Prayer is talked about a lot among religious people. Books are written about it, and you can even attend seminars and workshops on prayer. The odd thing, most people do not pray regularly.
But the Bible is brimming over with promises: Prayer brings us into God’s presence. Prayer changes people. Prayer changes the world.
The LORD is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him sincerely. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them.
The eyes of the LORD watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help.
The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.
Psalm 34:15, 17
The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them. I will satisfy them with a long life and give them my salvation.”
In our instant gratification society, prayer seems out of place. We pray for something and expect it to happen immediately — or soon, anyway. The Bible promises answers, but not immediate ones. The two following passages from the Gospels depict Jesus recommending perseverance in prayer.
One day Jesus told his disciples a story to illustrate their need for constant prayer and to show them that they must never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who was a godless man with great contempt for everyone. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, appealing for justice against someone who had harmed her. The judge ignored her for a while, but eventually she wore him out. `I fear neither God nor man,’ he said to himself, `but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!'”
Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this evil judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end, so don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who plead with him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when I, the Son of Man, return, how many will I find who have faith?”
“Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks. You parents — if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”
We can be confident that he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will. And if we know he is listening when we make our requests, we can be sure that he will give us what we ask for.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Jesus understood the importance of prayer. But he also understood that some people like to make a “show” out of prayer, trying to impress others with their long and flowery prayers. He assured his followers that this kind of prayer had no influence with God, who understands our motives:
“When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.
“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”
Some people claim they don’t know how to pray. The Bible is full of examples, including the famous Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4). But the Bible also promises that our awkwardness at praying does not need to hold us back. He has given us a “prayer partner,” the Spirit:
The Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
The Book of God’s Promises — Copyright, 1999 by J. Stephen Lang. All rights reserved, used with permission.