The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
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The International Association Jehovah's Witnesses

Themes Archive

 
The way to God through prayer
 
    In this upside-down, unhappy world it seems to be the general course to take the good things for granted, to drift along the line of least resistance and only when unfortunate circumstances arise, to seek relief by resorting to prayer. Then, if the prayers are not at once answered, the feeling arises that the Lord God has fallen down on the job. Prayers for health, peace and prosperity go unanswered, even when addressed in sincerity to a god believed to be the Almighty. This ought to cause thinking persons to pause and give serious thought to this important matter. Seeking the right way, they ought to ask: How should we pray? To whom should prayer be addressed? Are here any special requirements for imperfect men to reach the Almighty? Indeed, why pray at all?
    The answers to these questions, and to many more of equal importance, are found in the Bible, the great Textbook of those who would be heard in prayer. Since all life depends upon the Creator, it is mandatory for those who want eternal life to know how to reach him in prayer, how prayer should be used, and what it can accomplish.
    Prayer is not a new thing to the human race. It early became apparent to righteously disposed men that many problems that arose in their lives could not be solved by their own efforts. "0 Jehovah," confessed Jeremiah, "I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." (Jeremiah 10:23) Probably first to realize this was the righteous man Abel. He offered to God an acceptable sacrifice, accompanied undoubtedly by words of supplication and praise. Abel was followed by others who sought God through prayer. Among them was David. When hemmed in by enemies who sought him, he cried: "Hear my prayer, 0 Jehovah; give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness." When God delivered him, David uttered words which are a comfort to us now, saying: "Jehovah is nigh unto all them that call upon him... in truth." (Psalms 143:1; 145:18) Certainly one who realized his own inability to escape from a seemingly hopeless situation was Jonah when in the darkness of the belly of a great fish. For rescue, "Jonah prayed unto Jehovah his God out of the fish's belly. And Jehovah spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land." (Jonah 2:1, 10) Men today must realize their dependence upon Jehovah.
    It is not necessary, when praying, to assume some special pose or position. Certainly it is fitting to kneel when seeking God in prayer, as Daniel insisted on doing before he was thrown to the lions, for such a posture shows due humiliation. Paul said: "I bend my knees to the Father"; but he further stated: "With every form of prayer and supplication you carry on prayer." (Ephesians 3:14; 6:18) Here he could hardly have meant that it was necessary to remain always in a kneeling position. Jesus told his disciples: "When you stand praying, forgive." (Mark 11:25) On one occasion God's servants "bowed their heads, and worshipped Jehovah with their faces to the ground". (Nehemiah 8:6) It is not the position that matters. One may pray while in his bed at night, while at a meal, or while going about his daily tasks.
    Let it be noted that it is Jehovah, not some strange heathen god, who is able to answer the prayers of his servants. An outstanding example in proof of this is found in 1 Kings, chapter 18. Repeatedly, but in vain, the prophets of the heathen god Baal entreated their god to bring fire down out of the heavens. Though they prayed from morning until night, Baal was unable to answer. Then the prophet Elijah prayed to the true God, and Jehovah answered by sending down fire which completely consumed the sacrifice, even though it had been purposely wetted down to guard against any trickery. Jehovah can "do more than superabundantly beyond all the things we ask or conceive". - Ephesians 3:20.
    Jehovah is able to hear the prayers of men, his powers of perception being such that he is able to understand the very thoughts of one's heart. While in Persia, Nehemiah sadly thought of the broken-down state of Jerusalem's walls. He was interrupted by the king whom he served as cup bearer and who demanded to know the reason for Nehemiah's sadness. Before making known his desire to repair the walls, Nehemiah "prayed to the God of heaven". (Nehemiah 2:4) Although the prayer was inaudible to the king, it was heard and acted upon by God. To him all men of flesh must come, as well stated by David: "0 thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come." (Psalm 65:2) But let them not be among those who ask and receive not, because they ask amiss. - James 4:3.
    Since all flesh is imperfect and sinful, how can anyone approach a perfect and righteous God? For we read: "There is not a righteous man, not even one." "Jehovah is far from the wicked; but he heareth the prayer of the righteous." (Romans 3:10; Proverbs 15:29) If it is only the prayers of the righteous that are heard and there are none who are righteous, then whose prayers are heard? As shown throughout the Hebrew as well as the Greek Scriptures, there were men whose entreaties to Jehovah were heard and answered. All had something in common which made their communication with God possible. Without exception they had an unshakable faith in the existence of Jehovah and in his power and willingness to aid those who sought his ways. They believed him capable of fulfilling his promises, regardless of how impossible such might have seemed from a human standpoint. Because of this belief, God counted them righteous. Thus it was that, when Abraham's faith strengthened him to believe that God would give him a son in his old age, God "counted it to him for righteousness". (Genesis 15:6) Faith is based upon knowing God's Word.
    In God's due time he sent his only-begotten Son, Christ Jesus, who gave up his life that it might serve as a ransom to redeem mankind from sin. Hence, to those who availed themselves of this loving provision, a new approach to God in prayer was opened up, the only avenue of approach now available to man. This was indicated when Jesus said: "No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) Religious arguments to the contrary, this automatically bars any prayers from reaching Jehovah by way of a "back door"; whether it be through the pope at Vatican City or a numberless list of "saints" or, yes, even through Jesus' mother Mary. Not one scripture indicates prayers should be addressed through any of these. Jesus said: "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." - John 14:14.
    Little wonder it is, then, that so many of the prayers of the people and the nations fail to achieve any results, when they refuse to use the only avenue of approach that Jehovah has provided. But there are other reasons for God to reject their prayers. While he is ever ready to hear the prayers of those who seek to do his will, he takes no pleasure in the prayers of the wicked or those who turn their faces from obeying his righteous laws. "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination." (Proverbs 28:9) Into this class must fall those religious clergymen who ignored God's law, "Thou shalt not kill," and uttered long prayers that the nation of which they happened to be citizens might be most successful at taking life. Does Jehovah favor one of their contending sides? "When ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood." - Isaiah 1:15.
    Jesus' disciples realized the importance of prayer and asked him to teach them how to pray. He gave instructions that are indispensable to Christians today. (Luke 11:1-4) As we consider these instructions it should be our desire to conform ourselves to them, even though we might have to change from our present way of prayer.
    At Matthew 6:5, 6 Jesus said: "When you pray, you must not be as the hypocrites; because they like to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the broad ways to be visible to men. Truly I say to you, They are having their reward in full. You, however, when you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret; then your Father who looks on in secret will repay you." When Jesus here instructed his followers to pray in secret he was very forcibly pointing out the folly of making public prayers solely for the purpose of being seen by men and receiving their admiration and praise. Since most prayers for victory, peace and prosperity are spread abroad in high-sounding, formal language over the radio and in the newspapers, it is obvious they are for the purpose of calling the attention of men to the ones offering the prayers. They receive the reward they seek, the plaudits of men. God hears them not nor does he act on their behalf.
    It would not be correct to assume from Jesus' words that any prayers offered outside the privacy of one's room would be hypocritical. Jesus himself prayed otherwise on numerous occasions, and he who set the perfect example would not have done so had it been improper. He prayed within the hearing of others, not to call attention to himself, but rather to give a witness to the glory of God's name and kingdom. So, when he offered public acknowledgment to God before he fed the five thousand; when he prayed in the audience of his disciples on occasions; and when they in turn prayed publicly for the purpose of enlightening others, neither Jesus nor they were interpreting his words, "Go into your private room, "to mean prayers must always be said out of the sight and hearing of all others. As a prayer audible to others Jesus said to God: "I knew that you always hear me; but on account of the crowd standing around I spoke, in order that they might believe that you sent me forth." - John 11:42; 6:11.
    Jesus further instructed his disciples: "When praying, do not say the same things over and over again, just as the people of the nations do, for they imagine they will get a hearing for their use of many words. So, do not make yourselves like them, for God your Father knows what things you are needing before ever you ask him." (Matthew 6:7,8) The heathen Buddhists and Lamas employ a prayer wheel, a hollow drum into which prayers are put, and each time the wheel is turned the prayers contained in it are supposed to be said. Today, millions follow the same routine with rosaries and oft-repeated prayers from prayer books. Those perceiving that such a practice is exactly what Jesus spoke against and sincerely desiring to pray in harmony with God's will are glad to obey his injunction, "Do not say the same things over and over again, just as the people of the nations do." They heed his further instructions.

    MODEL PRAYER

    Jesus' next words set forth a model prayer; not one to be glibly repeated without thought of its meaning or contents, but one that demonstrates to whom prayer should be addressed, and for what a believer should properly pray. He told them to pray this way: "Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will come to pass, as in heaven, also upon earth. Give us today our bread for this day; and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one." - Matthew 6:9-13.
    This model prayer is unselfish in every respect. In addressing God as "Our Father" the one praying recognizes there are others who are children of the Most High and his thoughts are taken away from his personal desires. Furthermore, it indicates that those who thus pray have availed themselves of Christ's ransom sacrifice and are either spiritual sons of God or prospective earthly sons. A remnant of spiritual sons are still on earth. Joined together with them since A.D. 1918 is an ever-increasing crowd of men of good will. These also may address Jehovah as "Our Father", for, during Christ's thousand-year reign, they become the earthly children of the Life-giver Christ Jesus and hence are technically in the position of being "grandchildren" of God. In Scripture the grandfather is often referred to as father.
Since vindication of Jehovah's name and sovereignty is the foremost doctrine of the Bible, his name and kingdom find first place in the model prayer. Even though the Kingdom has already been established in the heavens, it has yet to come against Satan's entire world of wickedness and completely destroy it. Until such time, the servants of God will continue to pray for its coming. While such things as food and shelter are necessary for life, requests for these things take a secondary place. It is permissible to ask for them in amounts sufficient to take care of the daily needs, and they should be received with thanks to Jehovah, who knows our every need even before we ask.
    "Let your will come to pass," Jesus taught. World leaders selfishly pray that God help them to put across their schemes for world domination, and in this the clergy assist with their prayers for victory. Never did Jesus pray for the success or continuance of any of the worldly nations. Exactly to the contrary, he said: "I make request, not concerning the world, but concerning those you have given me." (John 17:9) What of it if a nation selects a Day of Prayer and unitedly requests that its will be recognized and followed by God? Or if a Family of Nations is brought about and God's blessing asked upon the arrangement? Mere numbers or volume of prayers can have no effect on the matter. Prayers not in accord with God's will are never heard by him. But if one of his faithful children properly prays to God, saying, "Not my will but yours be done," or says, as the beloved David did, "Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God," the prayer will not only reach the lofty throne of Jehovah but also be acted upon favorably. "A righteous man's supplication when it is at work has much force." - James 5:16.
    In harmony with Jesus' instructions, we pray that our debts (sins) be forgiven. This cannot mean we can willfully pursue a wicked course and, by simply repeating these words, be absolved of any further responsibility for the past and be free to repeat such wickedness as opportunity affords. This prayer is designed solely for those who sincerely endeavor to follow the Lord's instructions but who transgress against his righteous requirements because of being imperfect and hence unable to follow a perfect course of action. The transgressions are forgiven through Christ Jesus, and the sins are cleansed away by his blood. But to be forgiven our transgressions by God's mercy, we must be merciful to those transgressing against us and must forgive them in a godlike manner. "Happy are the merciful, since they will be shown mercy." - Matthew 5:7; 6:14,15.
    Jehovah is never guilty of tempting his servants to sin, but all such temptation comes from the wicked one, Satan. The expression, "Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one," asks that God will never test or try us beyond what we are able to bear. (Matthew 6:13; 1 Corinthians 10:13) Without Jehovah's loving guidance and protection his servants would be at the mercy of the wicked one the Devil, who "walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone". (1 Peter 5:8) Jehovah delivers us from the power of the tempter and his world, and invites us to pray to God for succor in time of need. The words added to Matthew 6:13, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen," are spurious and are omitted from all modern Bible translations.
    When Noah came out of the ark after the flood waters had receded, his first act was to build an altar and offer up sacrifices and prayer to Jehovah in thankfulness for the deliverance of him and his family. To God, Noah's prayer and acceptable sacrifice were as a "sweet savour". (Genesis 8:21) Now, just prior to Armageddon, faithful servants of God are going from city to city and extending a gracious invitation to all who will hear. What is that invitation? Zechariah 8:21,22 gives the answer to that question, saying: "The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to entreat the favor of Jehovah, and to seek Jehovah of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek Jehovah of hosts in Jerusalem [heavenly New Jerusalem], and to entreat the favor of Jehovah".
    Do you want to be among these "many peoples" who "seek Jehovah of hosts" and who, as pictured by Noah's family, will survive Armageddon's war to offer up sweet-savored prayers to Jehovah throughout eternity? If so, abandon the foolish and repetitious prayers of this dying old world. Instead, pray for God's kingdom by his Son, Christ Jesus, and always seek it first.