We have so many sources of information available to us. There’s our friends and family, ever more available to us thanks to phones and social networking, all sorts of Internet search engines and web sites, and even business boast of having informed employees who can help us solve our problems (albeit specific kinds of problems).
It’s wonderful to have all these sources of information. But sometimes, none of these have the answers we need. In times like that, we need to turn to God.
As an all-knowing being, God really does know everything. He even knows what it is that we need to know. So, even if you want one thing, God knows if you really need something else.
God has also commanded us to pray to Him when we are in need.
There are numerous examples in the Bible that teach us this. Moses prayed for God to remove the poisonous serpents (Numbers 21:7), Hannah prayed for a son (1 Samuel 1:10), and Jonah prayed to be delivered from the belly of the whale (Jonah 4:2). And that’s just a sample.
The prophet Daniel prayed to God even when the king, Darius, declared it against the law, and decreed that any who dared to pray would be thrown into the lion’s den. Daniel knew what would happen to him for praying, but he prayed anyway, and God protected him from the lions. (Daniel 6)
So, it’s pretty obvious that we are commanded to pray. But how should we pray?
When asked by his disciples to teach them how to pray, Jesus responded with what is now known as “the Lord’s Prayer” (Luke 11:2-4; Matthew 6:9-13). To summarize, we are to begin by addressing God, and then ask for the blessings we need, including forgiveness of our sins.
Jesus taught that we are “always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). Surely He did not mean that we are verbally praying all day; instead, we are to pray in our hearts.
Recently, my husband was rushed to the emergency room. I wasn’t there, didn’t know what was going on, and quickly drove to the hospital to be with him. All the way there, I was praying to my Heavenly Father to please let my husband be okay, and let me get there quickly and safely so I could be with him. Part of the time I spoke out loud, and part of the time I just felt it in my heart.
Rarely have I prayed as fervently as I did that evening. (My husband is fine, by the way, and none the worse for wear.)
Prayer means nothing unless it is felt in the heart. A prayer without feeling is not worth the breath we say it with. Growing up, one of my youth leaders referred to those kinds of prayers as “splat prayers”: they go up, hit the ceiling, and fall back down to the ground.
I try not to pray splat prayers. I’m not always successful. It’s hard to pray sincerely when I’m just thanking God for my cereal.
In Matthew 6:5-8, Jesus taught:
And when thou prayest, thou shalt 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. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
I really can’t improve upon that, so I’m not going to try.
This brings me to the last question I want to consider: How will God answer our prayers?
Sometimes He answers us by giving us what we prayed for. I did indeed reach the hospital safely and soon was at my husband’s side, where I learned that he was okay.
Sometimes we get what we want only after we listen to His counsel. For two years I searched fruitlessly for a teaching job, ignoring my husband’s advice to apply for job at one particular school. When I finally applied at that school, I was interviewed and hired almost immediately. My husband listened to inspiration from God, while I apparently was too stubborn at first to listen.
Sometimes we have to wait a really long time to get what we want, and sometimes we don’t get what we want at all. I still don’t know what God’s answer to my prayer for children is, but shall do my part and remain faithful until I know His will.
God usually answers us in quiet, seemingly unremarkable ways. Elijah went out into the wilderness to counsel with the Lord, after Jezebel tried to take away his life. This is what happened (1 Kings 19:11-12):
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.