Coming to the Hearer of Prayer
“O Hearer of prayer, even to you people of all flesh will come.”—Ps. 65:2.
1, 2. (a) What invitation does everyone have? (b) Is it difficult for God to hear prayer, and whose prayer will he hear?
TO WHAT extent do you use your power of speech? You certainly can be a fine blessing to others with the marvelous faculty of speech. But, in addition, the Designer of speech and voice extends a grand invitation to come to him in prayer. Appreciative ones, in turn, accept this invitation and lift up their voice in grateful praise and petition to the Maker of language.—Ps. 150:6.
2 When praying to God, whose name is Jehovah, the atmosphere around you may be humming with other voices, with music or with noises of various sorts. Nevertheless, the one who made speech possible can decipher the prayers of those who accept his invitation to approach him with their petitions. His hearing does not depend on sound waves nor does it pose a problem when the air waves are choked with meaningless chatter of godless ones. Regarding God’s ability to listen, we are assured: “The desire of the meek ones you will certainly hear, O Jehovah. . . . You will pay attention with your ear.”—Ps. 10:17.
3. Is there a proper way to pray? How do you know?
3 Prayer is a popular religious practice the world around, with a multitude of notions as to procedure. Perhaps you are among these many people who have prayed, and yet have wondered whether you are using the proper approach to the true God. Obviously, there is a reverential way to speak with him. As a communicative God having great love, he has provided ample information in his inspired Word for people of all national backgrounds on how they may come to know the right and respectful way to “draw close to God” in prayer.—Jas. 4:8.
4. What are some of the requirements for prayers to be heard by God?
4 When praying, you are talking not to just anyone but to “the Majesty in the heavens.” (Heb. 8:1) This alone emphasizes the need to acknowledge one’s imperfect status. Sincerity and faith can be listed also among the requirements. Note, in Jesus’ words, the close connection of faith and prayer: “This is why I tell you, All the things you pray and ask for have faith that you have practically received, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:24) As you endeavor to explain in thought and word things of concern to you, do so with your “whole heart.”—Ps. 119:145.
THE WAY TO COME
5, 6. (a) Whom did Jehovah previously allow to pray to him? (b) How did Cornelius have his prayers answered?
5 “People of all flesh” and of all national origins may come to God as they see the need for spiritual help. Even when the nation of Israel was God’s ‘private property,’ foreigners could also approach Jehovah. They could come and pray toward Jehovah’s house at Jerusalem, assured that God would listen from the heavens. (2 Chron. 6:32, 33) At the home of Cornelius, the apostle Peter recognized that fact, saying: “God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”—Acts 10:34, 35.
6 Cornelius was a man of the nations, “an army officer . . . a devout man and one fearing God,” but a man who expressed his faith. Just imagine the joy that Cornelius experienced when an angel assured him that his prayers and gifts of mercy brought a favorable response from God! He welcomed the witness that Peter gave, and he and his household got baptized.—Acts 10:1-4.
7. To whom does God grant knowledge?
7 Like Cornelius, those today who are starving spiritually should be similarly groping for God and earnestly seeking him. (Acts 17:27) They should be earnestly seeking to know his will and what God requires of one to be pleasing to him. In turn, God is gracious and merciful, granting such knowledge in answer to those who have a heart bent toward righteousness and who express sincere faith.
8. (a) What provision has Jehovah made for us to come to him? (b) Why did Jesus ask for prayer to be made in his name?
8 To communicate readily with the heavenly Father, one must accept Christ Jesus as Lord. Peace with God can come only through the appointed way, the ransom provision by the Lord Jesus. (Matt. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6) He is the provision for approach to God in prayer and reconciliation with him. Jesus rightly declared: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) He is the “helper” that plays a vital role in our having access to the Hearer of prayer. (1 John 2:1, 2) The way, therefore, to come to God is on the basis of Christ’s official services as high priest as well as the ransom he provided for mankind. Our asking in his name and coming to the Father is, therefore, in recognition of his office as God’s “Chief Agent of life.” No other intermediary is necessary in addressing our prayers to God.—Acts 3:15; John 14:13, 14; Heb. 10:19-22.
9. If we expect God to hear our requests, how should we pray?
9 We must at all times feel free to bring our requests to God. This is fine, but it should be remembered that he is not required, and is under no obligation, to answer them all. Why should he listen to or answer prayers that are not in his interests or in the interests of his people, or, perhaps, even to the hurt of the one asking? He does not work against his own purposes or against those persons who worship him. For any request to be granted, it must please the Hearer of prayer. This shows the need for us to ask according to God’s will if we expect him to lend an ear to our prayers, just as it is written: “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) A knowledge of his will should govern the contents of our petitions to him.
PRAY IN FAITH
10. Why is faith necessary to speak freely to God?
10 The entire life course of a true Christian is controlled by faith, enabling him to overcome obstacles in his service to God. So too when it comes to prayer, believing that there is a real and living God who can and does hear prayers is conducive to our speaking freely with him. In fact, it is important to have full faith that ‘God is and that he is a rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.’ (Heb. 11:6) He who knows best and cares most is ever aware of our needs, even though they may vary widely for people living in different parts of the world. In a figurative sense ‘Jehovah is near to all those calling upon him in faith,’ and is swift to respond to their need of help.—Ps. 145:18.
11. (a) Does God know our needs? (b) Then why should we pray about them?
11 In calling upon the One whose ears are open to the prayers of righteous ones, we are reminded that he is fully aware of what we need even before we ask. Relative to food, drink and clothing, his own Son stated: “Your heavenly Father knows you need all these things.” (Matt. 6:32) But even though God has all knowledge and awareness of these things, he desires us to ask him for our needs and wants. In view of his standing invitation to come to him, it would be showing a lack of appreciation to take the view that we should not bother him by asking for our daily needs. As man’s caretaker, the “God of sight” has his eyes on the good ones as well as the bad ones in the earth, and he has not abandoned those loving him, so as to oblige them to work out all their problems alone. In fact, Jehovah God must enjoy listening to those who rely on him, as they tell him in their own words that they recognize him as their Father and refuge, and the source of their strength.—Gen. 16:13; Ps. 46:1; Prov. 15:3.
12. (a) How do some wrongly view prayer? (b) Why, though, is it beneficial to pray?
12 Those with little faith may consider God as an absentee who has left mankind on its own. Or they may think that prayer is just a form of self-deception. Others may think it is a psychological aid or crutch, to keep one in a peaceful frame of mind, with one’s thoughts running in spiritual channels. However, there is far more to it than an emotional experience. You are not talking to yourself but are addressing the living heavenly Father, who can “do more than superabundantly beyond all the things we ask or conceive.” (Eph. 3:20) When decisions must be made, big or little, it is Jehovah’s spirit and direction that can unlock the way to go. Although God is self-contained, lacking nothing, he has great empathy for the needs of his people, and they are welcome ‘to unload all their anxieties of daily life on him, because he cares about them.’—1 Pet. 5:7.
13. How did prayer work for Elijah?
13 It was by means of a prophet of Israel that the force and effectualness of prayer was illustrated. After announcing the approaching end of a long drought upon Israel, Elijah prayed atop Mount Carmel that it might rain again. From that location his attendant saw the prayer answered—first a small cloud, the precursor of the rain, and then the downpour that followed. The Bible writer James, in drawing attention to that event of history, comments on Jehovah’s ability to answer the prayers of his servants who pray according to his purpose. We read: “A righteous man’s supplication, when it is at work, has much force.”—Jas. 5:16-18; 1 Kings, chapters 17, 18.
14. Why should one be persistent in praying for one’s needs?
14 The Father of the human family has arranged that all keep in contact with him, day and night, as one truly interested in their welfare and happiness. Parents appreciate their children looking to them at all times for what they need; all the more so Jehovah knows how to provide for those persistent in their petitions to him. In making the same point, Jesus gave his disciples an illustration ‘with regard to the need for them always to pray and not give up.’ (Luke 18:1-8) Repeatedly requesting what you need shows your concern, and when your prayers are answered your persistence is rewarded.
15. Of what value is prayer during opposition?
15 Interference with the spreading of the good news invariably affects the bearers of it sooner or later. Suffering and persecution may be the result, even as such things were experienced by Christ Jesus. It is written: “All those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12) However, prayer and supplication to God, along with love for him and trust in him, aid Jehovah’s Christian witnesses in their course of faithfulness, come what may. (Ps. 34:15) The counsel at Romans 12:12 is: “Endure under tribulation” and, at the same time, “persevere in prayer.”
16, 17. (a) How can we show concern for our brothers under persecution? (b) What, in turn, does this show on the part of the petitioner?
16 Bans are imposed occasionally to hamper the preaching of the good news, resulting in court cases, persecutions and sometimes prison terms for the preachers. When we hear of such things we feel deeply for our brothers who stand firm, not compromising even for the sake of temporary relief. We can be strengthened by their splendid stand for righteousness under pressure, and they, in turn, can be encouraged and assisted by our prayers. Yes, it is proper to pray for those in governmental positions so that Christians may go about their Christian life and activity without interference.—1 Tim. 2:1, 2.
17 When our brothers are in difficulty, such as in a notorious case in court, then our concern can be reflected in our persistence in prayers for them. It is apparent that God permits the petitioners to display the depth of their love, the genuineness of their motives, in requesting relief. Distance or prison walls do not render their supplication ineffective. No question about it, the Scriptures show that persistence in prayer can work for the relief of those in dire circumstances.—2 Cor. 1:8-11.
PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER
18. Why is patience vital in praying?
18 But we always need to recognize the need to wait on Jehovah, for him to answer prayers relative to bans and persecution. The seeming delay at times on God’s part should not be considered as inability to act on behalf of those he loves. Possibly it is not his time to bring a victory in judicial courts or relief in other ways, for an even greater witness may be given to God’s kingdom if relief comes later. Never term God “slow” but acknowledge that he has his ‘due time’ for everything. In the meantime, he can provide angelic protection. Comfort can also be drawn from what the apostle Peter said: “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial . . . Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness.” (2 Pet. 2:9; 3:9) Yes, indeed, the Hearer of prayer can strengthen those who are patient and who stick at doing his will.
19. (a) Should we pray that God prevent persecution? (b) What can Jehovah always do if he so chooses?
19 The power of intercessory prayer for others should not be overlooked, whether it is offered individually or by many. Jehovah is not forced into acting by sheer weight of the numbers praying. The supplication of those who petition is that Jehovah’s will be done, and their united interest and loving concern are for the help and protection of their fellow preachers of the good news. It may be that God’s will is to bring relief in a way not foreseen by those involved. Confidently rely on this fact: Jehovah will back up those who maintain integrity under difficulties!
20. Should we ever feel that our supplications for others are in vain?
20 So never should one feel that one’s supplications are in vain or that perhaps one did not pray in just the right way to help those being persecuted. What God does in reply will be what we should have asked for had we known to do so. (Rom. 8:26, 27) Each one should be confident that over the centuries Jehovah’s power has not waned nor has he grown deaf, unable to hear the prayers of his worshipers.
FREENESS IN PRAYER
21. (a) Why should one not hold back from prayer? (b) What fine qualities attract one to Jehovah?
21 The person in whom God’s love reaches its full expression feels free to come to him in full confidence. Why would anyone hold back from offering a prayer of thanks, praise or petition to a God with so many wonderful qualities, including mercy, long-suffering and loving-kindness? (Ps. 36:7) Upon gaining insight into these qualities of his personality, imperfect people should muster up courage to come to Jehovah, the “God of glory,” on any subject and ask for help in doing his divine will. (Acts 7:2) Living as we are in the midst of a cold, selfish world, how refreshing it is for us to come and pray to a father who is compassionate and has mercy upon us when we are in difficulty or at some disadvantage. As he himself declared to Moses: “Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.”—Ex. 34:6.
22. What is an added reason for freely coming to Jehovah?
22 There is also added reason for us to approach such a God in freeness of speech in prayer since learning the part that Christ Jesus plays in this arrangement. The apostle Paul focuses our attention on him in these words at Hebrews 4:15, 16: “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.” Knowing that he underwent the very things we must face and endure, we appreciate how understanding he can be and how helpful to us as we sinful creatures endeavor to be reconciled to God through him as our redeemer and mediator.—Heb. 7:25.
23. (a) Why did Jesus feel free to talk with his Father? (b) On what occasions especially did he pray?
23 Jesus felt free to communicate with his Father in heaven when he was on earth. At that time when he was far removed from the presence of Jehovah, we can imagine how he enjoyed speaking with God by prayer. He had important matters to talk to God about, therefore he went to lonely places conducive to meditation. All the Gospel accounts reveal Jesus as a man of prayer—at his baptism he was praying; also when he fed multitudes; again before he chose his apostles; also at the Memorial supper, and on the torture stake. On these and other occasions Jesus was communicating with his heavenly Father. In all things he wanted to please his Father and do His will, not his own. (John 5:30) He kept going ahead with his assigned work, knowing that his supplications and petitions were favorably heard. (Heb. 5:7-10) He never compromised to avoid persecution but led a life course of integrity, upholding Jehovah’s sovereignty. As a result, even heavenly creatures proclaimed him to be worthy of the honor and glory to which he attained.—Rev. 5:11, 12.
24. To make our way successful, what can we do?
24 What a fine example for all Christians to follow, this Leader and Master who made his way successful by prayer! All who want to be successful as he was should copy the example of this one who was so anxious to do each day what his Father wanted him to do. Speaking to God from the heart, asking for the strength and backing to do the divine will, assists the petitioner to walk and talk in a way pleasing to the Creator. Drawing near to God, imploring him in a spirit of dependence, and seeking his direction can be a refreshing relief to us. We are encouraged to throw all our anxieties upon God. (1 Pet. 5:7) The counsel of Jesus, you remember, was to pray and not give up on asking God for anything we may need.—Luke 18:1-7.
CONTINUE TO PRAY
25. How can you show a waiting attitude?
25 Placing the proper evaluation on communicating with Jehovah will aid the supplicant to hold to a righteous course, while at the same time not expecting a spectacular answer to every request. In fact, one may need to exercise much patience when one is under trial or chastisement, in waiting for an answer. One should never underrate the power of prayer, but, rather, should show a “waiting attitude” with confident expectation, as expressed by the prophet Micah, that “my God will hear me.”—Mic. 7:7.
26, 27. (a) How can you show faith in the power of prayer? (b) What should your love of God move you to do?
26 After you commit some badness, that is no time to stop imploring God’s favor, as if you do not feel qualified to pray. One’s transgressions must not be ‘covered over.’ (Prov. 28:13) If you want mercy, tell Jehovah your God how sorry you are for what you did, perhaps without thinking at the moment. After you have corrected the matter to the best of your ability, show that you have faith in the power of prayer and God’s willingness to forgive, by apologizing to him. In this way you can demonstrate confidence that Jehovah hears your cries for help and understands what you really need.—Ps. 5:1, 2.
27 Do you fully understand the import of the invitation to people of all flesh to come to the Hearer of prayer? If one feels to some extent a fear or dread of approaching God, is it not demonstrating a certain lack of love for him, even a lack of appreciation for the ransom provision? Certainly one’s imperfections should not be a deterrent to a ready approach to the loving Creator. In fact, one’s love for God should move one to express oneself freely to one’s merciful Creator.—1 John 4:16-18.
28. (a) How can the older men be a blessing to you? (b) What example is there of one with gross sins asking God for mercy?
28 However, a loss of confidence in calling on Jehovah for help can happen. Possibly a bad conscience or something that went wrong in your life gave you a negative feeling of unworthiness. In a situation like this there is grave danger if you neglect to ask God for help. Why compound the matter by ceasing to pray? For such ones who hold back from coming to God on their own and from speaking to him freely, the intercessory prayers of older men in the congregation can be a blessing. These qualified ones in the congregation are there to help you should you feel there is a “cloud mass” blocking your approach to God and hindering your prayers from passing through. (Lam. 3:44) It was in regard to praying for one another that James wrote: “A righteous man’s supplication, when it is at work, has much force.” (Jas. 5:16) This asking for help is a loving arrangement of counsel and prayer for those who hesitate to pour out their heart on their own to the God who is absolutely righteous, good and holy. On the other hand, the sinner who personally approaches God can be truly blessed in beseeching God for mercy. It worked for King Manasseh of Judah. He kept praying, and his request was finally heard.—2 Chron. 33:12, 13.
29. Why should all be honest in their prayers?
29 It behooves one and all to be open and honest with Jehovah God if they want him to grant their requests. Why would anyone try to hide anything from him? He even ‘knows the hearts of all.’ So never try to deceive him. (Acts 1:24; Jer. 17:10) In your prayers be specific, straightforward, earnestly acknowledging your sins and errors against your heavenly Father. Have the deep appreciation that loyal David did and ask God to search you through and know your heart. Plead with him to give ear to your prayer and to pay attention to your entreaties. (Ps. 139:23; 86:6) Remember, the prayer of the upright is a pleasure to him. So think of the many reasons why you should keep praying freely, confidently expecting God to hear and help you.—Prov. 15:8.
30. To whom should you come without reservation?
30 There is One you can come to without reservation. He is the “Hearer of prayer.” So why not make him happy as you by “prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God”? (Phil. 4:6) By doing this you can go forward, experiencing the love that God has for those who come to him.