As you face the stresses of daily life, are you making the time to come closer to God, to receive the peace and guidance only He can give? If you have never learned to pray, you still can!
We live in stressful and dangerous times. Our busy surroundings can make us frustrated, anxious and even sometimes angry. If you live in a big city, you probably spend hours commuting in congested traffic. Construction noise and loud neighbors produce tension and nervousness. Even friends and family may argue and bring stress to shatter your peace in life.
Is there a way to cope with our stress-filled world? Yes, there is! The Bible shows us the way to peace of mind through prayer. Prayer is our lifeline to God. If you learn how to pray more effectively, you can enjoy great benefits through His intervention in your life!
Do you pray regularly? Have you found peace of mind through prayer? In September 2006, Baylor University and the Gallup Organization released a survey of Americans' religious habits. The survey showed that "three-fourths of Americans pray at least once a week. More than one-fourth prayed several times a day" (Lexington Herald-Leader, Jan. 13, 2007).
Are you one of the three-fourths of Americans who pray? Why should we pray? One major reason is that we all need faith to face our dangerous and stress-filled world. How can we have faith? "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).
In other words, as we read the Bible, the word of God, we see how God intervenes in the lives of His people. We see that He has given us great promises that can change our lives and strengthen our faith. Notice this encouraging statement: "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:2–4).
When we feel discouraged—or even overwhelmed—by the corruption of the world around us, we can share our hearts with God in prayer. He asks us to make our requests known to Him. What kind of help do you need? Ask God for help. He promises to provide our every need. "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).
Share your needs, anxieties, fears, problems, and concerns with your Father in heaven. Talk to Him about your problems and worries. Yes, you have needs, but God promises to provide for them (Matthew 6:33–34). You can be thankful for that. When you pray, do not leave out the element of thanksgiving. Remember: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). As you share your concerns and needs with God in prayer, be sure to thank Him for His promises, for His love, and for His willingness to help you!
What happens when we follow this instruction? God assures us that "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (v. 7).
Yes, through Christ Jesus! This is an extremely important key to answered prayer. We pray by the authority of our Savior. We do not go through some human priest as an intercessor; in Jesus, we already have the greatest High Priest interceding with the Father on our behalf (Hebrews 4:14).
When we pray, we approach the throne of God in heaven. Our Father in heaven loves us. He wants us to pray directly to Him. Scripture tells us to come boldly to His throne of grace. We can do that because Jesus Christ is our great High Priest at the Father's right hand. "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14–16).
Our needs may be big or small. Many years ago, I wanted very much to find a particular natural food item that my local supermarkets did not stock. It seemed that my desire went unfulfilled for months. Then, one day, as I was reading the Sermon on the Mount, I spotted the passage where Jesus encourages us: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Matthew 7:7–8).
How could I have overlooked this very simple and straightforward instruction? I finally asked God for this natural food item I had desired. Suddenly, when I researched my area again for its availability—knocking on doors both literally and figuratively—I found what I had been seeking. God answered my prayer, and He will answer yours, too!
God has given us the awesome privilege to come before Him in prayer—but our prayer must be based on the word of God, the Bible. Scripture gives us powerful strategies for coping with stress and anxiety. Prayer is our lifeline to God, and He promises to give us peace of mind, if we share our concerns with Him in prayer. But how much time do you spend with God in prayer? The Barna Group reported that of those who pray, "most people who pray do so at least once a day; the total amount of time spent in prayer per day is less than five minutes"—often a quick prayer before a meal, and a list of things we want for ourselves (The State of the Church: 2005).
What if you are one of those who rarely or never pray? Maybe you have never learned to pray, or have only learned childhood rituals of prayer. As a child, I was taught a simple bedtime prayer: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." After that prayer, I would ask God to bless my mother, father and sister—and our cat, Deet-Deet.
As a teenager, when my aunt became ill with cancer, I became more serious about prayer, and made a point of praying fervently for her on a regular basis. But it was not until I was a young adult that I truly began to comprehend the reality of God's existence, and my need for a relationship with Him. I remember kneeling down at the side of my bed after reading an article that gave some basic principles of prayer. Looking up at the ceiling, I for the first time began to realize the awesomeness of the Creator God, who was way beyond the ceiling, in heaven.
If we have not grasped the reality of the Creator God—the God of the Bible—we cannot expect much from our prayers. How many people around us even believe in God? An amazing 96 percent of Americans say they believe in God! In Canada, a poll by Carleton University found that 80 percent of Canadians believe in God, though fewer than 25 percent actually attend worship services. In Australia, a survey conducted by the National Church Life Survey and Edith Cowan University found that 74 percent of Australians believe in God. In Britain, 69 percent say they believe in God. Those statistics may sound impressive. But how strong is their faith? Notice this definition of faith: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible" (Hebrews 11:1–3).
True science is not contrary to faith. Many scientists, like Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein, have seen design and awesome intelligence in the creation. Einstein wrote that the scientist's "religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection" (Einstein: A Centenary Volume, edited by A. P. French, Harvard University Press, 1979, p. 305).
Science has not been able to discover where these laws come from. Did they come from nothing? We know they were in effect at the first moment of creation. Scientists admit they had to be! As theoretical physicists Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose stated, "The only way to have scientific theory is if the laws of physics hold everywhere, including at the beginning of the universe."
The Apostle Paul wrote: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Romans 1:20–21).
Creation itself testifies, as does your Bible, that there is a great intelligence—a Creator and Lawgiver—who set the universe in motion. Yet the One with that great intelligence wants to communicate with you about the matters closest to your heart. How can we come closer to Him? Notice: "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" (Hebrews 11:6).
One way to "diligently seek" God is to read the Bible—God's word—every day! Yes, "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Through Bible prophecy, God gives us hope for the future. He gives us "exceedingly great and precious promises" (2 Peter 1:4). And He shows us the way to eternal life through the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. As you read the Bible, you will learn how God has intervened for His people throughout history. And, as you read how He delivered them from seemingly insurmountable dangers and trials, you will begin to have more faith. Read the stories of Daniel in the lion's den; the deliverance of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego 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 the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, in healing the diseased, the blind, the lame and the deaf. Jesus even raised the dead to life!
How often should you pray each day? Ancient King David made it a practice to pray to God three times a day. He wrote, "As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice" (Psalm 55:16–17). We all need to seek God through prayer. If you are just starting to learn to pray, be sure to read the Bible daily. In particular, read the book of Psalms, which contains many of the prayers of ancient King David.
The prophet Daniel prayed three times a day, even when the king commanded him not to! "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days" (Daniel 6:10). Daniel was thrown into the lion's den for his faith, but God rescued him and preserved his life!
Yes, God will intervene in your life if you are close to Him and call out to Him. The prophet Isaiah gives us this exhortation: "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" (Isaiah 55:6–7).
God promises to forgive us of our sins if we repent and seek Him. Jesus' disciples wanted Him to teach them how to pray. They said to Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples" (Luke 11:1). Jesus then gave them the model prayer, commonly called the "Lord's Prayer" (Matthew 6:9–13; Luke 11:2–4).
Notice what Jesus warned the disciples before giving them the model prayer: "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" (Matthew 6:7). Some people think they are being very pious and religious by muttering the same words over and over again. That is not what Jesus wants! He wants us to pray fervently from the heart, not just to repeat mindlessly the words of the "Lord's Prayer"—or any other prayer—over and over again!
Remember: "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). When the prophet Hosea lamented the sad state of ancient Israel, what was his complaint? "They never put their heart into their prayers" (Hosea 7:14, Moffatt).
Jesus began His model prayer with these instructions: "In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name" (Matthew 6:9). Not that we repeat those exact words, but that in the same manner we hallow—honor—the name of our Father in heaven. When we pray, we should first acknowledge God as our Father. We can also acknowledge that He is the Creator of heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1; Exodus 20:11; Isaiah 40:25–28). He is also the Lawgiver and the Lifegiver. He fulfills Bible prophecy. Pray about the meaning of God's name, authority and character.
Christ then taught us to pray for the coming of God's Kingdom, for our submission to His will, and for our needs—physical and spiritual. He taught us to pray for forgiveness, and to extend to others the forgiveness we want for ourself. He taught us to ask for His protection against severe trials and temptations, even from the devil. Finally, He concluded the model prayer with a focus on God's power and majesty: "For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen" (Matthew 6:13).
Yes, God is the Creator of the universe. He has all power. And He wants you to inherit the earth, the Kingdom—and the entire universe. God is love. He wants to share everything good with you.
Scripture tells us to seek God with all our heart. Notice this encouraging promise: "For thus says the Lord… 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).
We have a great Savior and High Priest at the right hand of God. Come boldly to that throne of grace, as He urges us to do (Hebrews 4:16)! God will then give you His grace and mercy, as you seek Him and submit to His will. Prayer is our lifeline to God. Pray fervently. Pray every day, and God will give you peace of mind in these stressful times.