Prayers That Are Answered
THE desire to communicate with some higher power is as old as man himself. For instance, certain ancient Egyptian engravings contain prayers. Some of these requested protection from a god, whereas others were statements of praise or of confidence in the deity being addressed. Among the Greeks of the eighth century B.C.E., hymns as well as poetic and ceremonial prayers were common. In Roman prayers, care was needed in addressing a particular god, since many divinities were then worshiped.
To this day, prayer is a common feature of the world’s major religions. Well known for their frequent use of prayer are Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and those professing to be Christians. Although use of prayer is widespread in 20th-century religion, the tremendous variety in methods and styles of prayer causes bewilderment to many seeking to have their prayers answered.
Will Any Prayer Do?
Since praying takes many forms, will just any prayer be effective? Some feel that as long as the person praying is sincere and “believes,” it does not matter greatly which form of prayer is used. What do you think? In view of the divergence of opinion on this matter, it is necessary to go beyond the opinions of men and look for revealed information from a higher source.
The answers on the following pages are drawn from such a source, the Holy Bible. It shows that not just any prayer will do if an individual expects his prayer to be heard and answered.
The Bible Explains:
To whom prayers should be addressed
Why some prayers are not answered
What may be requested in prayer
What part does the individual offering prayer play?
A principal requirement is faith, not just sincerity of belief that God exists and can hear prayers. (Hebrews 11:6) Such faith is demonstrated in striving to live in harmony with God’s righteous principles set out in the Bible. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ stressed this point: “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do.”—Matthew 7:21, Today’s English Version.
As an example of those whose prayers would not be heard, the Hebrew prophet Isaiah wrote: “Even though you make many prayers, I [Jehovah God] am not listening; with bloodshed your very hands have become filled.” (Isaiah 1:15) So any who do not respect the sacredness of life cannot expect their prayers to be heard, no matter how often and how fervently they pray.
Why do some “believers” often not get answers to their prayers?
Belief alone is not sufficient to please God and have him answer our prayers. Even a credulous person may claim that he believes. For belief to have substance, it must be based on accurate knowledge, which can be gained only by a study of the Bible. Additionally, belief and faith must be proved by the works they produce. “As the body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”—James 2:26.
A true believer would need to take God into account daily, not resorting to prayer only when faced with an emergency. He would also do acts of faith, right works that include speaking to others about his belief and faith in God.
What form should prayer take?
Prayer should not be a mere ritual, nor should it be read from a book; neither should prayer contain repetitive phrases as though repetition makes it more effective. And prayer should not be “performed” for show or to impress others. Jesus gave this good counsel about the form our prayers should take and what we should avoid: “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. . . . When praying, do not say the same things over and over again, just as the people of the nations do, for they imagine they will get a hearing for their use of many words.”—Matthew 6:5-7.
No particular bodily position is prescribed for prayers to be heard. However, the one praying would need to be humble and respectful both in posture and in the words used in his prayer.
To whom should prayers be addressed?
The Bible book of Hebrews speaks of a person that “approaches God.” (Hebrews 11:6) Who is this God? There is but one almighty God, though there are many man-made and false gods. (1 Corinthians 8:5, 6) The almighty God of the Bible is named Jehovah. (Psalm 83:18) He is the Creator of all things, and for this reason prayer should be directed only to him. Jesus Christ clearly taught his followers to pray: “Our Father in the heavens.” (Matthew 6:9) No, Jesus did not teach his disciples to pray to him, to his mother Mary, or to any other person. But God now requires that we recognize the position of his Son and offer all our prayers in Jesus’ name. That is why Christ told his followers: “No one comes to the Father except through me.”—John 14:6.
For prayers to be acceptable to God, then, they must be addressed to Jehovah God through his Son, Jesus Christ. That is, they must be said to God in the name of Jesus.
What may be asked for in prayers?
“No matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he [God] hears us.” This seemingly incredible guarantee is recorded at 1 John 5:14. But did you notice the proviso—“according to his will”? Yes, a foremost reason why many prayers are not answered is that the one praying has not first tried to find out what God’s will is.—Proverbs 3:5-7.
As a helpful guide or model, Jesus gave his disciples a prayer widely known today as the “Lord’s Prayer.” (Matthew 6:9-13) Though it should not be said as a ritual, it does set out the proper priorities. First come God’s name and purpose. Next are listed material needs, forgiveness, and deliverance from temptation by the wicked one. The expression “our Father” might help the person praying to broaden out his prayers and his thinking to include not only family members and relatives but also others seeking to please their Maker.—Acts 17:26, 27.
How long should prayers be?
The Bible sets no specific length for prayers. They might be very brief or might even be offered silently. (Nehemiah 2:4; 1 Samuel 1:12, 13) On the other hand, prayers can be quite long. There was an occasion when Jesus “continued the whole night in prayer to God.” This apparently was to request divine assistance in choosing his 12 apostles. (Luke 6:12) So the length of acceptable prayers will vary according to needs.
Prayers Definitely Are Answered
The Bible abounds with accounts of prayers that were answered by the great “Hearer of prayer,” Jehovah God. (Psalm 65:2) An outstanding example is the “prayer test” in the days of Elijah the prophet, recorded in 1 Kings chapter 18. In the first century, Jesus’ disciples experienced this immediate answer to prayer: “When they had made supplication, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were one and all filled with the holy spirit and were speaking the word of God with boldness.”—Acts 4:23-31.
Among scores of experiences received by the publishers of this journal are those of men and women of all ages who felt they had reached a crisis. Because of the outcome, they were convinced that their prayers had been heard and answered.
To illustrate: A young man living in a remote Swiss mountain valley near the Italian border says: “My powerlessness in finding a solution [to life’s problems] was so clear that I wished only to die. . . . I did the only thing that came to my mind. I prayed: ‘O unknown God, you must exist, and you must be a God of love. Help me! I can’t go on any longer—help me to find the truth.’” A few days later, a young couple who were Jehovah’s Witnesses called on this man. A Bible study was arranged, and he is now a baptized witness of Jehovah.
A registered nurse who had an unhappy life because of her husband’s promiscuity and their eventual separation was deeply religious. One day she prayed desperately, pleading that God would let her know if he had a worthwhile purpose. That very afternoon, Jehovah’s Witnesses came to her door in their house-to-house preaching work. She invited them into her home, asked many questions, and enjoyed receiving Scriptural answers. In time, the nurse herself became a proclaimer of the “good news” and was conducting a Bible study.—Matthew 24:14.
One of Jehovah’s Witnesses was reading The Watchtower in his car when someone suddenly grabbed him around the neck. He prayed fervently to Jehovah God. The attacker became motionless, and his grip slackened. The Witness started up the car, bade the man farewell, and left him standing like a statue in the middle of the road.
In a world of increasing skepticism and doubt, lovers of God and truth can take heart from the positive assurance that prayers offered to Jehovah God through the right channel, in the right manner, and with the right attitude of mind and heart are heard. Not only will almighty God hear such prayers but he will also answer them without fail, according to his divine will and at his chosen time.
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Forms of Prayer
A brief examination of various forms of prayer in use today will prove enlightening.
Often used in Hinduism is a basic prayer that pays homage to a chosen god or goddess, of which there are thought to be 330,000,000, worshiped in some 10,000 temples. More often, though, Hindu prayers are elaborate and may take two forms—either meditation (dhyana) or praise (stotra). Much importance is placed on saying prayers aloud.
In Chinese Buddhist and Taoist monasteries, prayers are regularly said three times a day (early in the morning, at noon, and at night). These prayers are accompanied by the sound of a small bell. To assist them in praying, Buddhist monks carry a string of 108 beads. Some laymen also use this rosary method to keep count of the number of times prayers are said.
To devout Muslims, the most important part of their worship is the daily prayer (salat). It is to be repeated five times a day while they face toward Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Jewish prayers include those taken directly from the Bible, such as the Psalms. Other prayers include those that various rabbis have added.
Among professing Christians, there is a large array of prayers and methods of praying. These range from prayers that are repeated with a rosary in hand to printed prayers, as well as those of a few words spoken without rehearsal.
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Jesus’ prayers were answered. Yours can be too