To whom should I pray?

In the aftermath of September 11, we have witnessed many people in prayer. That raises the question: To whom were they praying? Or to make it more personal: To whom should I pray?

Prayer is the Christian’s daily opportunity to have a heart-to-heart talk with God. A Christian asks; he gives thanks; he praises the God of heaven. Prayer–it is as natural and vital for the Christian as the taking of a breath or the beating of the heart.

Our God hears prayer. God the Father is not cold and impersonal. He is not the Great Someone out there somewhere. Jesus taught us to pray to him as “Our Father who art in heaven.” Our prayers are not addressed to “Occupant” in heaven. Rather our heavenly Father cares for us and cares about us. We can approach his throne of grace without fear and trembling. After all, through faith in Jesus, we are his dear children.

Our God is always in. He’s never sleeping, out to lunch, or taking the day off. We will never get his answering machine or a busy signal. Our God listens!

Having Spirit-worked faith in Jesus is basic to prayer. Only when we trust in the merits of Jesus as our Savior do our prayers touch the heart of God. Only in that way are we in a right relationship with God. He hears because he loves us–not because we have some right to be heard.

The God of Scripture has revealed Himself as the Triune (3 in 1) God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Prayer is an act of worship, and he alone is worthy of such honor. Only the Triune God is able to hear and grant our requests.

In I Kings 18 the false prophets of Baal “prayed” long and hard to their gods, asking then to send fire from heaven to consume their sacrifice. But God did not hear nor recognize their requests. Any prayer not addressed to the one true God, in Jesus’ name, is idolatry–the breaking of God’s First Commandment. In a similar way, saints cannot hear our prayers (see Isaiah 63:16) and angels do not merit worship (see Revelation 22:8,9). Prayer is to be addressed only to the Triune God.

To whom should I pray? God waits to hear from his believing children. With the simple trusting faith of a child, God invites you to approach Him as our Father in heaven.

Why Do I Use Jesus’ Name In Prayer?

The school nurse had just completed her health talk to the second graders. A few minutes remained for a brief review. “Tell me, Johnny,” she said to an attentive seven-year-old, “What is the first thing we do when we catch a cold?”

Johnny rose to his feet and replied confidently, “We pray to Jesus!” Not trying to be the teacher, Johnny was stating an important Biblical truth. Yes, we do pray to Jesus, or we use His Name in prayer. Why is that?

Shortly before His death, Jesus prepared His followers for the time when He would return to heaven. They would see Him no more on earth. In this context Jesus told them: “In that day you will no longer ask Me anything. I tell you the truth, My Father will give you whatever you ask in My Name.” (John 16:23) In those future days Jesus would not be right there to help them. They would seek His help in a new way, namely, by asking the Father–but in Jesus’ name. To ask the Father in Jesus’ name was as good as asking Jesus in person. Their requests would be heard and answered.

You see, the only reason we can go to the Father in prayer is because of Jesus’ work in our behalf. His death and subsequent rising from the dead opened the way to the Father by removing the roadblock of sin. Without this forgiveness earned by Jesus, the Father would have to tell us: “Get out of My sight, you wretched, miserable sinner!”

Therefore faith in Christ is basic to prayer. Only when we trust in the merits of Christ as Savior, will our prayers touch the heart of the Father. Only by believing in Jesus do we stand in a right relationship with God. Closing a prayer in Jesus’ name is not just uttering some pious words. Rather it recognizes that only through Jesus are we–and our prayers–acceptable.

With faith grounded in the Savior, pray confidently. God will hear–and answer!

Does prayer really make a difference?

Scientific research among people facing serious illness or surgery suggests that prayer increases the likelihood of success. While some such studies could be explained away as psycho-somatic phenomena, there are studies in which the prayer of others improved a patient’s odds of recovery. God isn’t impressed by these studies, so why would you be convinced?

Logically, a God who is almighty and all-knowing, and who loves the people he created, would answer prayer. Only the philosophical idea of determinism–that life is immutably bound by natural laws or some divine “script” that prescribes all the events and outcomes of life–leaves no room for answered prayer. Who would pray to a God whose hands were tied anyway?

The reason to believe that prayer makes a difference is that the Bible says it does. Here are just a few such promises Jesus gave: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. . . If you, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:7-11). “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7). “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:23-24).

Praying in Jesus’ name is what Christians do. Jesus has made us God’s children by taking away the sin that alienates people from God. For Jesus’ sake we can come to God with the confidence of children who know their Father loves them. Christians believe that because God’s love was demonstrated in the life of Jesus and in the horrible death he suffered to atone for our wrongs. (Romans 5:8 says: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”) Jesus was God in human flesh. He DID answer prayers, miraculously. Prayer made a difference in the life of every wounded sinner Jesus healed.

The Bible provides examples of how prayer changed the course of life. When the prophet Isaiah came to King Hezekiah with the message from God that he was about to die, Hezekiah prayed that his life would be spared. God not only sent Isaiah back with the answer that God would add 15 years to Hezekiah’s life, but he gave the king a meteorological sign to demonstrate that God can over-ride the laws of nature. (See Isaiah 38.) The apostle James uses an example from Old Testament history to encourage bold prayer. He writes: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain” (James 5:16-18).

Not every religious request is a prayer, of course. Faith in Jesus and trust in God’s promises are a prerequisite of prayer. Christians add “Your will be done” to their petitions because they want God to over-rule requests that would not be in their best interest or to give them something better than what they asked for. That, of course, is what any loving father would do. And if God’s answer isn’t immediate, Christians follow the counsel of Jesus who told a parable to encourage us to “always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:3).

When his disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he began the Lord’s Prayer with: “Our Father in heaven.” That’s the whole story. God is our dear Father for Jesus’ sake, so he loves to answer prayer. And God is in heaven, capable of doing anything, so he certainly can answer prayer. Prayer makes a difference.