WHEN it comes to prayer, many religious traditions focus on physical issues, such as posture, wording, and ritual. However, the Bible helps us to set such issues aside and focus on more important aspects of the question, “How should we pray?”
The Bible depicts faithful servants of God as praying in many settings and postures. They prayed silently or aloud as the circumstances dictated. They prayed while looking up at the sky or while bowing down. Rather than using images, beads, or prayer books as aids in prayer, they simply prayed from the heart in their own words. What made their prayers effective?
As mentioned in the preceding article, they directed their prayers only to one God—Jehovah. There is another important factor. We read at 1 John 5:14: “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.” Our prayers need to be in harmony with God’s will. What does that mean?
To pray in harmony with God’s will, we need to know what his will is. Study of the Bible, then, is an essential ingredient of prayer. Does this mean that God will refuse to hear us unless we are Bible scholars? No, but God expects us to look for his will, seeking to understand it and to act on it. (Matthew 7:21-23) We need to pray in harmony with what we learn.
Effective prayers are in harmony with God’s will, are offered in faith, and are presented in Jesus’ name
As we learn about Jehovah and his will, we grow in faith—another vital factor in prayer. Jesus said: “All the things you ask in prayer, having faith, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22) Faith does not mean gullibility. Rather, it means believing in something that even though unseen, is supported by very strong evidence. (Hebrews 11:1) The Bible is packed with evidence that Jehovah, whom we cannot see, is real, is reliable, and is willing to answer the prayers of those who have faith in him. Furthermore, we can always ask for more faith, and Jehovah loves to give us what we need.—Luke 17:5; James 1:17.
Here is yet another essential aspect of how to pray. Jesus said: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) So Jesus is the means of our approach to the Father, Jehovah. Thus, Jesus told his followers to pray in his name. (John 14:13; 15:16) That does not mean that we should pray to Jesus. Rather, we pray in the name of Jesus, remembering that Jesus is the reason that we are able to approach our perfect and holy Father.
Jesus’ closest followers once asked him: “Lord, teach us how to pray.” (Luke 11:1) Evidently, they were not asking about such basics as we have just discussed. They really wanted to know about content—in effect saying, ‘What should we pray about?’