Our local newspaper, the Charlotte Observer, recently ran an article describing "drive-through" prayers (May 6, 2011). The ministers and church leaders involved said that they were "copying fast food restaurants and drive-through banks."
In our fast moving, self-centered, hedonistic society, perhaps many feel that they can only "spare" God a very few minutes of their "busy" day. How thoughtful! I am sure the Great Creator of heaven and earth is impressed. But how is He impressed?
In a desire to reach out to the large, secular community around them, many "up-to-date" churches are incorporating all kinds of ideas and gimmicks from the corporate world, from the entertainment industry and other sources. Sometimes, this effort does result in more people—more warm bodies—attending their services. But does this genuinely please God? Are these people truly learning to "know" and to worship the true God and serve Him? What are they learning through this "fast-food" religion?
It is vital that you know the real God. And you will not know the real God if you do not worship Him—and pray to Him—in the way He has taught us to do.
The inspired word of God is very plain regarding these matters. Jesus Christ told a Samaritan woman—a woman of "another" religion: "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:22–24).
Speaking of the Bible, Jesus said, "Your word is Truth" (John 17:17). So the "key" to all these questions of how and where to pray is in the clear teachings and examples found in the Bible. For instance, Jesus explained, "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" (Matthew 6:6). Though it is not wrong to pray with others—or to utter a "quickie" prayer in some emergency—that is certainly not recommended as the normal primary practice of prayer for a genuine Christian who sincerely wants to put God first in his or her life.
Also, remember that the so-called "Lord's Prayer"—Jesus' "model prayer" found in Matthew 6—is simply a brief outline, or an example, of the right approach to God and of the main things to pray about. But when Jesus Himself needed special help or deliverance, He went "all out." Jesus prayed all night before choosing the twelve apostles (Luke 6:12–13). He obviously prayed most of the night before walking on the water (Mark 6:46–48). Just before He had to endure the agony of the crucifixion, Jesus prayed so fervently that His blood vessels apparently burst and joined His sweat glands as He agonized before God in absolutely earnest prayer (Luke 22:44).
The Apostle James was inspired to tell us, "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). And Jesus stated, "Shall not God avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears with them?" (Luke 18:7).
At this point, some may wonder why people in non-Christian religions cry out and sometimes pray for long hours over and over—yet their prayers are still not answered. Why? Again, the Bible is very clear on this. For the Apostle John was inspired to tell us, "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight" (1 John 3:22).
It is so difficult for people to get this straight. God wants His children to obey Him—not just to "get sentimental" about Jesus. So we are told, "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12). For if we have the faith "of" Jesus, we will know that God is there and be willing to obey what He commands us.
Though God will sometimes answer even the prayer of a sinner, He normally responds to those who truly obey Him and try to live by His inspired word. As the prophet Isaiah was inspired to tell us, "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 59:1–2).
As I explain in my article in this issue ("Restoring Original Christianity," on page 4), genuine Christians should follow the example and teaching of Christ and the original Church of God and the inspired patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament. Jesus plainly said: "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). Do you keep the Ten Commandments? Or do you make excuses? New Testament scriptures clearly show us that we receive answers to our prayers when we keep God's commandments!
Please be honest with yourself. It is easy to rationalize or to "reason around" this very clear scriptural teaching about obeying God's law. But if you want real answers to your prayers, you need to repent of breaking the Ten Commandments. Breaking them is defined as sin (1 John 3:4, KJV). And you need to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior (Acts 2:38). Then—through the help of the promised Holy Spirit—you will be able to surrender more and more each day to let Jesus Christ live His obedient life in you! Keep in mind what the Apostle Paul declared: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20, KJV).
So, to have consistent answers to your prayers, you need to pray to the real God—the God of the Bible—in a repentant attitude. You need to put your heart in your prayers and cry out to Him—preferably alone and in a private place, as Jesus instructed. And you need to be willing to obey your Creator so you will be in a right relationship with Him and He will then wish to answer the prayers of His obedient son or daughter.
"Drive-through" prayers, and popular musical entertainment—and just "going through the motions" of worshiping God—are not enough. For our Creator wants us to worship Him "in Truth"—meaning we need to guide our lives and our prayers according to His inspired word. We must learn to constantly pray to God—communing and walking with Him.
Then, as the end of this age approaches and the awesome trials and tests of the Christian life come upon you—as they surely will—you will know exactly what to do and how to do it. In fact, you will be able to follow Christ's own footsteps. Since He had cried out to God for strength and courage, He was not afraid when His time had come to die. In fact, as Judas and an entire detachment of troops came to seize Him, Jesus calmly "went forward" and asked them: "Whom are you seeking?" (John 18:4). For Jesus had done what He always did. Earlier, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He had fallen on his face and fervently prayed, calling out: "O My Father…" (Matthew 26:39).
If you would like to learn the real details about how to do all of this, be sure to call or write to the Regional Office nearest you (listed at the bottom of this page), and ask for the extremely helpful and informative booklet entitled, Twelve Keys to Answered Prayer. It will be sent absolutely free upon your request. You may also read it or order a free printed copy online, at our Web site, www.TomorrowsWorld.org. Do not let yourself be satisfied with the world's shallow and false approaches to prayer!