DO ALL prayers go to the same place, regardless of who is being addressed? In today’s world, it is often popular to assume so. The notion appeals to many who favor interfaith movements and want all religions to be acceptable, despite their differences. Is it possible, though, that the idea is untrue?
The Bible teaches that a great many prayers are, in fact, misdirected. Back when the Bible was written, it was common for people to direct their prayers to carved images. Yet, God repeatedly warned against that practice. For example, Psalm 115:4-6 says about idols: “Ears they have, but they cannot hear.” The point is clear. Why pray to a god who will never hear you?
A vivid Bible account enlarges on this point. The true prophet Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to pray to their god, after which Elijah would pray to his. Elijah said that the true God would answer and the false one would not. Accepting the challenge, the Baal prophets prayed long and hard, even with loud outcries—but to no avail! The account reads: “There was no one answering, and there was no paying of attention.” (1 Kings 18:29) How, though, did Elijah fare?
After Elijah prayed, his God answered instantly, sending fire from heaven to consume an offering that Elijah had set out. What was the difference? There is one vital clue in Elijah’s prayer itself, recorded at 1 Kings 18:36, 37. It is a very short prayer—there are only about 30 words in the original Hebrew. Yet, in those few lines, Elijah three times addressed God by his personal name, Jehovah.
Baal, meaning “owner” or “master,” was the god of the Canaanites, and there were many local versions of this deity. Jehovah, however, is a unique name, applying only to one Personage in all the universe. This God told his people: “I am Jehovah. That is my name; and to no one else shall I give my own glory.”—Isaiah 42:8.
Did Elijah’s prayer and the prayers of those Baal prophets go to the same place? Baal worship degraded people with ritual prostitution and even human sacrifice. In contrast, the worship of Jehovah ennobled his people, Israel, freeing them from such degrading practices. So think about it: If you specifically addressed a letter to a highly respected friend, would you expect it to be delivered to someone who did not bear your friend’s name and whose vile reputation contradicted everything your friend stood for? Surely not!
Elijah’s challenge to the Baal prophets proved that all prayers do not go to the same place
If you pray to Jehovah, you are praying to the Creator, the Father of mankind.* “You, O Jehovah, are our Father,” said the prophet Isaiah in prayer. (Isaiah 63:16) This, then, is the very One about whom Jesus Christ spoke when he told his followers: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.” (John 20:17) Jehovah is Jesus’ Father. He is the God to whom Jesus prayed and to whom Jesus taught his followers to pray.—Matthew 6:9.
Does the Bible instruct us to pray to Jesus, to Mary, to saints, or to angels? No—only to Jehovah. Consider two reasons why. First, prayer is a form of worship, and the Bible says that worship should go exclusively to Jehovah. (Exodus 20:5) Second, the Bible reveals that he bears the title “Hearer of prayer.” (Psalm 65:2) Although Jehovah delegates generously, this is a responsibility he has never passed on to anyone. He is the God who promises to hear our prayers personally.
So if you want your prayers to be heard by God, remember this Scriptural admonition: “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” (Acts 2:21) But does Jehovah hear all prayers unconditionally? Or is there anything else we need to know if we want our prayers to Jehovah to be heard?
Some religious traditions say that it is wrong to pronounce God’s personal name, even in prayer. However, that name appears some 7,000 times in the Bible’s original languages, in many cases within the prayers and psalms of faithful servants of Jehovah.