I great you in the name of Jesus Christ and ask that His blessings, love, and direction may abound with you.
A duty to fulfill
The reflection of this month is based on the text of Philippians 4:6, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
Surely on more than one occasion you have asked yourself if God really listens to you when you address Him in prayer. It is quite curious and at the same time paradoxical, the fact that the majority of Christians know, accept, promote, and understand the power of prayer, but in our practical life we often hesitate and find ourselves in the fulcrum of doubt, especially when things happen to us that we did not want and for which we had asked not to happen.
I remember the case of a person, a member of the church, who constantly manifested having a strong faith in God and in His promises. She easily rebuked others when she saw them becoming discouraged or lacking strength. But one day she had an accident and fractured some bones. While I was visiting her at the hospital, she told me: “I am very distressed, brother. Why has God allowed this to happen to me? Does he not listen to my prayers?” It was my turn to encourage her as best I could with God’s help. It was not easy for her, but with the favor of the Lord she managed to get overcome that crisis after several surgical operations, and today she continues to be active within the people of God.
What happened to this sister can happen to us and in fact happens to us sometimes. Young people are especially vulnerable to discouragement in the life of faith. A young man easily accepts the Gospel, becomes enthusiastic, and falls in love with Jesus, but with the same ease he can be discouraged, if he does not base his faith on solid foundations, one of which is prayer.
The inspired writings tell us, “Prayer is a necessity; for it is the life of the soul. Family prayer, public prayer, have their place; but it is secret communion with God that sustains the soul life.” Education, pg. 258.
This being so, we must concentrate all our strength in cultivating this wonderful gift from heaven and pray every day to grow in love and holiness. An important guideline to follow daily is this: “Consecrate yourself to God every morning, make this your first job. May your prayer be: “Take me O Lord as entirely yours. I put all my plans at your feet. Use me today in your service. Stay with me and may all my work be done through you.” This is a daily matter. Each morning, consecrate yourself to God for that day. Submit all your plans to Him; to put them into practice or to abandon them as His providence will indicate. Place your life in the hands of God, and it will thus be more and more similar to that of Christ.
Dear youth, I invite you to analyze different aspects of the prayer that God hears and that will help you to grow in the spiritual life, because there are also prayers that do not reach heaven.
Pray asking that the Lord’s will be done
The Word of God assures us that when a sincere believer who is willing to do the divine will, goes to the throne of grace in prayer, God listens. But he must ask that the divine will be done. Most of the time we pray for issues that concern us or for something we want to receive, and we have a preconceived idea in our minds of what God’s response should be. For example, we want to buy a house and ask God that it be the one we have chosen, without giving Him the option to respond if it suits us or not. Another example, we like a girl or a guy and we pray to God that this relationship may come to fruition, without giving Him the option to respond if it suits us or not. God knows the heart, and He better than anyone can answer us whether we shall continue to cherish that relationship or not.
Jesus is our example in all. He asked the father thrice to pass the bitter cup from Him. Matthew 26:36-40. It was not that the Lord Jesus was afraid of death, rather the cup represented the wrath of God that was to be shed upon Christ, as the expiatory Lamb of the sinner. Jeremiah 25:15-16. The humanity of Christ rejected this terrible responsibility, but the Savior was conscious that there was no other way to save the lost. For this reason He added to His three prayers, “Thy will be done.” “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.
Pray asking according to the Word of God
One of the most important aspects of prayer is wanting to do the will of God expressed in his Word. If we pray living in transgression, if we do not want to mold our life to a “thus says the Lord” or want to change, our prayer will serve little to nothing: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Psalms 66:18. For example: we pray for a relationship, but the person is not from the church; we ask because we are physically attracted, or we ask God if we can accept a job on the Sabbath, or pray that God will answer us if we can go to a school dance, or if we can eat meat, or that we may win the lottery, or we ask for the victory of our football team, etc., etc. This is asking incorrectly, and about this matter the Scripture says: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” James 4:3. When one lives in sin, this condition disturbs our prayers; we should ask God to help us overcome our sin.
Sometimes it appears in films or stories: Christians, priests, or ministers, who pray in a war for the victory of their army, people who practice extreme sports in which they put their lives at risk, who pray before jumping into the void, or who throw themselves a great distance to the sea in a dive, or who climb high mountains, or practice motorsport at high speed, or do paragliding or base-jumping, consisting of jumping into the expanse with a special winged suit that enables gliding. This is putting life at an unnecessary risk. It would be another thing completely if we had to climb a mountain in a desperate flight. Knowing the will of God expressed in his Word will help us to not make the mistake of asking for evil.
Pray cultivating the devotional life
To pretend that God listens to us without our being willing to listen to Him through studying His Word is a grave error. If we do not show any interest in loving the Bible, knowing it, understanding it, and putting it into practice, it will be difficult for God to answer our prayer. “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” Proverbs 28:9. The Bible is the lamp that guides our feet along the path of life. If we do not read or study it, we will not have light, because faith, hope, and spiritual stability come from hearing the Word of God. Romans 10:17.
“All who do not earnestly search the Scriptures and submit every desire and purpose of life to that unerring test, all who do not seek God in prayer for a knowledge of His will, will surely wander from the right path and fall under the deception of Satan.” Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pg. 192.
Pray without ceasing
Sporadic and superficial prayer does not nourish the soul nor elevate us to heaven. Can we pretend that someone takes us seriously if he is by our side and we talk to him once a month? Prayer that is constant, sincere, and full of faith will enable us to learn to pray intelligently to God and as appropriate. Jesus advised his disciples to pray without failing: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41. We can grow accustomed to praying when things go wrong or when in great need, but the Bible teaches us to “pray without ceasing” at all times, place, and circumstance. 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
Pray without hesitation
If when we address God we hesitate, with doubts, without believing that the prayer will be fulfilled, the supplication will be in vain. We must learn to ask with faith, believing that God will listen and respond: “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” James 1:6-7.
Pray having forgiven
If in our hearts we harbor hatred or enmity against someone, we have not understood the Gospel of Christ’s love. If we are not willing to forgive those who offended us, how can we expect God to forgive us? If there is a pending issue with someone, we must do everything possible to find and reconcile with them; at least do our part: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Matthew 5:23-24.
This also applies to marriages. If spouses become angry with each other and hold a grudge, if they constantly argue and do nothing to remedy their situation, their prayer is also hindered. 1 Peter 3: 7. A husband who treats his wife badly or vice versa cannot expect God to listen to him if he does not correct his attitude. It is also true for abusers, controllers, selfish people, sowers of calumnies, those critical, and proud. All these things are fruits of the flesh and as such are sentenced to perish. But we can pray that God changes our hearts. This is an excellent reason to pray, and we must put all our effort, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to turn away from evil.
Pray with a willing heart
Sometimes Christians pray as if by obligation, because they do not have time to stand before God in prayer. Many feel annoyance or laziness when it comes to prayer. The chores, amusements, and worries of life choke the desire to pray; they neglect prayer days and weeks without talking to God. This is a serious mistake. Praying as in obligation or neglecting prayer deprives us of the pleasure of having a daily audience with God and receiving the influence of heaven. Let us propose to create the habit of praying, as well as to reading the Word of God daily. There will be many blessings that we will receive: “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand [without].” Psalms 84:10.
Pray even in moments when we do not feel like praying
It may be that in certain circumstances we fall into the well of discouragement and neglect prayer. But, this is a mistake. When we come to the state of not wanting to pray, of being unmotivated, then it is time to pray more: “When we feel the least inclined to commune with Jesus, let us pray the most. By so doing we shall break Satan’s snare, the clouds of darkness will disappear, and we shall realize the sweet presence of Jesus.” Lift Him Up, pg. 372.
Dear youth, I hope that with the favor of our good God, we may all make a more intense effort to benefit from the wonderful gift of prayer; God is waiting for us to speak to him every day; He wants to enter into an intimate communion with each one of us. Thus ” Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend…. Prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse where are treasured the boundless resources of omnipotence.” Steps to Christ, pg. 93, 95.
May the Lord bless you richly and grant you his peace and love. Amen.
José Vicente Giner
Pastor and Director of the Youth Department