Fear Jehovah, the Hearer of Prayer
“O Hearer of prayer, even to you people of all flesh will come.”—PSALM 65:2.
1. Why should we expect Jehovah to have requirements for those desiring to approach him in prayer?
JEHOVAH GOD is the “King of eternity.” He is also the “Hearer of prayer,” to whom “people of all flesh will come.” (Revelation 15:3; Psalm 65:2) But how should they come to him? Earthly kings regulate such things as the dress and the manner of those allowed into their presence. Surely, then, we should expect the King Eternal to have requirements that must be met by anyone wishing to come before him with supplication and thanksgiving.—Philippians 4:6, 7.
2. What questions arise on the subject of prayer?
2 What does the King Eternal require of those approaching him in prayer? Who can pray and be heard? And about what can they pray?
Approaching the King Eternal
3. What examples can you give of prayers offered by early servants of God, and did they approach him through an intermediary?
3 Before he became a sinner, Adam, a “son of God,” evidently communed with the King of eternity. (Luke 3:38; Genesis 1:26-28) When Adam’s son Abel presented “some firstlings of his flock” to God, undoubtedly this offering was accompanied by expressions of supplication and praise. (Genesis 4:2-4) Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob built altars and approached Jehovah prayerfully with their offerings. (Genesis 8:18-22; 12:7, 8; 13:3, 4, 18; 22:9-14; 26:23-25; 33:18-20; 35:1, 3, 7) And the prayers of Solomon, Ezra, and divinely inspired psalmists indicate that the Israelites approached God without any intermediary.—1 Kings 8:22-24; Ezra 9:5, 6; Psalm 6:1, 2; 43:1; 55:1; 61:1; 72:1; 80:1; 143:1.
4. (a) What new approach to God in prayer was instituted in the first century? (b) Why is it especially appropriate that prayer be offered in Jesus’ name?
4 A new approach to God in prayer was instituted in the first century of our Common Era. It was through his Son, Jesus Christ, who had special love for mankind. In his prehuman existence, Jesus served joyfully as “a master worker,” fond of things associated with humankind. (Proverbs 8:30, 31) As a man on earth, Jesus lovingly helped imperfect humans spiritually, cured the ailing, and even raised the dead. (Matthew 9:35-38; Luke 8:1-3, 49-56) Above all, Jesus ‘gave his soul a ransom for many.’ (Matthew 20:28) How appropriate, then, that those availing themselves of the ransom should approach God through this one who loves mankind so much! This is now the only avenue of approach to the King Eternal, for Jesus himself said: “No one comes to the Father except through me” and, “If you ask the Father for anything he will give it to you in my name.” (John 14:6; 16:23) Asking for things in Jesus’ name means recognizing him as the way to approach the Hearer of prayer.
5. What is God’s attitude toward the world of mankind, and what bearing does this have on prayer?
5 Especially should we appreciate the love Jehovah showed by providing the ransom. Jesus said: “God loved the world [of mankind] so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) The depth of God’s love is well-expressed in the psalmist’s words: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, his loving-kindness is superior toward those fearing him. As far off as the sunrise is from the sunset, so far off from us he has put our transgressions. As a father shows mercy to his sons, Jehovah has shown mercy to those fearing him. For he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:11-14) How heartening to know that the prayers of Jehovah’s dedicated Witnesses ascend to such a loving Father through his Son!
A Restricted Privilege
6. With what attitude must Jehovah be approached in prayer?
6 Human kings do not allow just anyone to enter into the royal palace unannounced. An audience with a king is a restricted privilege. So is prayer to the King of eternity. Of course, those approaching him through Jesus Christ with proper appreciation of God’s glorious majesty can expect to be heard. The King Eternal must be approached with a reverent, worshipful attitude. And those desiring to be heard must display “the fear of Jehovah.”—Proverbs 1:7.
7. What is “the fear of Jehovah”?
7 What is “the fear of Jehovah”? It is profound reverence for God, coupled with a wholesome dread of displeasing him. This awe stems from deep gratitude for his loving-kindness and goodness. (Psalm 106:1) It involves acknowledging him as the King of eternity, who has the right and the power to bring punishment, including death, upon anyone disobeying him. Persons manifesting the fear of Jehovah may pray to him with the expectation of being heard.
8. Why does God hear the prayers of those fearing him?
8 Naturally, God does not answer the prayers of wicked, unfaithful, and self-righteous people. (Proverbs 15:29; Isaiah 1:15; Luke 18:9-14) But those who fear Jehovah are heard because they have conformed to his righteous standards. Yet, they have done more. Fearers of Jehovah have made a dedication to God in prayer and symbolized this by undergoing water baptism. They thus have an unrestricted privilege of prayer.
9, 10. Can unbaptized persons pray with the hope of being heard?
9 To be heard by God, a person must express prayerful sentiments that are in harmony with the divine will. Yes, he must be sincere, but more is required. “Without faith it is impossible to please [God] well,” wrote the apostle Paul, “for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Well, then, can unbaptized persons be encouraged to pray with the hope of being heard?
10 Aware that prayer is a restricted privilege, King Solomon asked that Jehovah hear only foreigners who prayed toward God’s temple in Jerusalem. (1 Kings 8:41-43) Centuries later, the Gentile foreigner Cornelius “made supplication to God continually” as a devout man. Upon gaining accurate knowledge, Cornelius dedicated himself to God, who then gave him the holy spirit. Following this, Cornelius and other Gentiles were baptized. (Acts 10:1-44) Like Cornelius, anyone today progressing toward dedication may be encouraged to pray. But an individual who is insincere about studying the Scriptures, does not know the divine requirements for prayer, and has not yet displayed an attitude pleasing to God cannot be said to fear Jehovah, have faith, or be earnestly seeking him. Such a person is not in position to offer prayers acceptable to God.
11. What has happened to some who were progressing toward dedication, and what should they ask themselves?
11 Some who were at one time progressing toward dedication later may seem to be holding back. If they do not have enough love for God in their heart to make an unreserved dedication to him, they ought to ask themselves whether they still have the wonderful privilege of prayer. Apparently not, because those approaching God must be earnestly seeking him and also righteousness and meekness. (Zephaniah 2:3) Everyone who really fears Jehovah is a believer who makes a dedication to God and symbolizes it by getting baptized. (Acts 8:13; 18:8) And only baptized believers have an unrestricted privilege of approaching the King Eternal in prayer.
“Praying With Holy Spirit”
12. When can it be said that a person is “praying with holy spirit”?
12 After a person makes a dedication to God and symbolizes it by being baptized, he is in position to ‘pray with holy spirit.’ Concerning this, Jude wrote: “But you, beloved ones, by building up yourselves on your most holy faith, and praying with holy spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love, while you are waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ with everlasting life in view.” (Jude 20, 21) A person prays with holy spirit when praying under the influence of God’s spirit, or active force, and in harmony with the things said in His Word. The Scriptures, written under inspiration of Jehovah’s spirit, show us how to pray and what to request in prayer. For example, we can confidently pray that God give us his holy spirit. (Luke 11:13) When we pray with holy spirit, our prayers reveal a heart condition that Jehovah loves.
13. If we pray with holy spirit, what will we avoid, and what counsel of Jesus will we apply?
13 When we pray with holy spirit, our prayers are not filled with high-sounding words. They do not consist of formulas repeated by rote. No, they do not contain virtually meaningless doxologies, insincere expressions of praise. Prayers of that sort abound in Christendom and the rest of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. But true Christians heed Jesus’ counsel: “When you pray you are not to be as the hypocrites are; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and at the corners of the main streets, so that they may be visible to men . . . And in praying do not parrot off words like the heathen; for they [erroneously] think they will get themselves listened to by the quantity of what they say. So do not be like them.”—Matthew 6:5-8, Byington.
14. What perceptive statements have some made regarding prayer?
14 In addition to Jesus and Bible writers, others have made perceptive statements regarding prayer. For instance, the English writer John Bunyan (1628-88) said: “Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Spirit, for such things as God has promised.” Puritan minister Thomas Brooks (1608-80) observed: “God looks not at the oratory of your prayers, how elegant they may be; nor at the geometry of your prayers, how long they may be; nor at the arithmetic of your prayers, how many they may be; not at logic of your prayers, how methodical they may be; but the sincerity of them he looks at.” To these comments may be added Bunyan’s remark: “In prayer it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart.” But if we are sincere and do meet divine requirements, how can we be sure that the King of eternity will hear our prayers?
Never Turned Away
15. In essence, what did Jesus say at Luke 11:5-8?
15 Jehovah God never turns a deaf ear to the prayers of his dedicated servants. This was made clear in Jesus’ heartwarming words when his disciples requested instruction on prayer. In part he said: “Who of you will have a friend and will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves, because a friend of mine has just come to me on a journey and I have nothing to set before him’? And that one from inside says in reply, ‘Quit making me trouble. The door is already locked, and my young children are with me in bed; I cannot rise up and give you anything.’ I tell you, Although he will not rise up and give him anything because of being his friend, certainly because of his bold persistence he will get up and give him what things he needs.” (Luke 11:1, 5-8) What was the point of this illustration?
16. As regards prayer, what did Jesus want us to do?
16 Jesus certainly did not mean that Jehovah is unwilling to help us. Rather, Christ wants us to trust God implicitly and to love him enough to pray without ceasing. Thus, Jesus continued: “I say to you, Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you. For everyone asking receives, and everyone seeking finds, and to everyone knocking it will be opened.” (Luke 11:9, 10) Surely, then, we should keep praying when we experience persecution, distress over some deeply rooted personal weakness, or any other trial. Jehovah is always ready to help his faithful servants. He never tells us: “Quit making me trouble.”
17, 18. (a) How did Jesus encourage us to ask for holy spirit, and what increases the force of his words? (b) How did Jesus compare the dealings of an earthly parent with those of God?
17 If we are to enjoy a close relationship with God, we need his holy spirit, or active force. Hence, Jesus continued: “Indeed, which father is there among you who, if his son asks for a fish, will perhaps hand him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he also asks for an egg, will hand him a scorpion? Therefore, if you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him!” (Luke 11:11-13) Matthew 7:9-11 speaks of giving a stone instead of bread. The force of Jesus’ words is increased if we realize that the bread of ancient Bible lands was of a size and shape like that of a flat, round stone. Some kinds of serpents resemble certain types of fish, and there is a small white scorpion that somewhat resembles an egg. But if asked for bread, a fish, or an egg, what kind of father would give his child a stone, a serpent, or a scorpion?
18 Jesus next compared the dealings of an earthly parent with the actions of God toward the members of His family of worshipers. If we, though being more or less wicked because of inherited sinfulness, give good gifts to our children, how much more we should expect our heavenly Father to give the splendid gift of his holy spirit to his loyal servants who humbly ask for it!
19 Jesus’ words intimate that we should ask God for more of His holy spirit. If we are led by it, we will not ‘complain about our lot in life’ and view trials and disappointments as being really injurious to us. (Jude 16) True, “man, born of woman, is short-lived and glutted with agitation,” and many have not lived to see the end of their problems or heartaches. (Job 14:1) But let us never view our trials as stones, serpents, and scorpions that the Hearer of prayer has somehow handed us. He is the very epitome of love and does not try anyone with evil things. Rather, he gives us ‘every good gift and perfect present.’ Ultimately, he will make everything right for all who love and fear him. (James 1:12-17; 1 John 4:8) Those who have walked in the truth for years know from experience that some of their hardest trials have, through prayer and faith, worked out to their benefit and have increased the fruitage of God’s spirit in their lives. (3 John 4) In fact, in what better way could we learn dependence on our heavenly Father and be helped to cultivate the spirit’s fruitage of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control?—Galatians 5:22, 23.
20. Jesus’ words recorded at Luke 11:5-13 should have what effect upon us?
20 Jesus’ words recorded at Luke 11:5-13 thus give us blessed assurance of Jehovah’s love and tender care. This should fill our hearts with the deepest gratitude and love. It ought to strengthen our faith and increase our desire to go often to the footstool of the King Eternal and linger in his loving presence. Moreover, Jesus’ words assure us that we will never be turned away empty. Our heavenly Father is most pleased to have us throw our burdens upon him. (Psalm 55:22; 121:1-3) And when we, as his faithful dedicated servants, ask for his holy spirit, he gives it to us unstintingly. This is our loving God, and we can have full faith that he is the Hearer of our prayers.
Do You Recall?
□ Through whom must we approach God in prayer, and why?
□ In what way is prayer a restricted privilege?
□ What does it mean to ‘pray with holy spirit’?
□ How can you prove Scripturally that the prayers of Jehovah’s faithful baptized Witnesses are heard?
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As human fathers give good gifts to their children, Jehovah gives holy spirit to those asking him