Saturday, 03 May 2014

The Power of Prayer

Perhaps you have heard someone say that they believe in “the power of prayer”. Is prayer an important part of your daily life? If it is, why and how do you pray? If you don’t pray, maybe it’s time to explore the reasons why you don’t. The following discussion might prompt you to take a closer look at what the Bible says about prayer.

prayerAt times in life when things become difficult, or when a person faces a major turning point, they might offer prayers to God for strength, help, comfort, or answers. In fact, some people even “bargain” with God by asking for such things as sparing a loved one’s life from a serious injury or illness or by asking for something in particular to happen. They might tell God, “If you allow this to happen, I will do such and such in return.” But prayer extends far beyond simply petitioning Almighty God to fulfill our wants or desires, even if they are righteous requests.

Because we are not able to communicate face to face with our Almighty Father who dwells in heaven, prayer is our way of making arequest, petition, supplication, or plea. It is also our way of communicating gratitude to our Creator for all of the gifts that He blesses us with daily (Psalm 68:19).

Whether we speak words out loud or meditate them in our minds or hearts, prayer is a special time of conversation between us and our heavenly Father. His Son Jesus Christ instructed us that prayer is not a display to be shown to others, or a ritual of repeating the exact same words over and over (Matthew 6:5-7). Even though we might have many of the same requests every day, our prayers can reflect a specific need that we might encounter at any given time in our lives.

At times we might feel especially weak or scared, or we have a difficult time controlling our emotions. Those are a few instances when we might stop on the spot and ask our heavenly Father for His guidance and strength. And that is the amazing attribute of prayer: We can communicate inwardly with our Creator at any moment, day or night.

Although we direct our prayers to our Almighty Father, whose name is Jehovah or Yahweh, we are taught to pray through the name of his Son, Jesus Christ. As the apostle Paul said, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 2:5). In John 16:23, Jesus stated that, “Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.”

Why do some people pray to Mary, the mother of Jesus, or to the apostles, or to others who died long ago? The Bible is very clear that when someone dies they are in the grave asleep, awaiting resurrection, so what good would it do to pray to someone who cannot hear you? Some religions teach their followers to pray to different “saints” to watch over them and keep them safe, but why would this be necessary when we can ask God directly for His help? We are taught to pray to Jehovah through the Son who He sent down to earth as a man. What a perfect way of doing things since Jesus also experienced firsthand what we encounter as flesh and blood!

While in Daniel 6:10-11 Daniel prayed at least three times a day, there are no specific rules as to how often a person should pray. However, prayer is an excellent way for each of us to begin our day, reminding us of the One who can provide us with guidance, who makes the sun rise anew each morning, and who provides us with physical and spiritual nourishment every day. We might end our day with prayer in the same manner. Prayer can help us be more attentive to the things we need help with, as well as remind us of the bounty we have been given. And when we’re experiencing difficulties, we might pray more often and fervently. Attitude is so important in prayer, because Jehovah truly sees what’s in our hearts. We need humility to be able to request His help.

We can pray in a number of ways and for many different things, but the important thing is to keep our line of communication open with our heavenly Father. The words we use don’t have to be perfect as long as they are sincere and humble. And we should be able to pray without doubt, believing that our prayers will be heard and answered as long as we’re asking for things that are in accordance to His will: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us” (1 John 5:14). Jesus said, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:22). James 1:4-5 also talks about asking in faith.

It’s important to be persistent, too, as we’re reminded in Luke 18:1-8, and thankful as in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Remember that Jehovah God is our loving Father, and He wants us to communicate our needs to Him so that He can help us. Although He knows our needs even before we ask Him (Matthew 6:8), prayer shows our recognition that we cannot get through this life very well without acknowledging Him and his Son, and requesting their guidance on a continual basis. Prayer is a very powerful means by which we can talk with our Maker at any time, wherever we might be, without even uttering a word out loud!

Whether we pray to begin or end our days, or entreat our Creator at different interludes throughout, there are a multitude of things an individual can ask for. Here are some examples.

Many people are familiar with what is commonly referred to as the “Lord’s Prayer”, and even recite those words daily. If this is a prayer that you often use, do you stop to really think about what you are asking for? In Matthew 6:1-15, Jesus Christ explains much about prayer, giving his followers examples of things that one might pray for.

Jesus began this example by addressing and acknowledging Almighty God: “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed (or holy) is your name”. This shows the great importance of knowing that our Maker does indeed dwell in heaven and that He has a name. Almighty God is a title, but his actual name is known as Jehovah (Yahweh).

In verse 10, Jesus instructs us to pray for His kingdom to come; asking for His will be done in earth as it is in heaven. Now this is really something to think about! The scriptures are clear that Jesus is referring to the kingdom of God, and it is certainly evident from the evil we witness on a daily basis that God’s will is not currently being done on earth. The change of rule will happen after Christ returns again and the kingdoms of this world are finally destroyed. (See Revelation 11:17.)

Matthew 6:11 says, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This could mean asking for our daily physical requirements for nourishment, and spiritual nourishment as well. We need that “food” to keep our faith strong and our feet on the right path.

Jesus went on to explain our need for forgiveness in Matthew 6:12, 14, and 15. Every one of us sins to some extent or another, so recognizing and acknowledging our faults and asking Jehovah’s pardon is very important. He also brings up another important point to consider: If we don’t forgive others, how can we expect God to forgive our own trespasses?

We should also ask for help to overcome the temptations and evil that abounds in this life (Matthew 6:13). There are many deceiving distractions in this world that can lead us off the right track if we’re not aware of them. Living in a world where Satan’s influence is strong should be powerful motivation to ask our heavenly Father for His help to avoid the many pitfalls we often encounter. As Jesus also said, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

What are some other things that we should we pray for? Here are a few examples.

Thank Jehovah for being our God:  Throughout the book of Psalms, David and other authors wrote a great deal about praising Jehovah and thanking him for being their God. Psalm 30:12 says, “To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.”  The apostle Paul wrote, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” (Hebrews13:15)

Thank Jehovah for sending his beloved Son: It is through the blood of Christ Jesus that we can be forgiven of our sins. As Peter wrote, we are redeemed “…with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

Ask to have a clean heart and right spirit within us: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:10-11) This scripture shows our humility and desire to be of better use to our Creator and his Son, in whatever service they may have need of us both now and in the kingdom to come.

Request the help of the Holy Spirit: In Luke11:9-13 Christ says, “ask and it will be given, to knock and it shall be opened”. We can pray to Jehovah, through His Son, for the Comforter (Holy Spirit) which teaches us all things and brings scriptural things into remembrance (John 14:14-18, 26).

Ask for wisdom, understanding and good judgment: “Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not: neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not and she shall preserve thee: love her and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:5-7) Paul said, “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment.” (Philippians 1:9)

Pray for each other: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.” (1 Timothy 2:1) “Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16)

As Paul stated simply in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing”. Let your needs and thanksgiving be made known to God often, for He hears the prayers of those who are trying to live a righteous life. What a gift to be able to communicate with our heavenly Father in this way! Amen!

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