Why Should We Pray Incessantly?
“Pray incessantly. In connection with everything give thanks.”—1 Thessalonians 5:17, 18.
1, 2. How did Daniel show that he appreciated the privilege of prayer, and what effect did that have on his relationship with God?
THE prophet Daniel had the custom of praying to God three times a day. He would kneel at the window of his roof chamber, which faced the city of Jerusalem, and offer up his petitions. (1 Kings 8:46-49; Daniel 6:10) Even when a royal decree prohibited petitions to anyone but Darius, the Median king, Daniel did not waver for one moment. Whether it endangered his life or not, this man of prayer entreated Jehovah incessantly.
2 How did Jehovah view Daniel? When the angel Gabriel came to answer one of Daniel’s prayers, he described the prophet as “someone very desirable” or “a man greatly beloved.” (Daniel 9:20-23; The New English Bible) In the prophecy of Ezekiel, Jehovah referred to Daniel as a righteous man. (Ezekiel 14:14, 20) Over the years, Daniel’s prayers evidently resulted in a close relationship with his God, a fact recognized even by Darius.—Daniel 6:16.
3. As shown by the experience of one missionary, how can prayer help us to maintain integrity?
3 Regular prayer can also help us face severe trials. For example, consider the case of Harold King, a missionary in China who was sentenced to five years in solitary confinement. Concerning his experience, Brother King said: “I might be isolated from my fellowmen, but no one could isolate me from God. . . . So, open to the view of any who might pass my cell, I knelt in my cell three times a day and prayed aloud, keeping in mind Daniel, of whom the Bible speaks. . . . It seemed that on such occasions God’s spirit guided my mind to the most beneficial matters and gave me a feeling of composure. What spiritual strength and comfort prayer brought to me!”
4. What questions concerning prayer will we consider in this article?
4 The Bible states: “Pray incessantly. In connection with everything give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, 18) In view of this counsel, let us consider the following questions: Why should we pay attention to our prayers? What reasons do we have for approaching Jehovah constantly? And what should we do if we feel unworthy to pray to God because of our shortcomings?
Build Friendship Through Prayer
5. What unique friendship does prayer help us to enjoy?
5 Would you like Jehovah to think of you as his friend? He spoke of the patriarch Abraham in that way. (Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23) Jehovah wants us to develop that sort of relationship with him. He actually invites us to draw close to him. (James 4:8) Should not that invitation make us reflect on the unique provision of prayer? How difficult it is to obtain an appointment to speak to an important government official, let alone become his friend! Yet, the Creator of the universe encourages us to approach him freely in prayer, whenever we want or need to do so. (Psalm 37:5) Our incessant prayers help us to have a close friendship with Jehovah.
6. What does the example of Jesus teach us about the need to “pray continually”?
6 How easily, though, we can neglect prayer! Just dealing with pressures of everyday life can absorb so much of our attention that we do not make an effort to speak to God. Jesus encouraged his disciples to “pray continually,” and he himself did that. (Matthew 26:41) Though he invariably found himself busy from morning to night, he set aside time to talk to his heavenly Father. Sometimes, Jesus got up “early in the morning, while it was still dark,” in order to pray. (Mark 1:35) On other occasions, he retired to a lonely place at the end of the day in order to talk to Jehovah. (Matthew 14:23) Jesus always made time to pray, and so should we.—1 Peter 2:21.
7. What circumstances should move us to talk to our heavenly Father daily?
7 Appropriate moments for private prayer present themselves many times each day as we face problems, encounter temptations, and make decisions. (Ephesians 6:18) When we seek God’s guidance in all aspects of life, our friendship with him is certain to grow. If two friends face problems together, does not the bond of friendship between them become stronger? (Proverbs 17:17) The same is true when we lean on Jehovah and experience his help.—2 Chronicles 14:11.
8. From the examples of Nehemiah, Jesus, and Hannah, what do we learn about the length of our personal prayers?
8 How glad we can be that God puts no limit on how long or how often we may talk to him in prayer! Nehemiah quickly uttered a silent prayer before making a petition to the king of Persia. (Nehemiah 2:4, 5) Jesus also offered a brief prayer when he requested that Jehovah give him the power to resurrect Lazarus. (John 11:41, 42) Hannah, on the other hand, “prayed extendedly before Jehovah” when she poured out her heart to him. (1 Samuel 1:12, 15, 16) Our personal prayers can be brief or lengthy according to the need and the circumstances.
9. Why should our prayers include praise and thanks for all that Jehovah does for us?
9 Many prayers in the Bible express heartfelt appreciation for Jehovah’s supreme position and his wonderful works. (Exodus 15:1-19; 1 Chronicles 16:7-36; Psalm 145) In a vision, the apostle John sees the 24 elders—the complete number of anointed Christians in their heavenly position—praise Jehovah, saying: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:10, 11) We too have reason to praise the Creator regularly. How happy parents feel when their child thanks them from the heart for something they have done for him! Reflecting appreciatively on Jehovah’s kindnesses and expressing our heartfelt gratitude for them is a fine way to improve the quality of our prayers.
10. What part does prayer play in strengthening our faith?
10 Regular prayer is essential to our faith. After illustrating the need “always to pray and not to give up,” Jesus asked: “When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8) Meaningful, heartfelt prayer builds faith. When the patriarch Abraham was getting old and had yet to produce offspring, he spoke with God about the matter. In reply, Jehovah first asked him to look up to the heavens and count the stars, if he possibly could. Then God reassured Abraham: “So your seed will become.” The result? Abraham “put faith in Jehovah; and he proceeded to count it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:5, 6) If we open our hearts to Jehovah in prayer, accept his assurances from the Bible, and obey him, he will strengthen our faith.
11. How can prayer help us to deal with problems?
11 Prayer can also help us to handle problems. Is our lot in life burdensome and the circumstances we face harsh? The Bible tells us: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.” (Psalm 55:22) When faced with difficult decisions, we can imitate Jesus’ example. He spent a whole night in private prayer before appointing his 12 apostles. (Luke 6:12-16) And on the night before he died, Jesus prayed so intensely that “his sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) The result? “He was favorably heard for his godly fear.” (Hebrews 5:7) Our fervent and incessant prayers will help us to cope with stressful situations and difficult trials.
12. How does the avenue of prayer illustrate Jehovah’s personal interest in us?
12 Another reason to draw closer to Jehovah by means of prayer is that he, in turn, draws closer to us. (James 4:8) When we open up our heart to Jehovah in prayer, do we not sense that he is interested in our needs and tenderly cares for us? We experience God’s love in a very personal way. Jehovah has not delegated to anyone else the responsibility of listening to each and every prayer that his servants direct to him as their heavenly Father. (Psalm 66:19, 20; Luke 11:2) And he invites us to ‘throw all our anxiety upon him because he cares for us.’—1 Peter 5:6, 7.
13, 14. What reasons do we have for praying incessantly?
13 Prayer can infuse us with greater zeal for the public ministry and strengthen us when apathy or opposition might make us feel like quitting. (Acts 4:23-31) Prayer can also safeguard us against “the machinations of the Devil.” (Ephesians 6:11, 17, 18) When struggling to cope with daily trials, we can constantly ask God to fortify us. Jesus’ model prayer includes the request that Jehovah “deliver us from the wicked one,” Satan the Devil.—Matthew 6:13.
14 If we continue to pray for help in controlling our sinful inclinations, we will experience Jehovah’s helping hand. We have this assurance: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) The apostle Paul himself experienced Jehovah’s strengthening care in a wide variety of circumstances. “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me,” he said.—Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 11:23-29.
Persevere in Prayer Despite Shortcomings
15. What can happen when our conduct falls short of God’s standards?
15 For our prayers to be favorably heard, we must not reject the counsel of God’s Word. “Whatever we ask we receive from him,” wrote the apostle John, “because we are observing his commandments and are doing the things that are pleasing in his eyes.” (1 John 3:22) What might happen, though, when our conduct falls short of God’s standards? Adam and Eve hid themselves after their sin in the garden of Eden. We too may feel inclined to hide “from the face of Jehovah” and stop praying. (Genesis 3:8) “I have noticed that invariably the first false step taken by those who drift away from Jehovah and his organization is that they stop praying,” observes Klaus, an experienced traveling overseer. (Hebrews 2:1) This was the case with José Ángel. He says: “For nearly eight years, I rarely prayed to Jehovah. I felt unworthy to talk to him, although I still considered him to be my heavenly Father.”
16, 17. Give examples of how regular prayer can help us to overcome spiritual weakness.
16 Some of us might feel unworthy to pray because of spiritual weakness or because we have lapsed into wrongdoing. But this is precisely when we need to take full advantage of the provision of prayer. Jonah ran away from his assignment. But ‘out of his distresses, Jonah called out to Jehovah, and He proceeded to answer him. Out of the belly of Sheol, Jonah cried for help, and Jehovah heard his voice.’ (Jonah 2:2) Jonah prayed, Jehovah answered his prayer, and Jonah recovered spiritually.
17 José Ángel also prayed fervently for help. He recalls: “I opened my heart and begged God for his forgiveness. And he did help me. I don’t think I would have returned to the truth without the help of prayer. I now pray regularly every day, and I look forward to these times.” We should always feel free to talk openly to God about our mistakes and humbly ask his forgiveness. When King David confessed his transgressions, Jehovah pardoned his sins. (Psalm 32:3-5) Jehovah wants to help us, not to condemn us. (1 John 3:19, 20) And the prayers of older men of the congregation can help us spiritually, for such petitions have “much force.”—James 5:13-16.
18. What confidence can God’s servants have regardless of how far they may have strayed?
18 What father would reject a son who humbly turns to him for help and advice after making a mistake? The parable of the prodigal son shows that regardless of how far we may have strayed, our heavenly Father rejoices when we return to him. (Luke 15:21, 22, 32) Jehovah urges all erring ones to call to him, “for he will forgive in a large way.” (Isaiah 55:6, 7) Although David committed several serious sins, he called on Jehovah, saying: “Do give ear, O God, to my prayer; and do not hide yourself from my request for favor.” He also said: “Evening and morning and noontime I cannot but show concern and I moan, and [Jehovah] hears my voice.” (Psalm 55:1, 17) How reassuring!
19. Why should we not conclude that seemingly unanswered prayers are evidence of God’s disapproval?
19 What if our petition does not meet with an immediate response? Then we must make certain that our request is in harmony with Jehovah’s will and is offered in Jesus’ name. (John 16:23; 1 John 5:14) The disciple James referred to some Christians whose prayers remained unanswered because they were “asking for a wrong purpose.” (James 4:3) On the other hand, we should not be quick to conclude that seemingly unanswered prayers are always evidence of God’s disapproval. Jehovah may at times allow faithful worshipers to keep on praying about a matter for a while before his response becomes apparent. “Keep on asking, and it will be given you,” Jesus said. (Matthew 7:7) Hence, we need to “persevere in prayer.”—Romans 12:12.
20, 21. (a) Why do we need to pray incessantly in these “last days”? (b) What will we receive when we daily approach Jehovah’s throne of undeserved kindness?
20 Pressures and problems are multiplying in these “last days,” marked by “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1) And trials can easily preoccupy our minds. Our incessant prayers, however, will help us to keep our lives on a spiritual course despite persistent problems, temptations, and discouragement. Our daily prayers to Jehovah can provide the vital support we need.
21 Jehovah, the “Hearer of prayer,” is never too busy to listen to us. (Psalm 65:2) Let us never be too busy to talk to him. Our friendship with God is the most precious possession we have. May we never take it for granted. “Let us, therefore, approach with freeness of speech to the throne of undeserved kindness, that we may obtain mercy and find undeserved kindness for help at the right time.”—Hebrews 4:16.
How Would You Answer?
• What do we learn from the prophet Daniel about the value of prayer?
• How can we strengthen our friendship with Jehovah?
• Why should we pray incessantly?
• Why should feelings of unworthiness not hinder us from praying to Jehovah?
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Nehemiah uttered a brief, silent prayer before speaking to the king
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Hannah “prayed extendedly before Jehovah”
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Jesus prayed all night before appointing his 12 apostles
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Opportunities for prayer present themselves throughout the day