Does God Listen When You Pray?
A CHIEF executive decides whether he will delegate a matter or will handle it personally. Similarly, the Sovereign Ruler of the universe has the option to determine the extent of his personal involvement in any matter. The Scriptures teach that God has chosen to involve himself personally in our prayers and therefore direct us to address these to him.—Psalm 66:19; 69:13.
God’s choice in this matter reveals his personal interest in the prayers of his human servants. Rather than discourage his people from approaching him with every thought and care, he exhorts them: “Pray incessantly,” “persevere in prayer,” “throw your burden upon Jehovah himself,” “throw all your anxiety upon [God].”—1 Thessalonians 5:17; Romans 12:12; Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7.
If God did not want to give attention to his servants’ prayers, he would never have arranged for such access to him and encouraged free use of it. This, then, God’s choosing to make himself so approachable to his people, is one reason for confidence that he actually listens. Yes, he gives consideration to each of his servants’ prayers.
Not to be overlooked is the fact that the Bible plainly states that God listens to prayer. The apostle John, for example, writes: “This is the confidence that we have toward him, that, no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14) King David referred to Jehovah God as the “Hearer of prayer” and confidently asserted: “He hears my voice.”—Psalm 55:17; 65:2.
So while the act of praying doubtless has benefits in itself, the Scriptures show that much more is involved when a righteous person prays. Someone is listening. That listener is God.—James 5:16-18.
Prayers That Were Heard
The Bible abounds with accounts of people whose prayers were, in fact, heard and answered by God. Their experiences clearly confirm that the benefits of prayer go beyond the therapeutic effect of sorting out and expressing one’s thoughts. They go beyond a person’s personal efforts in harmony with his prayers.
For example, when confronted by Absalom’s conspiracy to usurp the kingship of Israel, King David prayed: “Turn, please, the counsel of Ahithophel [Absalom’s adviser] into foolishness, O Jehovah!” No small request, as “the counsel of Ahithophel . . . was just as when a man would inquire of the word of the true God. That was the way all the counsel of Ahithophel was.” Absalom thereafter rejected Ahithophel’s suggested strategy for overthrowing King David. Why? “Jehovah himself had given command to frustrate the counsel of Ahithophel although good, in order that Jehovah might bring calamity upon Absalom.” Plainly, David’s prayer was heard.—2 Samuel 15:31; 16:23; 17:14.
Similarly, after Hezekiah supplicated God for deliverance from his terminal illness, he recovered. Was this simply because of the psychological benefits to Hezekiah as a result of having prayed? No, indeed! Jehovah’s message to Hezekiah, as delivered by the prophet Isaiah, was: “I have heard your prayer. I have seen your tears. Here I am healing you.”—2 Kings 20:1-6.
Daniel, whose prayer was answered later than he may have expected, was assured by Jehovah’s angel: “Your words have been heard.” The prayers of others, such as those of Hannah, Jesus’ disciples, and the army officer Cornelius, were answered in ways that cannot be credited to human ability alone. The Bible, then, clearly teaches that prayers in harmony with the divine will are received, heard, and answered by God.—Daniel 10:2-14; 1 Samuel 1:1-20; Acts 4:24-31; 10:1-7.
But how does God answer the prayers of his faithful servants today?
Answers to Prayers
The prayers cited above were answered in dramatic, miraculous ways. Please bear in mind, though, that even in Bible times, the most frequent answers to prayers were not so easily discernible. This is because they related to giving moral strength and enlightenment, enabling God’s servants to hold to a righteous course. Especially for Christians, answers to prayers involved matters that were mainly spiritual, not spectacular or powerful acts.—Colossians 1:9.
Hence, do not be disappointed if your prayers are not always answered in the way that you expect or prefer. For example, rather than remove a trial, God might choose to give you “power beyond what is normal” to endure it. (2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:17) Never should we minimize the value of such power, nor should we conclude that Jehovah did not really answer our prayer at all.
Consider the case of none other than God’s Son, Jesus Christ. In his concern not to die as an apparent blasphemer, Jesus prayed: “Father, if you wish, remove this cup from me.” Was this prayer favorably heard by God? Yes, as confirmed at Hebrews 5:7. Jehovah did not relieve his Son of the need to die on a torture stake. Instead, “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.”—Luke 22:42, 43.
A dramatic, miraculous answer? To any of us, it would be! But to Jehovah God, the source of such power, this was no miracle. And Jesus was, from his earlier life in heaven, familiar with past instances when angels appeared to humans. So an angel’s appearance would not have the dramatic impact on him that it would on us. Nevertheless, this angel, whom Jesus evidently knew personally from His prehuman existence, helped to strengthen Him for the trial just ahead.
In answering the prayers of his faithful servants today, Jehovah frequently gives the needed strength to endure. This support might take the form of encouragement from fellow worshipers with whom we are personally associated. Would any of us want to reject that encouragement, perhaps concluding that since our fellow servants have not experienced trials similar to ours, they are in no position to strengthen us? Jesus could have taken just such a view toward the angel who appeared to him. Instead, he accepted the encouragement as Jehovah’s answer to his prayer and so was able to fulfill faithfully his Father’s will. We too will want to accept graciously the strength that God gives in answer to our prayers. Remember, too, that such periods of patient endurance are often followed by untold blessings.—Ecclesiastes 11:6; James 5:11.
Be Confident That God Listens
Never lose confidence in the effectiveness of prayer if you are not answered right away. Answers to some prayers, such as those for personal relief from distress or for increased responsibility in one’s service to God, may have to wait for the time that God knows is right and best. (Luke 18:7, 8; 1 Peter 5:6) If you are praying regarding a matter of deep personal concern, show God by your persistence that your desire is intense, your motive pure and genuine. Jacob manifested this spirit when, after wrestling at length with an angel, he said: “I am not going to let you go until you first bless me.” (Genesis 32:24-32) We must have similar confidence that if we keep asking, we will receive a blessing in due time.—Luke 11:9.
One final thought. To receive a hearing ear from the Sovereign of the universe is a precious privilege. In view of this, do we carefully listen when Jehovah God, through his Word, speaks to us of his requirements? As our prayers bring us intimately closer to our Creator, we will want to give serious attention to everything that he has to say to us.
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God listens to prayers. Do we listen to him through his Word?