Phone home!” Sound familiar? Maybe you heard it from your parents. Parents want to hear from their children—because they love them.
God wants to hear from His children for the same reason—because He loves us.
What is prayer? It is speaking to and conversing with our Creator. Everyone can do it and should do it. What is breathtakingly inspiring is that God hears, is interested in and answers prayers! Prayer is effective—in other words, prayer from those sincerely responsive to God gets results.
Phone home! God is never asleep or too busy to listen. There is never a bad connection or a bad time. You never get a busy signal or voice mail or get put on hold. You have unlimited free minutes—and hours.
So no excuses!
The most powerful man in history
Even though Jesus Christ was God in the flesh (John 1:1-5 John 1:1-5 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
American King James Version×, 14), He knew the importance of praying to our heavenly Father. The Bible gives us many examples of Jesus fervently praying to His Father, not only praising God but asking for help. Jesus clearly knew that God in heaven was the ultimate source of success in every endeavor.
If Jesus Christ needed help from His heavenly Father, how much more do we! And we have many other role models as well. All the dedicated people of God in the Bible and in history have been people of prayer.
Jesus’ disciples soon realized their Master’s source of power. They said, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1 Luke 11:1And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
American King James Version×). Would you like to learn Christ’s teachings regarding prayer? You probably have them in your home. They are scattered throughout the Bible.
Anyone can begin to pray even before he has learned anything about prayer. God hears and appreciates the simplest of prayers. Jesus made it plain: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7 Matthew 7:7Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you:
American King James Version×). It’s noteworthy that in English the first letters of the key words “ask, seek, knock” spell ask!
But God wants us to grow in understanding and application of how to pray. Like learning a new hobby, sport or activity, satisfaction and rewards increase with added knowledge and skill. So it is invaluable to read and understand the biblical teachings regarding prayer.
We can gain much understanding and inspiration from many wonderful examples of prayers in the book of Psalms and throughout the Bible. Daily practice naturally leads to added proficiency and pleasure in prayer. Countless people have attested to this.
Talk to God as your Father
When His disciples said, “Teach us to pray,” Jesus began His lesson in prayer by giving them a brief outline of some of the most important things to pray about on a daily basis. Commonly called the “Lord’s prayer,” Jesus’ instruction is found in Luke 11:2-4 Luke 11:2-4 2 And he said to them, When you pray, say, Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
American King James Version×and Matthew 6:9-13 Matthew 6:9-13 9 After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For your is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
American King James Version×.
Note that Jesus suggested that the most frequent way that we are to address God is as “our Father in heaven.” We can and should have many relationships with God, which are revealed by the names and titles for God found in Scripture. But the most important relationship is that of our Father— an all-loving and perfect father.
All human beings can and should think of God as their Father since He is their Creator. And as their relationship with God becomes closer, that father-child relationship builds to deeper and more intimate levels.
So how should we talk to God? He wants us to come to Him as a beloved parent. We should feel confident, secure, understood, appreciated and loved in coming before Him. When we talk with our physical fathers, we are not repetitious or scripted, we don’t use an unnatural syrupy tone or a monotone. And we don’t use archaic language because we think it sounds more religious. Neither is this necessary with God.
Our heavenly Father cherishes prayers offered with complete honesty and sincerity, even if they include respectful complaints. The prayers in the book of Psalms certainly portray candid honesty.
When people pray nice words while thinking and doing contradictory things, they apparently think God can’t read minds. When we use our tongue to “bless our God and Father, and [to] curse men,” our prayer is counted as hypocrisy (James 3:9-12 James 3:9-12 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
10 Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not so to be.
11 Does a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
12 Can the fig tree, my brothers, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
American King James Version×, 17; see also Matthew 7:21-23 Matthew 7:21-23 21 Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
American King James Version×).
Imagining what God is like is relatively easy for someone who has had a loving and attentive earthly father. Admittedly, it is much more difficult, especially at first, for someone whose parental experience has been with a cold, uncommunicative, abusive or absentee father.
Such a person should make a major effort to learn what an ideal father is like and establish that picture in his or her mind’s eye. Some inspiring and encouraging descriptions of God as our heavenly Father are found in Matthew 7:9-11 Matthew 7:9-11 9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
American King James Version×; John 3:16-17 John 3:16-17 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
American King James Version×; James 1:5 James 1:5If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraides not; and it shall be given him.
American King James Version×, 17; 1 John 4:8-19 1 John 4:8-19 8 He that loves not knows not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. 17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love him, because he first loved us.
American King James Version×; Psalm 103 and Luke 15:11-32 Luke 15:11-32 11 And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me. And he divided to them his living. 13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave to him. 17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you, 19 And am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of your hired servants. 20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son. 22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23 And bring here the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. 25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, Your brother is come; and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound. 28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him. 29 And he answering said to his father, See, these many years do I serve you, neither transgressed I at any time your commandment: and yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 30 But as soon as this your son was come, which has devoured your living with harlots, you have killed for him the fatted calf. 31 And he said to him, Son, you are ever with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this your brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
American King James Version×(the father in the parable of the prodigal son).
Life is about relationships
Of all God’s creatures, human being have the unique and awesome privilege of being created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27 Genesis 1:26-27 26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
American King James Version×). The greatest benefit of this is being able to have a personal relationship with God.
Throughout His Word, God repeatedly stresses the importance of right relationships. In fact, Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love your fellow man (Matthew 22:35-40 Matthew 22:35-40 35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
American King James Version×).
Beginning with our creation, God has done many things to initiate a relationship with us. It is up to us to respond to Him and show initiative in nurturing that relationship with good communication. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” James 4:8 James 4:8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.
American King James Version×tells us. Our prayers keep us connected to God. (Future articles in this series will cover Bible study, meditation and fasting and how they also help us draw near and stay near to God.)
Jesus said to His disciples, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15 John 15:15From now on I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known to you.
American King James Version×). Here Jesus explained a crucial factor in true friendship— ongoing open and sincere communication. A true friend is someone you talk with openly and regularly.
God is the Great Communicator. He records in the Bible His revelation of everything we need to know about His plan for our lives. His Word gives us His worldview, the framework for a true perspective on life—past, present and future. Plus He communicates with us and guides us in other ways—by His Holy Spirit, through His Church, through other individuals, through circumstances and through experiences that He sets up.
But a good relationship depends on two-way communication—a dialogue. Prayer and Bible study go hand in hand, along with serious thought and introspection about how to apply God’s teachings in our own lives. Each of us must ask: How good a friend am I to God? How good a son or daughter am I to my Father? Call home daily!
Without prayer, life is precarious
Physical, frail human beings are highly vulnerable to countless dangers—physical, mental and spiritual perils. The greatest danger is from our greatest enemy, Satan the devil, who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8 1 Peter 5:8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour:
American King James Version×).
Ephesians 6:10-20 Ephesians 6:10-20 10 Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Why take to you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
19 And for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
American King James Version×explains how we need spiritual armor “to stand against the wiles of the devil,” and prayer is an important part of that armor (verses 18-19). Why face life’s battles with no armor? If we don’t pray, we become prey to this ruthless predator.
We are terribly foolish to try “going it alone” in this evil and dangerous world—neglecting to rely on God. Some suffering is punishment from God, particularly when people knowingly sin against Him. But most suffering comes automatically from our own actions, the actions of others, or time and chance.
However, God will intervene for those who are relying on Him to protect them from the majority of mishaps. God allows His followers to suffer some personal trials to learn certain lessons, but He protects them from most dangers.
For those who seek to do God’s will and ask for help, He will continually guide, help and protect them. If we don’t forsake God, He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5 Hebrews 13:5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.
American King James Version×). What a promise! And what peace of mind that promise brings!
To continue to get answers, God has conditions
It’s inspiring to hear how many people have had obvious answers to their prayers even before they knew much about God or were trying to obey Him. That shows how wonderfully merciful and generous God is toward people who are taking their first sincere steps to humbly talk to their Maker. By granting their desires, He is encouraging them to take further steps in building their relationship with Him.
As we grow in our relationship with God, it is only logical that He expects us to fulfill certain conditions if we want His help. God will not continue to answer prayers for someone who is unwilling to do his or her part—to read the Bible, obey what it says and learn to love God. “We love Him because He first loved us,” 1 John 4:19 1 John 4:19We love him, because he first loved us.
American King James Version×tells us.
But what is the primary evidence of love for God? The apostle John sums it up: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3 1 John 5:3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
American King James Version×). And John makes it clear that obedience to God is the most important condition for answered prayer: “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 1 John 3:22And whatever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
American King James Version×).
If we expect God to continue hearing our prayers, we must begin obeying the Ten Commandments and His other commandments.
In the name of Jesus Christ
Some people have not learned that Jesus Christ is the one “door” and the one “way” to God (John 10:9 John 10:9I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
American King James Version×; 14:6). Does God ever answer their prayers anyway? Because God is immensely merciful, He probably does. If a person’s religious practices at first fall short of true biblical Christianity, God may for awhile answer some of his prayers in spite of his religious ignorance rather than because of it. But that won’t last if he makes no effort to learn and do as the Bible teaches.
The only promise of answered prayer on a regular basis is to the true followers of the God and Father of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the One who, though divine, became a human being, lived a perfect life and suffered and died to pay the penalties of sin for all mankind. He alone is the Savior of the world. Speaking of Jesus, the apostle Peter said, “There is no salvation through anyone else; in all the world no other name has been granted to mankind by which we can be saved” (Acts 4:12 Acts 4:12Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
American King James Version×, Revised English Bible)
Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you” (John 16:23-24 John 16:23-24 23 And in that day you shall ask me nothing. Truly, truly, I say to you, Whatever you shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
24 Till now have you asked nothing in my name: ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.
American King James Version×; see also John 14:13-14 John 14:13-14 13 And whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
American King James Version×). As human beings, we do not of ourselves have the right, authority or privilege to approach God’s throne with our prayers because of our own goodness. But through faith and commitment to Jesus Christ, He authorizes us to call on God in His name, acting with His authorization. Thus, with His approval, we have access to God when we pray “in Jesus’ name.”
Jesus further serves us as our High Priest by interceding and mediating on our behalf with the Father (Romans 8:34 Romans 8:34Who is he that comdemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
American King James Version×; 1 John 2:1-2 1 John 2:1-2 1 My little children, these things write I to you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
American King James Version×). This assures us that we have access through Him to the fullness of God’s mercy and forgiveness (Hebrews 2:17 Hebrews 2:17Why in all things it behooved him to be made like to his brothers, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
American King James Version×; 4:14-16; 10:19-22). Then God the Father makes the decision as to how to answer the prayer, and Jesus Christ carries out the Father’s will.
A few more points on prayer
God certainly “hears” silent prayers, and someone who is close to God may utter silent prayers often throughout each day. The Bible tells us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 1 Thessalonians 5:17Pray without ceasing.
American King James Version×).
But God is also pleased to have us vocalize audible prayers. Numerous times the Scriptures mention the praying person using his voice, mouth, lips and tongue. The Bible also frequently uses expressions like cry, cried out, cried aloud, called to, etc.
Certain biblical references to frequency of prayer, like twice daily (Psalms 88:1 Psalms 88:1O lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before you:
American King James Version×) and thrice daily (Psalms 55:17 Psalms 55:17Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
American King James Version×; Daniel 6:10 Daniel 6:10Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled on his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
American King James Version×), probably refer to the number of audible prayers, not the number of total prayers.
Regarding bodily positions during prayer, the Bible mentions several— kneeling, standing, sitting, lying down. Circumstances, including health problems, sometimes limit us in what positions we can choose. We can talk with God while taking a walk or driving a car. The most important consideration is to always do your best to express humility and deep reverence.
The Bible includes examples of appropriate public prayer and group prayer, but the majority of our personal prayers should be private communication with God (Matthew 6:5-6 Matthew 6:5-6 5 And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Truly I say to you, They have their reward.
6 But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly.
American King James Version×). However, family prayer is vitally important. It’s important to teach children from a very young age to pray.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me” (Matthew 19:14 Matthew 19:14But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come to me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
American King James Version×). God is very interested in and responsive to their prayers. (see “How Can We Pass Our Faith on to Our Children? ” for more on this vital subject).
Busy? Most of us are. Lack time to pray? Consider that we all make time for those things we consider most important. And we will accomplish more in the long run when we put God first. Hence we cannot afford to not pray. Prayer needs to be a top priority and a daily habit.
In your prayers, besides going through your needs and wants, make sure to take time to thank God for the many ways He has blessed you in your life. And take time to pray for others.
If you’re coming to God about a problem, pour out your heart to Him about it without dictating what His solutions should be. Father knows best. God always responds in the way that is best for us spiritually, and that sometimes means the answer is “no” or “not now,” or the answer is something other than what we expected or wanted.
“What is man that You are mindful of him?” asked David in Psalms 8:4 Psalms 8:4What is man, that you are mindful of him? and the son of man, that you visit him?
American King James Version×. It’s a wonder of wonders how God cares for His little creatures—that He would listen to each of their prayers and give them His personal attention. But it’s true—He does.
Let’s not let the wonderful spiritual tool of prayer go to waste by not using it. Let’s walk with God—obey Him and talk with Him—in prayer.
The Bible compares this life to our being pilgrims living in tents far from home. Our goal is enter the Kingdom of God —to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalms 23:6 Psalms 23:6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
American King James Version×). Home is wherever God is, and our destiny, after Christ returns to earth, is to dwell with Him forever.
In the meantime, we can stay in touch—daily and more than daily—with our Father and our elder Brother, Jesus Christ.
Phone home. Pray. GN