‘Use Every Form of Prayer and Supplication’
“With every form of prayer and supplication . . . carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit. And to that end keep awake with all constancy and with supplication in behalf of all the holy ones.”—Eph. 6:18.
1. (a) In what ways do we want to think of Jehovah God when we come to him in prayers? (b) What four basic kinds of prayer are there?
THE Creator, Jehovah God, is not a mere impersonal First Cause but a real person with feelings. He is able to see and hear. We always want to think of him in this way when we approach him in prayer. God’s Word counsels us to do so “with every form of prayer and supplication.” (Eph. 6:18) What does this include? There are four basic forms of prayer—praise, thanksgiving, petition and supplication.
PRAISING GOD IN PRAYER
2, 3. What is a most noble and exalted form of prayer, and what are some of many reasons for its being due Jehovah God?
2 Praise is certainly a noble, exalted form of prayer. It is due the Creator because of his qualities and accomplishments. As the “Sovereign Lord Jehovah,” he is unequaled in authority. (2 Sam. 7:28) Having neither beginning nor end, Jehovah God is the peerless “King of eternity.” (1 Tim. 1:17) He is such a glorious person that no man can see him and yet live. (Ex. 33:20) The Most High is without equal, being infinite in power and wisdom, wholly just and the personification of unselfish love. (Deut. 32:4; Job 37:23; Rom. 11:33; 1 John 4:8) He made all things and so owns the entire universe. (Gen. 1:1, 31; Ps. 50:10) In name and fame, he is unrivaled. Only he can rightly say: “I SHALL PROVE TO BE.” He alone has the name Jehovah, which is understood to mean “He causes to become.” (Ex. 3:14; 6:3) Only he can rightly declare: “To whom will you people liken me or make me equal or compare me that we may resemble each other?” “I am the Divine One and there is no other God, nor anyone like me.”—Isa. 46:5, 9.
3 Above all others, such an incomparable, matchless, peerless, unrivaled God is deserving of praise. Fittingly, scores of times, from Exodus 15:11 to Revelation 19:6, encouragement is given to praise Jehovah. In harmony with this, may we not only keep on praising the Most High in our prayers but, also, may our everyday conversation call attention to him rather than to ourselves. After all, we have nothing that we did not receive and, apart from him, we really cannot accomplish anything.—Ps. 127:1; 1 Cor. 4:7.
RENDERING JEHOVAH THANKSGIVING
4, 5. What do the various Bible writers have to say about our giving thanks to Jehovah, and what are some of the many reasons for our doing so?
4 Closely related to praising Jehovah is the rendering of thanks to him. It is only right that we express appreciation for all that Jehovah has done, is doing and will yet do for us. The writers of the psalms appear to have been especially aware of the appropriateness of our expressing thanks to Jehovah. Time and again we read such expressions as “O let people give thanks to Jehovah for his loving-kindness and for his wonderful works to the sons of men.” (Ps. 107:8, 15, 21, 31) Similarly, Paul counsels us to make “supplication along with thanksgiving.” Yes, we are to be “giving thanks always for all things to our God and Father.”—Phil. 4:6; Eph. 5:20.
5 How many are the things for which we should daily express gratitude to our heavenly Father! We owe him thanks for all the physical and material things that we receive and that make life not only possible but also enjoyable. (Jas. 1:17) Do we appreciate all the spiritual blessings that Jehovah showers on his servants—the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice, God’s Word and his spirit, the Christian congregation and the gift of prayer? Do we appreciate the blessing of association with fellow believers, the privilege of ministering to the needs of others, and the wonderful Kingdom hope? If so, let us express gratitude in our prayers. True, we may not always remember or enumerate all that God has done for us. But we should feel as did the psalmist: “Bless Jehovah, O my soul, and do not forget all his doings.”—Ps. 103:2.
MAKING PETITIONS TO JEHOVAH
6. What three general areas or fields do our petitions cover, and regarding what did Jesus, first of all, instruct us to pray?
6 It is indeed a great comfort that we can come to Jehovah with “freeness of speech” when making our petitions. (Heb. 4:16; 1 John 3:21) As Jesus illustrated in his Model Prayer, our petitions usually relate to three general areas—the triumph of righteousness, our spiritual needs and our physical needs. Appropriately, Jesus told us to pray, first of all, for the sanctification of Jehovah’s name, for his kingdom to come and for his will to be done on earth. Jesus himself prayed: “Father, glorify your name.” (Matt. 6:9, 10; John 12:28) Included in such petitions would also be that Jehovah prosper the work of his servants on earth and that he sustain those undergoing hardships and trials for his name’s sake. (Ps. 118:25) Nor should we overlook Paul’s admonition to pray for all those in high station “in order that we may go on leading a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion and seriousness.”—1 Tim. 2:2.
7, 8. Regarding what kind of personal matters should we next petition Jehovah?
7 Our prayers should also reflect serious concern over our spiritual condition. This would include petitioning our heavenly Father for forgiveness of our sins. “If anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one.” (1 John 1:8–2:1) We should also want to pray for more of God’s spirit and that we do not grieve it. (Luke 11:13; Eph. 4:30) In dealing with trialsome situations, we are encouraged in the Scriptures to pray for wisdom. (Jas. 1:5-8) Moreover, we can and should pray for Jehovah’s blessing on our sacred service, including our preaching and teaching in the field. Such prayers acknowledge the principle that, while we may plant and water, it is God who makes things grow, who prospers things.—1 Cor. 3:7.
8 Further, in our petitioning God, let us not overlook or neglect any differences that we may have with a Christian brother, with our marriage mate or with some other member of our family. At such times there may be a tendency to stop communicating—an easy and yet an unwise and selfish course to take. Instead, we should pray for guidance and strength to resolve the difficulty that we are having with someone else. Let us also ask for aid in forgiving and forgetting grievances, so that we do not become bitter and harbor grudges.—Matt. 6:12.
9, 10. What Scriptural basis do we have for petitioning Jehovah regarding material or physical matters?
9 Besides spiritual matters, Jesus showed that it is proper for us to petition Jehovah God for our daily bread, our material needs. (Matt. 6:11) Yes, we may ask Jehovah God about any and all of our needs, and that for each day. This is in keeping with what Jesus further said in his Sermon on the Mount: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow; tomorrow will look after itself. Each day has troubles enough of its own.”—Matt. 6:34, The New English Bible.
10 Are we out of work, unemployed? Then we may petition Jehovah God to bless and direct our efforts to find employment. Are we sick? We could pray for wisdom, strength and endurance to deal with our affliction in the best way possible. It is indeed a comfort that we may pour out all our concerns before Jehovah, even as we read: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6) Of course, in regard to all such matters we pray with the proviso—‘If it be God’s will,’ just as Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane.—Matt. 26:39; 1 Cor. 4:19; Jas. 4:15.
11-13. (a) What does it mean to make supplication to Jehovah, and regarding what matters is this most fitting? (b) How does the experience of a boy illustrate this?
11 We are told to pray with “every form of prayer and supplication.” (Eph. 6:18) Why the adding of supplication to our petitions? Because supplication goes a step farther than petitions. It is especially earnest, serious prayer, heartfelt entreaty. Supplication is defined as “humble and earnest entreaty.” In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the original-language word is always used with reference to God. It therefore stresses the fact that, in addition to persevering in prayer, there is a need to be truly serious. Understandably, not all our petitions are supplications. But our prayers should include such. We even read that Jesus Christ offered “supplications . . . with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear.” (Heb. 5:7) Similarly, when we hear of our brothers being cruelly persecuted, it would be fitting not only to petition God on their behalf but to supplicate Jehovah to give them strength to endure and to defeat the purpose of persecution.—Compare 2 Corinthians 1:8-11.
12 When appealing to Jehovah for help in our struggle to pummel our bodies, we rightly come before him as suppliants. (Rom. 7:15-24; 1 Cor. 9:27) Is there a problem in controlling one’s thoughts or temper? Then, besides making amends for any hurt a person may have caused, he should humbly entreat or supplicate Jehovah God for help. What if the problem involves eating or drinking? Again, it would be in order to supplicate Jehovah for aid and also to enlist the help of family members and/or elders of the congregation.
13 When properly taught, even children can make supplication to Jehovah and be heard. For example, a 10-year-old boy wrote the following to the Watchtower Society: “On November 20 at 3 p.m. two boys came up to me in the schoolyard, and one of them put a knife to my throat and threatened to kill me. I prayed to Jehovah, and just then a police car drove by and the boys ran away.”
WE NEED TO ACT ACCORDINGLY
14, 15. What does consistency require of those who pray, and what are some Scriptural examples illustrating this principle?
14 Of course, when we pray to Jehovah God, we should also be willing to do our part. King David not only supplicated God in time of great distress but also took practical steps. (2 Sam. 15:31–17:14) Other faithful servants of Jehovah, such as Jacob, did likewise. (Gen. 32:9-21) Yes, our actions should be consistent with our requests.
15 Do we pray for our daily bread? Then we must be willing to work for it, for “if anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.” (Matt. 6:11; 2 Thess. 3:10) Do we pray not to be brought into temptation? Then we must avoid deliberately putting ourselves into compromising circumstances. (Matt. 6:13) Do we pray for peace among ourselves? Then we must be peacemakers. (Ps. 122:6-9; 1 Pet. 3:11) This means that we must be careful not to offend others needlessly nor to create issues unnecessarily. We should avoid being unduly sensitive. Do we pray that God’s work may increase? Then we should be having “plenty to do in the work of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58) Do we pray for wisdom? Then we must also use all the means that God has provided for getting wisdom.—Jas. 1:5-8; Ps. 119:105; 2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 10:23-25.
CAN WE IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF OUR PRAYERS?
16, 17. How can we improve the quality of our prayers, keeping them warm and meaningful?
16 Our prayers reveal how spiritually minded we truly are. Can we improve the quality of our prayers and, if so, how? First of all, we should take our prayers seriously and express ourselves from the heart. By meditating more on God’s goodness and on his loving-kindness, by thinking of him as a loving Father who is also firm for what is right, we can put more warmth and feeling into our prayers. Truly, we want to speak to God from the heart, in humility. Therefore, we must guard against hurrying through our prayers. Though other things may be neglected, never should our prayers be.
17 We can also improve the quality of our prayers by putting forth effort not to use the same words and phrases over and over again. (Matt. 6:7) Such repetition may cause prayers to lack real feeling and meaning. Memorized words, more likely than not, are prone to come from the head rather than from the heart. Especially should Christians who daily take the lead in family prayer be careful in this regard. Using the same words day after day can cause the minds of those who are listening to wander. Daily meditation on Scriptural thoughts and our cultivating greater appreciation for Jehovah’s undeserved kindness toward us may help to keep our prayers warm and meaningful.
DIRECT AND INDIRECT REWARDS
18. Why might some who do not meet God’s requirements for acceptable prayers conclude that their petitions have been answered?
18 Prayer is a form of worship that is practiced world wide. Many persons believe that God answers their prayers, even though their petitions do not meet divine requirements for prayer. How can this seeming contradiction be explained? For one thing, it may simply be due to the law of averages. For instance, it is said that all soldiers in foxholes pray. Since most of them usually survive, those who do might conclude that God answered their prayers. Or, it may have been a matter of coincidence. Then again, the psychosomatic principle, the effect of the mind on the body, might account for it.
19. What evidence is there that Jehovah God does answer the prayers of those who truly are his people and who meet his requirements for prayer?
19 However, those meeting the divine requirements for prayer have undeniable evidence that Jehovah God does indeed answer their prayers. They have seen Jehovah’s blessing on their united and individual efforts. As a result, ‘the little one has become a thousand and a small one a mighty nation.’ (Isa. 60:22) In answer to their prayers, Jehovah has maneuvered matters so that ‘no weapon formed against them has succeeded.’—Isa. 54:17.
20. By what various means does Jehovah answer sincere petitions directed to him?
20 Jehovah uses both his heavenly and his earthly servants in answering sincere petitions made to him. At times, it is an angel that directs matters so that an individual who prayerfully seeks after God is visited at his home by one of Jehovah’s servants. (Compare Acts 10:30-33; 17:26, 27.) Then again, Jehovah answers many prayers by means of his earthly instruments. He may put it in the mind of one of his people to extend love or an act of kindness to a deserving person who is in real need. Or, the answer to a person’s prayer may come through a study of God’s Word, by perusing a Bible-based publication, or from what is drawn to his attention by elders in the congregation. This is so because the prayers of Jehovah’s servants often are for spiritual enlightenment or for wisdom in dealing with a particular situation.
21. What are some of the indirect benefits of prayer?
21 Additionally, we can derive indirect benefits from praying. The very fact that we have unburdened ourselves to Jehovah, our heavenly Father, makes us feel closer to him. By expressing appreciation to him in praise and thanksgiving, we are helped to be more content with our lot. By earnestly supplicating Jehovah, we are helped to be humble and to lean on him rather than on our own understanding and strength. (Prov. 3:5, 6; Phil. 4:13) And, of course, when we are praying, our minds are on things that are upbuilding. (Phil. 4:4-8) For example, when unable to sleep at night, it would certainly be much better to pray about Kingdom interests and spiritual matters than to worry or fret, go over grievances, build castles in the air or let our minds gravitate to the things of the flesh. Yes, we want to ‘throw all our anxiety on Jehovah, because he cares for us.’ If we hide nothing from our heavenly Father, this will help us to examine ourselves and will contribute to our becoming ever closer and more intimate with him.—1 Pet. 5:7; 2 Cor. 13:5.
22. What does it mean to take our prayers seriously, resulting in what confidence?
22 Truly, prayer, including praise, thanksgiving and supplication, is a precious privilege, and we stand to profit greatly by taking our prayers seriously. Praying shows that we truly have faith. Surely, we want to act in harmony with our prayers, never hurry through them, always seek to improve their quality, and never let them slip into a mere routine repetition of words. Doing so, we will be benefited indirectly, and we can have the confidence that Jehovah God will reward us by answering prayers that are in harmony with his will.
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We owe God thanks for his Word, life’s necessities, the Christian congregation and the privileges of prayer and service