Stay Close to Jehovah
“Persevere in prayer.”—ROMANS 12:12.
1. What is Jehovah’s will regarding prayer, and what encouragement did the apostle Paul give about praying?
JEHOVAH is “the God who gives hope” to all of his faithful people. As the “Hearer of prayer,” he listens to their pleas for help to attain the joyous hope that he sets before them. (Romans 15:13; Psalm 65:2) And through his Word, the Bible, he encourages all of his servants to come to him anytime they wish. He is always there, desiring to receive their inmost concerns. In fact, he encourages them to “persevere in prayer” and to “pray incessantly.”* (Romans 12:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:17) It is Jehovah’s will that all Christians constantly call on him in prayer, pouring out their hearts to him and doing so in the name of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ.—John 14:6, 13, 14.
2, 3. (a) Why did God exhort us to “persevere in prayer”? (b) What assurance do we have that God wants us to pray?
2 Why does God give us this exhortation? Because life’s pressures and responsibilities can weigh us down so much that we could forget to pray. Or problems may overwhelm us and cause us to stop rejoicing in the hope and cease praying. In view of these things, we need reminders that encourage us to pray and to draw very close to the source of help and comfort, Jehovah our God.
3 The disciple James wrote: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” (James 4:8) Yes, God is neither too lofty nor too far removed to hear our expressions to him, despite our imperfect human condition. (Acts 17:27) Furthermore, he is not indifferent and unconcerned. Says the psalmist: “The eyes of Jehovah are toward the righteous ones, and his ears are toward their cry for help.”—Psalm 34:15; 1 Peter 3:12.
4. How might Jehovah’s attentiveness to prayer be illustrated?
4 Jehovah invites prayer. We might compare this to a gathering where a number of people are together talking. You are there, listening to the others talk. Your role is that of an observer. But then someone turns to you, says your name, and directs his words to you. This arrests your attention in a special way. Similarly, God is always attentive to his people, wherever they may be. (2 Chronicles 16:9; Proverbs 15:3) So he hears our words, protectively and interestedly observing, as it were. When we call upon God’s name in prayer, however, his attention is arrested, and he is now focused on us in an explicit way. By his powers, Jehovah can even detect and comprehend man’s unvoiced petition offered within the hidden recesses of his heart and mind. God assures us that he will draw close to all those sincerely calling upon his name and seeking to stay close to him.—Psalm 145:18.
Response According to God’s Purpose
5. (a) What does the counsel “persevere in prayer” indicate regarding our prayers? (b) How does God answer prayers?
5 The counsel to persevere in prayer indicates that Jehovah at times may allow us to keep on praying about a matter for a while before his response becomes apparent. We might even tend to get weary of petitioning God for favor or loving-kindness that may seem sorely needed but long deferred. Hence, Jehovah God entreats us not to yield to any such leaning but to keep on praying. We should continue petitioning him about our concerns, confident that he respects our prayer and will meet our real need, not simply what we may have reasoned out. Jehovah God no doubt balances our petitions according to his purpose. For example, others may be affected by our request. We might liken the matter to that of a father whose son asks him for a bicycle. The father knows that if he buys a bicycle for that son, his other son would want one too. Since one son may be too young for a bicycle, the father may decide not to buy any at that particular time. In a similar manner, in the light of his purpose and timing of matters, our heavenly Father decides what is truly best for us and for others.—Psalm 84:8, 11; compare Habakkuk 2:3.
6. What illustration did Jesus give with regard to prayer, and what does perseverance in prayer show?
6 Noteworthy is the illustration Jesus gave concerning the need for his disciples “always to pray and not to give up.” A widow, unable to get justice, persevered in her request to a human judge until she finally received justice. Jesus added: “Certainly, then, shall not God cause justice to be done for his chosen ones?” (Luke 18:1-7) Perseverance in prayer shows our faith, our reliance on Jehovah, our willingness to stay close to him and make our petition, leaving the outcome in his hands.—Hebrews 11:6.
Examples of Staying Close to Jehovah
7. How can we imitate Abel’s faith in staying close to Jehovah?
7 The Bible abounds with accounts of prayers uttered by God’s servants. These “were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) Our hope is strengthened by our considering some examples of those who stayed close to Jehovah. Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice to God, and though no prayer is reported, he doubtless appealed in prayer to Jehovah that his offering might be accepted. Hebrews 11:4 says: “By faith Abel offered God a sacrifice of greater worth than Cain, through which faith he had witness borne to him that he was righteous.” Abel knew of God’s promise at Genesis 3:15, but compared to what we now know, he knew very little. Yet, Abel acted on what knowledge he did have. So today, some of those newly interested in God’s truth do not yet have much knowledge, but they pray and make the most of the knowledge they do have, as did Abel. Yes, they act in faith.
8. Why can we be certain Abraham stayed close to Jehovah, and what question should we ask ourselves?
8 Another faithful servant of God was Abraham, “the father of all those having faith.” (Romans 4:11) Today, more than ever, we need strong faith, and we need to pray in faith, as did Abraham. Genesis 12:8 says that he built an altar “to Jehovah and began to call on the name of Jehovah.” Abraham knew God’s name and used it in prayer. Time and again he sincerely persevered in prayer, calling “upon the name of Jehovah the indefinitely lasting God.” (Genesis 13:4; 21:33) Abraham was calling upon God in the faith for which he became celebrated. (Hebrews 11:17-19) Prayer helped Abraham to keep on rejoicing greatly in the Kingdom hope. Are we following Abraham’s example of persevering in prayer?
9. (a) Why are David’s prayers of much benefit to God’s people today? (b) What might result from our praying as David did to stay close to Jehovah?
9 David was outstanding as to persevering in prayer, and his psalms illustrate what prayers should be. For example, God’s servants can properly pray for such things as salvation or deliverance (Ps 3:7, 8; 60:5), guidance (Ps 25:4, 5), protection (Ps 17:8), forgiveness of sins (Ps 25:7, 11, 18), and a pure heart (Ps 51:10). When David felt afflicted, he prayed: “Make the soul of your servant rejoice.” (Ps 86:4) We can pray similarly for joy of heart, knowing that Jehovah desires that we rejoice in our hope. David stayed close to Jehovah and prayed: “My soul has closely followed you; on me your right hand keeps fast hold.” (Ps 63:8) Will we stay close to Jehovah, as did David? If we do, he will uphold us as well.
10. What wrong thoughts did the psalmist Asaph have at one point, but what did he come to realize?
10 If we are to stay close to Jehovah, we need to avoid envying the wicked because of their carefree and materialistic lives. The psalmist Asaph at one point felt that it was of no value to serve Jehovah, for the wicked “are at ease indefinitely.” Still, he discerned that his reasoning was wrong and that the wicked are “on slippery ground.” He realized that nothing was better than staying close to Jehovah, and he expressed himself to God this way: “I am constantly with you; you have taken hold of my right hand. For, look! the very ones keeping away from you will perish. . . . But as for me, the drawing near to God is good for me. In the Sovereign Lord Jehovah I have placed my refuge, to declare all your works.” (Psalm 73:12, 13, 18, 23, 27, 28) Instead of envying the carefree lives of the wicked, the people without hope, let us imitate Asaph in staying close to Jehovah.
11. Why is Daniel a fine example of staying close to Jehovah, and how can we imitate him?
11 Daniel persevered resolutely in prayer, even in the face of the danger of being in the lions’ pit because of disregarding official restrictions on prayer. But Jehovah “sent his angel and shut the mouth of the lions,” rescuing Daniel. (Daniel 6:7-10, 22, 27) Daniel was greatly blessed by his persevering in prayer. Do we also persevere in prayer, especially when faced with opposition to our Kingdom preaching?
Jesus, Our Exemplar
12. (a) At the beginning of his ministry, what example did Jesus set with regard to prayer, and how can this benefit Christians? (b) What does Jesus’ model prayer reveal about prayer?
12 Right from the beginning of his earthly ministry, Jesus is observed at prayer. His prayerful attitude while being baptized set a fine example for those undergoing water baptism in modern times. (Luke 3:21, 22) One could pray for God’s help to carry out what is symbolized by water baptism. Jesus also helped others to approach Jehovah in prayer. On an occasion when Jesus was in a certain place praying, one of his disciples said to him afterward: “Lord, teach us how to pray.” Jesus then related what is commonly known as the model prayer, in which the sequence of subjects shows that God’s name and purpose should be given priority. (Luke 11:1-4) Thus, in our prayers we need to keep perspective and balance, not neglecting “the more important things.” (Philippians 1:9, 10) Of course, there are times of special need or when a specific problem needs to be addressed. Like Jesus, Christians may go to God in prayer to seek strength to carry out certain assignments or to face up to particular trials or dangers. (Matthew 26:36-44) In fact, personal prayers may embrace virtually every facet of life.
13. How did Jesus show the importance of praying for others?
13 By his fine example, Jesus showed the importance of praying in behalf of others. He knew that his disciples would be hated and persecuted, even as he was. (John 15:18-20; 1 Peter 5:9) He, therefore, petitioned God “to watch over them because of the wicked one.” (John 17:9, 11, 15, 20) And knowing the special trial that lay ahead for Peter, he told him: “I have made supplication for you that your faith may not give out.” (Luke 22:32) How beneficial it is if we too persist in praying for our brothers, thinking of others and not just our own problems and interests!—Philippians 2:4; Colossians 1:9, 10.
14. How do we know that Jesus stayed very close to Jehovah throughout his earthly ministry, and how can we imitate him?
14 Throughout his ministry, Jesus persevered in prayer, staying very close to Jehovah. (Hebrews 5:7-10) The apostle Peter, at Acts 2:25-28, quotes Psalm 16:8 and applies it to the Lord Jesus Christ: “David says respecting him, ‘I had Jehovah constantly before my eyes; because he is at my right hand that I may never be shaken.” We can do likewise. We can pray for God to be close to us, and we can show our confidence in Jehovah by constantly keeping him mentally before our eyes. (Compare Psalm 110:5; Isaiah 41:10, 13.) Then we will avoid all kinds of troubles, for Jehovah will support us, and we will never totter.
15. (a) With regard to what should we never fail to persevere in prayer? (b) What caution is given regarding our thankfulness?
15 May we never fail to express thanks to Jehovah for all his goodness to us, yes, “the surpassing undeserved kindness of God,” which includes the gift of his Son as a ransom sacrifice for our sins. (2 Corinthians 9:14, 15; Mark 10:45; John 3:16; Romans 8:32; 1 John 4:9, 10) Indeed, in Jesus’ name, be “giving thanks always for all things to our God and Father.” (Ephesians 5:19, 20; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:18) We must be careful not to let our thankfulness for what we have be soured because we are so preoccupied with what we do not have or with our personal problems.
Throwing Our Burdens Upon Jehovah
16. When some burden troubles us, what should we do?
16 Persistence in prayer shows our depth of devotion. When we call on God, the effect on us is good even before an answer comes from him. If some burden is troubling our minds, we can stay close to Jehovah by following the counsel: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you.” (Psalm 55:22) By throwing all our burdens—anxieties, worries, disappointments, fears, and so forth—upon God, with full faith in him, we receive a calmness of heart, “the peace of God that excels all thought.”—Philippians 4:4, 7; Psalm 68:19; Mark 11:24; 1 Peter 5:7.
17. How may we obtain the peace of God?
17 Does this peace of God come instantly? Though we may get some relief immediately, what Jesus said about praying for holy spirit holds true here also: “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.” (Luke 11:9-13) Since holy spirit is the means by which we cast off anxiety, we need to persevere in asking for the peace of God and his help with regard to our burdens. We can be sure that by persistence in prayer, we will get the desired relief and calmness of heart.
18. What does Jehovah do for us if we do not know exactly what to pray for in a certain situation?
18 But what if we do not know exactly what to pray for? Our inward groans often remain unexpressed because we do not fully understand our situation, or we are at a loss as to what to present to Jehovah. It is here that the holy spirit can intercede for us. Paul wrote: “The problem of what we should pray for as we need to we do not know, but the spirit itself pleads for us with groanings unuttered.” (Romans 8:26) How so? In God’s Word are inspired prophecies and prayers that bear on our situation. He lets these intercede for us, as it were. He accepts these as being what we would pray for if only we knew their meaning in our case, and accordingly he fulfills them.
Prayer and Hope to Continue
19. Why will prayer and hope continue forever?
19 Prayer to our heavenly Father will continue forever, especially with regard to thankfulness for the new world and all its blessings. (Isaiah 65:24; Revelation 21:5) We will also continue to rejoice in hope, for hope in some form will remain forever. (Compare 1 Corinthians 13:13.) What new things Jehovah will bring forth when he is no longer under his self-imposed Sabbath day of rest toward the earth, we cannot even imagine. (Genesis 2:2, 3) For all eternity, he will have loving surprises ahead for his people, and the future holds grand things for them in the way of doing his will.
20. What should be our determination, and why?
20 With such a thrilling hope ahead of us, may all of us stay close to Jehovah by persevering in prayer. May we never cease thanking our heavenly Father for all our blessings. In due time our expectations will be joyfully realized, even beyond what we could have imagined or anticipated, for Jehovah can “do more than superabundantly beyond all the things we ask or conceive.” (Ephesians 3:20) In view of this, then, let us give all praise and glory and thanks for all eternity to Jehovah our God, the “Hearer of prayer”!
According to Webster’s New Dictionary of Synonyms, “Persevere nearly always implies an admirable quality; it suggests both refusal to be discouraged by failure, doubts, or difficulties, and a steadfast or dogged pursuit of an end or an undertaking.”
How Would You Answer?
□ Why do we need to persevere in prayer?
□ What do we learn from pre-Christian examples of prayer?
□ What does Jesus’ example teach us about prayer?
□ How can we throw our burdens on Jehovah and with what result?
[Picture on page 17]
Daniel persevered in prayer despite the threat of being thrown into the lions’ pit