Millions of religious people pray every day to some higher power they call God. But do their prayers mean anything? Is anyone really listening? The Bible shows us that prayer really does make a difference. You can get answers to your prayers, if you genuinely act on the inspired instructions of your Bible!
Millions of religious people pray every day to some higher power they call God. But do their prayers mean anything? Is anyone up there really listening? The Bible shows us that prayer really does make a difference. You can get answers to your prayers, if you genuinely act on the inspired instructions of your Bible!
Perhaps you pray. Perhaps you tried to pray and became discouraged because you didn't seem to get any answers. Maybe you memorized prayers as a ritual and hope that some kind of superstitious obeisance to an unknown God will somehow keep you out of Hell.
But what does the Bible say? In His kindness and mercy to tiny human beings, God has given us the gift of truth through the book we call the Holy Bible. But you must read it and seek to have a relationship with its author, the Creator God and His Son Jesus Christ. And when you do, you'll find the Bible gives us promises that money can't buy! Take a look at one of the Bible's promises of what God can do for you: "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Listen to what the Bible claims God can do for you! God "is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think!" (Ephesians 3:20).
What kind of problems do you have? Do you have health problems? Financial problems? Mental health problems? Employment problems? Family problems? Social problems? Academic problems? God can help you solve ANY PROBLEM YOU HAVE! Of course you have to do YOUR part, but the Creator God has ALL POWER in the universe. He can give you dramatic deliverance and help you in miraculous ways!
If God is to help solve your problems and answer your prayers, what does He expect of YOU? See what the Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:6: "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."
As you read the Bible accounts of how God helped people and delivered them from tremendous stresses and trials, you will come to have more faith. Read the stories of Daniel in the lions' den; the deliverance of Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego from the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon; and the escape of the ancient Israelites through the Red Sea. Read about the miracles performed by Jesus of Nazareth—the Son of God—in healing the diseased, the blind, the lame, and the deaf. Read of how Jesus raised the dead to life! This will help give you faith and hope!
The prophet Jeremiah gave hope to the people of ancient Judah whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken captive to Babylon. After they learned their lessons, God promised to respond to their humble prayer: "For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord" (Jeremiah 29:10–14).
That same principle applies to you! You can have a conversation with the Creator of the Universe! He says you can find Him, if you seek Him with your whole heart. You can pray or talk to Him and He says: "I will listen to you!"
What does the Bible teach us regarding how we should pray? After Jesus chose his disciples, they asked Him to teach them to pray: "Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples'" (Luke 11:1).
What did Jesus teach them? He gave his disciples an outline of subjects to talk to God about. "So He said to them, 'When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one'" (Luke 11:2–4).
Christ's "model prayer" shows us that the first important aspect of our prayer is the acknowledgement of who God is! He is our Father. The Apostle Paul describes this relationship in prayer: "I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named" (Ephesians 3:14–15).
Since God is your Father, He wants you to acknowledge yourself as His son or daughter, and recognize in your prayers the very personal and intimate relationship that He desires to share with you. You may also want to acknowledge God as the Creator, as King David often did in his prayers, many of which are recorded in the book of Psalms in your Bible.
If ever you feel that you do not know what to pray about, just open your Bible to the book of Psalms. Many of the Psalms are the heartfelt prayers of David. He was very straightforward, open and honest with God about his feelings, his anxieties and his problems. David stood in awe at the heavens and the expansiveness of the Creation. You can see this in so many of the Psalms; look especially at Psalm 8, or Psalms 18, 19 and 24 to be inspired by David's example.
What is the next subject Jesus shows us we should pray about? "Your kingdom come" (Luke 11:2). You will want to follow Christ's example by praying for His Work—that the good news, the gospel will be preached in all the world. Why does Jesus Christ need to come back and rule over the whole earth? When you read your daily newspaper or listen to the news, don't you often utter an immediate, heartfelt prayer for God's Kingdom to come soon? The tragedies of Kosovo, the violence, murders and killings—even in our schools—make us yearn for God's Kingdom.
Our prayers should reflect this yearning. The whole world needs the Kingdom of God. It needs to be reeducated to uphold godly values—the way of life that produces joy and peace. That is the way of God's law. Jesus will teach the whole world the true way of living—including the Ten Commandments and their magnification and application. There is a way of love that produces right results. Every nation on earth needs that kind of education!
Jesus next taught us in the outline prayer the importance of seeking to do God's will and not our own. Jesus taught us to pray: "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Luke 11:2). This is an extremely important key to answered prayer. Human beings are by nature extremely selfish. The worldly view is one of lust and greed. We all have had, and maybe you still have, the "get" motive! Billions just want their lusts to be satiated. They want their own way. We read in Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25: "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (KJV). But God's way, exemplified by Jesus of Nazareth, is the "give" way! Is that the way you pray? Do you pray for others before you pray for yourself? Pray for God's will to be done in your life—He knows what is best for us!
When Jesus prayed in agony the night before His crucifixion, He asked that the cup of suffering be passed from Him IF it were God's will! Notice that in Luke 22:42, Jesus prayed: "'Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.' Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground."
Jesus was willing to suffer for YOU! He surrendered HIS will to that of the Father's will! When you are struggling over some problem or trial, ask for God's deliverance, but also pray that His will be done. Do you fear that this is too much to ask, and that you cannot handle a trial? Notice that God strengthened Jesus to endure the sacrifice He was to make.
God also makes His will known in the thousands of promises He gives us in the Bible. You can claim those promises! Let us look at a couple of them. "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). What do you have need of? Do you have need of food or clothing? Do you have need of a job? Then ask! God promises to provide your every need, but you must do your part! What did Jesus say? "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7). As long as you are asking God's will to be done, not your own, He will provide your every need as He has promised!
We have other needs that we sometimes do not really recognize, such as being put back on the right spiritual track when we have gone astray. Sometimes we need correction. We can be comforted to realize that our Lord will give us the guidance we need to get back on the right track. Sometimes this can be painful, but it is always for our benefit (cf. Hebrews 12).
If we are to experience the power of prayer, seeking God's will, we must have our priorities straight. What are your priorities in life? Do you know what your goal in life should be? In the sixth chapter of the book of Matthew, Jesus emphasized that God will provide our needs, but that we also have a role to play: "But seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33). To what "things" was Jesus referring? He was speaking of all the physical things humans need and often worry about because they do not trust God! Jesus chided these fearful people for their anxieties: "Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" (Matthew 6:30).
That's right! There is no need to fear! God has made the wonderful promise that as we seek first the Kingdom of God, we will also be establishing a close relationship with our Father in Heaven, and with His Son—our Savior—Jesus Christ. God knows what we have need of, but He wants us to learn to trust Him and to be dependent upon Him.
Every American knows that his country's currency has imprinted or engraved upon it: "In God we trust." Can we live up to this simple but profound motto?
Another very basic principle in experiencing the power of prayer is this: Just speak from the heart. You do not need to get caught up in memorized prayers that become vain and meaningless. In Matthew's gospel, Jesus warned us about useless repetitions: "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him" (Matthew 6:7–8).
Many different religions emphasize repetitious prayers—saying the same few words over and over again, or using prayer wheels or prayer flags that supposedly send a message from the practitioner to his unseen god. God says all of that is in vain! Remember, God expects you to seek a PERSONAL relationship with Him. Since He knows your needs, simple requests may be all that are necessary, but one must be sincere and heartfelt as you would be in dealing with a loved one!
You may be familiar with John 10:10 in which Jesus said: "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." Christians do suffer and experience many trials in life. But they have the power of Christ to help them endure. They also have the opportunity to recapture the true values of life and abundant living. So in addition to God's promise that He will provide our every need, there is a special promise concerning the desires of our heart. "Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4). What an amazing promise! Obviously these must be lawful desires, in harmony with God's will. But if you are in harmony with God's will, then there are so many ways in which God is eager to enrich your life and fulfill your desires. In my own life, God fulfilled this promise in a wonderful way. More than 30 years ago, in 1967, I began to pray for one of the desires of my heart—to travel to the Holy Land and visit the city of Jerusalem, where Christ will establish the capital of the world when He returns. Did God answer my prayer and give me the desire of my heart? Yes, He did, but not right away. Year after year, I thought about the possibility of traveling to Jerusalem. In my thoughts and in my prayers, for 17 years, I shared this heartfelt desire with my Father in Heaven. Then in 1984, 17 years after I began to claim the promise of Psalm 37:4, God gave my wife and me the opportunity to participate in an archaeological excavation in the City of David, just south of the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem. It was hard work, but it was a thrilling experience and an educational one as well. God gave me one of the desires of my heart—even though I had to wait a long time for it. God keeps His promises, but we must claim them with patience and faith and obedience.
God wants you to pray to Him and to share your life with Him. And as we've seen, prayer changes things. Prayer is your lifeline to God. But does God hear the prayers of unrepentant sinners? Let us understand: one cannot continue to practice sin and think that God will hear his prayers. As the prophet Isaiah wrote: "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear" (Isaiah 59:1).
God will not hear the prayers of hardened, unrepentant, practicing sinners. But what if you really, deeply, want to change your life? What if your heartfelt desire is to be delivered from your sinful habits? If you really want God's help to repent and change, and if you exercise the courage to step out and confess your sins personally and privately to God, then God will help you.
How do you know He will? Scripture illustrates this with Christ's story of the Pharisee and the publican: "Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself: "God, I thank You that I am not like other men; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess." And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying: "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted'" (Luke 18:9–14).
God will not hear the prayers of an unrepentant sinner. But He will hear your prayer if you are deeply and sincerely sorry, and if you acknowledge your sinfulness, just as God heard the humble confession of the publican. As the Apostle John wrote: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). That is God's promise. It takes courage to admit our sins. But we must all humble ourselves and seek God with all our heart.
What will happen when we do this? God tells us in Isaiah 55:6–7: "Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon."
God wants to share eternity with us. As a loving Father, He promises to give us our basic needs. He promises to give us "good things." And He promises to give us the desires of our heart. But we must be willing to seek Him, trust Him and obey Him. Read your Bible and follow the instructions of your Savior in praying to your Father in Heaven! You will be on your way to forgiveness, mercy, understanding and indescribable blessings and victories over sin. Remember the promise of Ephesians 3:20 that God "is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think." Claim God's promises. Establish that lifeline of prayer! It will mean a new life for you now in this age, and the promise of life for eternity through our living Savior, Jesus Christ.