifice. (1 Ki. 18:36-38) And in response to Jesus’ prayer a man who had been dead four days came back to life. (John 11:38-44) These are only a few of the responses to prayer that are recorded in the Bible.
Today response to prayer is just as real, though it may not always appear to be so spectacular. It may be in a favorable turn of troublesome circumstances over which a person had prayed. Or it may be the opening up of a way for a person to surmount what had appeared to be an insurmountable obstacle. Or it may be help provided through other Christians for a person who was in a difficult situation. The results are clearly an answer to his prayers.
There have been a great many experiences in which people have prayed to God for help to understand the Bible, and their prayers have been answered. For example, a woman in Illinois prayed for God to send somebody to help her understand God’s Word and learn the truth. When one of Jehovah’s witnesses called she could hardly believe her eyes. She thought, “Oh, no, not one of Jehovah’s witnesses. Surely God didn’t send me one of them!” Later she confessed to the Witness: “I had prayed for help and I thought about those that entertained angels unawares. So, I invited you in, and now I am convinced that Jehovah’s witnesses have the truth.”
In another experience a woman in Virginia said: “I wanted to learn the Bible’s truth so I could help my children. So, I got down on my knees and prayed to God to help me find the right religion, if it is Baptist, Methodist or Catholic or what. And the very next morning you are here, some of Jehovah’s witnesses. I believe my prayers are answered.”
A man in Colorado who was unhappy about what he was being taught in his church got up one morning and prayed earnestly to God for help. When he came home that night he found one of Jehovah’s witnesses in his home speaking with his wife. Since he had heard many persons speak against the Witnesses, he could hardly believe his eyes. But he reasoned: “I asked God for help, and I got it. Now am I going to turn it down?” It was not long before he also was out helping others to learn of Jehovah’s grand purposes.
There are many such experiences taking place regularly in which prayers have been answered. What about you? Do you take full advantage of the privilege of prayer?
Certainly none of us should take prayer lightly. Rather, take to heart the admonition that the apostle Paul gave to fellow Christians: “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.
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Jesus gave thanks to God before he ate. Do you?
Do you pray to God spontaneously from the heart?
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Does God’s handiwork move you to praise him in prayer?