Does God Listen to Your Prayers?
MILLIONS upon millions of prayers have been offered up to God since Jesus gave his disciples the Model Prayer. Many repeat this prayer word for word. Yet it is widely felt that a lot of prayers are going unanswered. Does God still listen to our prayers? What makes a prayer acceptable to him?
First, we have to believe that God will answer our prayers. “He that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Hebrews 11:6.
Then our prayers must really be directed to God in sincerity. Does that sound strange? Yet Jesus warned: “When you pray, you must not be as the hypocrites; because they like to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the broad ways to be visible to men. Truly I say to you, They are having their reward in full.” (Matthew 6:5) So, long, resonant prayers offered in public in order to impress listeners do not impress God. He does not hear such prayers.
Is any special posture necessary when we pray? In the Bible record, God’s servants adopted different positions when praying; yet their prayers were heard. Some kneeled; others stood. Nehemiah prayed while he was standing before the king of Persia. Jonah cried out from the belly of a huge fish, and it would be difficult to say what position he was in at that time. (Daniel 6:10; 1 Kings 8:22; Nehemiah 2:1-5; Jonah 2:1, 2) So while we may wish to adopt a position that will help us to concentrate, the important thing is to have a sincere desire to approach God in prayer. We can do this at any time, in any place and under any circumstances.—Ephesians 6:18.
The Right Channel
Jehovah God has established a channel through which we are to approach him. Jesus explained: “I am the way . . . No one comes to the Father except through me.”—John 14:6.
Many sincerely believe that if they pray in the name of a “saint,” or even in the name of Jesus’ earthly mother, Mary, this will be effective. But if we really want “Our Father” to answer our prayers, surely we should go through the channel that he has appointed. It is our only means of approach to God. As Jesus said: “If you ask the Father for anything he will give it to you in my name.”—John 16:23.
When Jesus spoke the Model Prayer, did he intend to have his followers recite his exact words every time they prayed to God? Well, he introduced the prayer by saying: “You must pray, then, this way,” not ‘with these words.’ (Matthew 6:9) On another occasion Jesus’ followers said to him: “Lord, teach us how to pray.” In answer, Jesus offered a prayer containing thoughts similar to those in the Model Prayer, but he used different words. He said: “Father, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Give us our bread for the day according to the day’s requirement. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone that is in debt to us; and do not bring us into temptation.” Hence, the Model Prayer was a pattern of the way in which we should pray. It shows us the kind of things for which to pray and the relative importance of these things.—Luke 11:1-4.
In view of this, would God hear prayers that were read out of a prayer book? If you have a child, would you like it if he spoke to you only with words that he read out of a book prepared by someone else? Or would you prefer that he speak from his own heart? Jehovah God certainly prefers that we speak to him from our heart, not from a prayer book. King David said: “Before [God] pour out your heart.” (Psalm 62:8) Moreover, Jesus warned us: “When praying, do not say the same things over and over again.”—Matthew 6:7.
In Harmony with God’s Will
The apostle John told us: “This is the confidence that we have toward [God], that, no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14) Here is another requirement for having our prayers heard by God. Our prayers should be in harmony with God’s will. Furthermore, once we pray we should be sure to act in harmony with our prayers.
Cornelius, a first-century Italian army officer “made supplication to God continually.” Jehovah heard his prayers and provided help for him to learn more about the divine will. Do you want God to hear your prayers? Then read the Bible and find out what God’s will is so that your prayers can be in harmony with it. Under God’s direction, Jehovah’s Witnesses will be delighted to give you the same kind of help in this that the apostle Peter gave to Cornelius.—Acts 10:2-5.
“In everything by prayer . . . let your petitions be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) Keep on asking—first for the things having to do with God: his name, his kingdom and his will. Then ask for the things having to do with your personal needs and those of your fellowman. Do so in harmony with what Jesus said in the Model Prayer. Conform to God’s requirements for prayer, and may Jehovah listen favorably to your prayers.