“Let Your Petitions Be Made Known to God”
“In everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God.”—PHILIPPIANS 4:6.
1. With whom do we have the privilege to communicate, and why is that so amazing?
IF YOU were to request an audience with the ruler of your country, what kind of response would you get? You might receive a polite reply from his office, but it is highly unlikely that you would be allowed to speak with the ruler himself. However, with the greatest Ruler of all, Jehovah God, the Sovereign of the universe, the situation is different. We have access to him from any place we may be and at any time we may choose. Acceptable prayers will always reach him. (Proverbs 15:29) That is truly wonderful! Should not appreciation for this move us to pray regularly to the One who is rightly called the “Hearer of prayer”?—Psalm 65:2.
2. What is necessary for prayers to be acceptable to God?
2 However, someone may ask, ‘What prayers are acceptable to God?’ The Bible explains one thing that is necessary for prayers to be acceptable when it states: “Without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Yes, as explained in the preceding article, a key factor in approaching God is faith. God is willing to accept the prayers of those who approach him, but they must do so in faith and with right works along with sincerity and a right heart attitude.
3. (a) As shown by the prayers of faithful servants of old, what types of expressions may be included in prayers? (b) What forms may our prayers take?
3 The apostle Paul urged Christians in his day: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) The Bible contains many examples of those who took their concerns to God. Among such ones are Hannah, Elijah, Hezekiah, and Daniel. (1 Samuel 2:1-10; 1 Kings 18:36, 37; 2 Kings 19:15-19; Daniel 9:3-21) We should follow their example. Note, too, that Paul’s words show that our prayers can take various forms. He mentioned thanksgiving, that is, prayer in which we express appreciation for what God does for us. This may be accompanied by praise. Supplication refers to humble, earnest entreaty. And we can express petitions, or requests for something specific. (Luke 11:2, 3) Our heavenly Father is happy to accept our approach to him in any of these ways.
4. Although Jehovah knows our needs, why do we still make petitions to him?
4 Some may ask, ‘Does not Jehovah already know all our needs?’ Yes, he does. (Matthew 6:8, 32) Why, then, does he still want us to approach him with our petitions? Consider this example: A store owner may offer a gift to some of his customers. However, to receive this gift, the customers must come to the owner and claim it. Those unwilling to make the effort to do so would show that they do not really appreciate the offer. Similarly, neglecting to make our petitions known in prayer would show a lack of appreciation for what Jehovah provides. Jesus said: “Ask and you will receive.” (John 16:24) In this way, we demonstrate our reliance on God.
How Should We Approach God?
5. Why do we need to pray in Jesus’ name?
5 Jehovah does not lay down a lot of rigid rules on how to pray. Nevertheless, we need to learn the proper approach to God, which is explained in the Bible. For instance, Jesus taught his followers: “If you ask the Father for anything he will give it to you in my name.” (John 16:23) Hence, we are required to pray in Jesus’ name, recognizing Jesus as the sole channel through which God’s blessings are extended to all mankind.
6. When praying, what bodily position should we assume?
6 What bodily position should we assume when praying? In the Bible, no particular position is specified for our prayers to be heard. (1 Kings 8:22; Nehemiah 8:6; Mark 11:25; Luke 22:41) What is important is to pray to God in sincerity and with the right heart attitude.—Joel 2:12, 13.
7. (a) What is the meaning of “amen”? (b) How is it appropriately used in prayers?
7 What about the use of the word “amen”? The Scriptures indicate that this is usually a suitable conclusion to our prayers, especially when we pray in public. (Psalm 72:19; 89:52) The Hebrew word ʼa·menʹ has the basic meaning of “surely.” McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia explains that the significance of saying “Amen” at the end of prayers is “to confirm the words which have preceded, and invoke the fulfilment of them.” Thus, by concluding with a sincere “Amen,” the one praying indicates his earnest feelings about what he has just said. When a Christian representing the congregation in prayer concludes with this expression, those listening may also add an “Amen” in their hearts or audibly to indicate their strong approval of what has just been said.—1 Corinthians 14:16.
8. How may some of our prayers resemble the prayers of Jacob or Abraham, and what would this demonstrate on our part?
8 There are times when God may allow us to demonstrate the depth of our concern about matters for which we pray. We may need to become like Jacob of old, who wrestled all night with an angel in order to obtain a blessing. (Genesis 32:24-26) Or some circumstances may require that we become like Abraham, who repeatedly appealed to Jehovah in behalf of Lot and any other righteous people who might be in Sodom. (Genesis 18:22-33) We may similarly plead with Jehovah about things that are precious to us, appealing to him on the basis of his justice, loving-kindness, and mercy.
What May We Ask For?
9. What should be our main concerns when praying?
9 Remember that Paul said: “In everything . . . let your petitions be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) Hence, personal prayers may touch virtually every facet of life. However, the first concern in our prayers should be Jehovah’s interests. Daniel set a fine example in this. When Israel suffered punishment because of their sins, Daniel implored Jehovah to show mercy, saying: “Do not delay, for your own sake, O my God, for your own name.” (Daniel 9:15-19) Do our prayers likewise show that the sanctification of Jehovah’s name and the fulfillment of his will are our main concerns?
10. How do we know that it is appropriate to pray about personal matters?
10 Nevertheless, it is also appropriate to make requests concerning personal matters. For example, like the psalmist, we may pray for deeper spiritual comprehension. He prayed: “Make me understand, that I may observe your law and that I may keep it with the whole heart.” (Psalm 119:33, 34; Colossians 1:9, 10) Jesus “offered up supplications and also petitions to the One who was able to save him out of death.” (Hebrews 5:7) In so doing, he demonstrated the appropriateness of seeking strength when one faces danger or trials. When giving the model prayer to his disciples, Jesus included matters of personal concern, such as forgiving errors and obtaining daily food.
11. How can prayer help us not to succumb to temptations?
11 In that model prayer, Jesus included the request: “Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.” (Matthew 6:9-13) He later counseled: “Keep on the watch and pray continually, that you may not enter into temptation.” (Matthew 26:41) Prayer is essential when we face temptations. We may be tempted to ignore Bible principles at work or at school. Non-Witnesses may invite us to join them in questionable activities. We may be asked to do something that violates upright principles. At such times, we do well to follow Jesus’ counsel to pray—both in advance and when actually facing a temptation—asking God to help us so that we do not fall.
12. What causes of anxiety might move us to pray, and what can we expect of Jehovah?
12 Various pressures and anxieties arise in the lives of God’s servants today. Illness and emotional stress are major sources of anxiety for many. Violent conditions around us make life stressful. Economic hardships make it difficult to eke out a living. How comforting it is to know that Jehovah lends an ear to his servants who bring these matters to him! Psalm 102:17 states about Jehovah: “He will certainly turn to the prayer of those stripped of everything, and not despise their prayer.”
13. (a) What personal matters are fitting subjects for prayer? (b) Relate an example of such a prayer.
13 Actually, any matter that affects our service to Jehovah or our relationship with him can be a fitting subject for prayer. (1 John 5:14) If you have decisions to make about marriage or employment or about expanding your ministry, feel free to bring these to God, asking for his guidance. A young woman in the Philippines, for example, wanted to share in the full-time ministry. However, she did not have a job to support herself. She says: “One Saturday, I prayed to Jehovah specifically about pioneering. Later that same day, when out in the preaching work, I offered a book to a teenager. Out of the blue, the girl said: ‘You should go to my school first thing Monday morning.’ I asked, ‘Why?’ She explained that there was a job vacancy that needed to be filled as soon as possible. I went, and I was hired right away. It all happened so quickly.” Numerous Witnesses around the world have had similar experiences. So do not hesitate to bring your heartfelt petitions to God in prayer!
What if We Have Sinned?
14, 15. (a) Why should a person not hold back from praying even if he has sinned? (b) Besides personal prayers, what else will aid a person in his recovery from sin?
14 How can prayer help if someone has sinned? Because of shame, some who have sinned hold back from praying. That, however, is not a wise course to follow. To illustrate: Airplane pilots know that if they get lost, they can communicate with air traffic controllers to get help. What, though, if a lost pilot hesitates to contact the controllers because he is embarrassed that he got lost? That could lead to disaster! Similarly, the person who has sinned and is embarrassed to pray to God could suffer further harm. Shame over sin should not stop one from speaking with Jehovah. In fact, God invites those who have made serious errors to pray to him. The prophet Isaiah urged sinners in his day to call to Jehovah, “for he will forgive in a large way.” (Isaiah 55:6, 7) Of course, one may need to ‘soften the face of Jehovah’ by first softening one’s own heart, turning from the sinful course, and sincerely repenting.—Psalm 119:58; Daniel 9:13.
15 Where sin is involved, prayer becomes important for yet another reason. The disciple James states regarding someone needing spiritual help: “Let him call the older men of the congregation to him, and let them pray over him, . . . and Jehovah will raise him up.” (James 5:14, 15) Yes, an individual should personally confess his sin to Jehovah in prayer, but he can also ask the older men to pray in his behalf. That will aid him in his spiritual recovery.
Answers to Prayers
16, 17. (a) How does Jehovah answer prayers? (b) What experiences illustrate that prayer and the preaching work are closely connected?
16 How are prayers answered? Some may be answered quickly and obviously. (2 Kings 20:1-6) Others may take some time, and the answers may be harder to discern. As shown in Jesus’ illustration about the widow who kept coming back to the judge, repeated approach to God may be necessary. (Luke 18:1-8) However, we can be assured that when we pray in harmony with God’s will, Jehovah will never tell us: “Quit making me trouble.”—Luke 11:5-9.
17 Jehovah’s people have much experience in seeing prayers answered. This has often been apparent in our public ministry. For example, two Christian sisters in the Philippines were distributing Bible literature in a remote area of the country. When they gave a tract to one woman, her eyes filled with tears. She said: “Last night I prayed to God to send someone to teach the Bible to me, and I think that this is the answer to my prayer.” Shortly thereafter, the woman began attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall. In another part of Southeast Asia, a Christian brother was nervous about preaching in a high-security residential complex. However, he prayed to Jehovah, took courage, and entered the building. He knocked on the door of an apartment, and a young woman appeared. When the brother explained the reason for his visit, she began to cry. She said that she had been looking for Jehovah’s Witnesses and had prayed for help to find them. The brother gladly helped her get in touch with the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
18. (a) When our prayers are answered, how should we respond? (b) Of what can we be assured if we pray at every opportunity?
18 Prayer truly is a wonderful provision. Jehovah is ready to listen and to respond. (Isaiah 30:18, 19) Yet, we need to be observant as to how Jehovah answers our prayers. It may not always be in the way we expected. Still, when we discern his guidance, we should never forget to offer our thanks and praise to him. (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Moreover, always remember the apostle Paul’s admonition: “In everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God.” Yes, take advantage of every opportunity to talk to God. In that way, you will continue to experience the truthfulness of what Paul states regarding those whose prayers are answered: “The peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
Can You Answer?
• What forms may our prayers take?
• How should we pray?
• What subjects may we include in our prayers?
• What is the role of prayer when one has sinned?
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Heartfelt prayer helps us not to succumb to temptations
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Through prayer, we express to God our gratitude, concerns, and petitions