Recently, I received a letter from a widow. She expressed her desire to support God’s Work. However, she wrote, I live very far from headquarters or any of the regional offices. I am physically disabled and live off Social Security. How can I help, seeing I have no money to spare and am severely restricted in how I can provide support for this most important Work on the face of the Earth?
Herbert W. Armstrong was often confronted with similar requests. He wrote in a member letter:
“You can’t perform miracles. But God can … and will …. I know that what you can do by sacrificing other things and sending in money is limited—but what can be done by your urgent prayers is unlimited. … We … need miracles …. Please go to your knees and ask for it. Ask believingly!” (May 16, 1977).
Routinely we hear people say, “Well, I guess all I can do is pray for you,” as if to indicate that this is a meager contribution of limited effect. But is it? Do we know that God hears us when we pray and that Jesus Christ is the living Head of this Church?
Are your prayers answered? If not, why not?
The Faithful Petition
We live in a material world and are all affected by the age of materialism. Our world has lost the knowledge of God and the power of prayer. As a result, this world is extremely limited in spiritual power. So-called Christians today have forgotten the power of prayer and lack knowledge of the true God.
Our materialistic society discourages us from relying on God. Is it any wonder that Jesus Christ would ask: “[W]hen the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). This is a real challenge for God’s people.
Too often, prayer is seen as a religious duty or exercise. People either pray solely because they feel it is expected of them, or because they are troubled and seek relief. Either way, the focus is selfish. Such people are left without answers to their prayers (James 4:3).
The Bible is clear that any petition we make of God must be made in the full assurance that we ask according to God’s will and that He will respond. The Apostle James made this abundantly plain: “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).
To be assured of answered prayer, we first need to understand what prayer is.
What Is Prayer?
This may seem like an odd question to ask in a Christian-living magazine. We all know what prayer is—or do we? The most often used word for prayer in Hebrew means “intercession, supplication.” It comes from a root word meaning “to judge, intreat, intercede, pray, make supplication.” The literal meaning of the word is “to prostrate oneself,” or “to bow down.”
In the Greek, the term translated prayer means to “supplicate, worship, pray for” or “make prayer.” Prayer, then, is simply intercession with God, or earnest, intense supplication. It is done in an attitude of humility, contrition and deep respect.
Prayer is not mental magic or mumbo jumbo. It is not a psychological pep talk that makes you feel better. Neither is it a time-filling exercise without deep meaning.
Real prayer is communication with Almighty God through our Savior, Jesus Christ. Prayer is us talking to our Father in an attitude of humility, reverence, awe and respect. It is backed by the power and authority of Jesus Christ.
Since the word itself means “to bow down,” the general posture for prayer is on your knees. Most examples in the Bible show the usual position of prayer is on your knees, bowing before God. The position is important, though not as important as the attitude of humility, reverence and respect for God. (You certainly can pray while clenching onto the side of a cliff!)
Merriam-Webster Dictionary says supplication is “an earnest request.” It defines the word as “to make a humble entreaty, to ask for earnestly and humbly.” To entreat means “to make a request to (someone) in an earnest or urgent manner.” Prayer can also refer to intercession or a plea. These definitions are all contained in one word: prayer.
When you are really crying out in making a petition or soliciting His help, it would be natural to stretch out your arms, letting the palms face up as you plead. This demonstrates earnestness and emotional involvement in your prayers.
How then should we pray? What should we pray for? And can we be sure our prayers are answered?
Obedience Is Key
Possibly the most obvious reason so many prayers go unanswered is the fact that man refuses to obey God. Sin is the breaking of God’s law (1 John 3:4). The Bible plainly states that God does not hear sinners (John 9:31).
The vast majority of man’s prayers go unanswered, or aren’t even heard, because of sin! Hypocritical prayers are an abomination to God (Proverbs 28:9). He wants us to live by every word. Unless we do, even our prayers can become sin (Psalm 109:7).
Of course, we are all sinners and as such cut off from God (Romans 5:12; 3:23; Daniel 9:11).
How then will God ever hear us?
If we want our prayers to be heard and answered by God, we must first desire to repent of any sin that separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) and ask Him for His goodness that leads us to that repentance (Romans 2:4).
Look at the example of the Prophet Daniel. After deeply humbling himself in repentant prayer, an angel came to him, and said: “Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words” (Daniel 10:12).
If a person departs from sin and cries out to God from his heart, his prayer will be heard! God is extremely merciful and will hear us from the moment that we begin to want to communicate with Him. In essence, a wholehearted desire is the only precondition to prayer.
God will never hear sinners who want to remain in their sin—but He is quick to respond to those who want to change, even while they are yet sinners (Romans 5:8).
God has such love for us that He wants all of us to turn from sin (2 Peter 3:9). We should never let our weakness in dealing with sin keep us from communicating with God. Instead, we should ask Him for greater desire to vanquish sin—for help to conquer and squash anything that keeps us from earnest communication with Him.
Obedience and a desire to obey are key!
“For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:20-22).
In order for your prayers to be heard, strive to serve God with a sincere, faithful and devoted heart. You must want to obey and please Him in your thoughts, words and actions.
But obedience alone is not enough. To be heard by God, another vital ingredient is required.
Not Without Faith
From time to time, God’s ministers meet with those who have departed from the faith. On more than one such occasion, I have encountered people whose lives are in a mess and who live in great fear. Defying their conscience, they don’t obey God. But from time to time an individual like that can reach such a low point that he realizes he needs to return to God. He sees cause and effect and knows that only God can straighten out his life.
Some, however, look at it as a 12-step recovery program—a series of hoops they need to jump through in order to stabilize their life. Such people fail to see something most important.
“[W]ithout faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Faith is essential to breaking through to God. Lack of real faith is a prime reason millions of prayers go unheard—unanswered. “Millions lack faith to receive answers to their prayers—to free their minds from fears and worries. To a large extent this is due to lack of understanding what faith is” (Herbert W. Armstrong, What Is Faith?).
Notice this vital truth taught by Jesus Christ Himself: To two blind men seeking healing, He said, “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matthew 9:29). Christ then healed these blind men because of their belief (verse 30).
How much do you believe God will answer you when you get on your knees?
How can you obtain such faith? Why are some people so fearful? How come they lack faith?
Think on this wonderful statement in Romans 10:17 about where faith comes from: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” While someone’s life can reach such a low point that they start to cry out to God, it may only be a one-way conversation. If a person stops studying God’s Word for the promises God makes, it is no wonder he lacks faith!
Drinking in God’s promises through daily Bible study will make us stronger in faith. Through study of and meditation on God’s Word, we learn intimately how God’s many promises in the Bible apply to us!
Faith is not an emotion that you work up. It is not something you can attain by an agonizing struggle. Instead, it is God’s gift (Ephesians 2:8).
Both grace and faith are God’s gifts. Faith is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). When a person turns from sin and surrenders his life to God and His government through baptism, God will give that person the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which imparts faith (Acts 2:38).
If you need or desire more of God’s Holy Spirit, more faith, then go before God in humble supplication on your knees and ask for it! (Galatians 2:16, 20; Philippians 3:7-9; Luke 11:9).
Walk With God
Another key to powerful prayer is to walk with God.
The Bible records how men like Abraham, Noah, Moses, David and Elijah all walked with God. They came to know God intimately. They staked their lives on their implicit trust in God. It motivated them to obey faithfully and loyally.
All these men prayed often to God. They spent long hours in prayer, communing with Him.
In many counseling sessions, God’s ministers find that people have serious problems in their lives. In so many of these cases, they learn that these people are spending just mere minutes (or seconds) in “prayer.” How could such a person expect to have spiritual power?
“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8)
If you desire spiritual power in your life, then walk with God. But don’t let it be a silent stroll. Commune with God throughout the day (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Walking with God means spending time with Him instead of with the material things of this world. It involves spending time in study, discovering the deep truths of the Bible and meditating on the principles and laws. It means praying to Him for deeper understanding, wisdom, direction and faith.
Walking with God requires humility (Isaiah 66:2). Pride is a trap we can all fall into, but God will not walk with the proud and high-minded (James 4:6). He will not hear the prayers of the proud or the self-righteous (Luke 18:9-14).
God revives the spirit of the humble (Isaiah 57:15). Gerald Flurry explains how He does this in his booklet Isaiah’s End-Time Vision: “You and I must work to understand and think like God. … This verse is probably more revealing than any verse in the Bible about God’s plan for man!”
Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon states contrite means: “1) to break in pieces, to crush, 2) to be crushed, humbled, broken in spirit, 3) broken very small.” “God says this is what must happen to man—if we are to dwell with Him in His ‘high and holy place,’” Mr. Flurry continued. “Today, man is filled with pride, vanity and rebellion toward God. That rebellious spirit must be crushed and broken before we can dwell with God!
“You and I are called today to revive that humble spirit before God. It is not a spirit you see on this Earth today! God is calling His firstfruits to revive that spirit and then help lead the world to God! It’s not easy to have that self-willed spirit crushed. In fact, it’s the hardest thing we have ever had to do! But it can be done, with joy, through the power of God’s Holy Spirit.”
Think on this when you bow yourself down in prayer, when you humble yourself before your Maker, when you ask for more of God’s Holy Spirit. Prayer is a wonderful tool to help us understand and think like God.
Be Fervent and Alert
Mr. Armstrong admonished readers of the Good News magazine: “If your prayers have not been answered, it is your fault, not God’s. Fast … to learn where you have been wrong. Perhaps you asked for something you should not have asked. Perhaps you were too far apart from God, and close to this world and material problems or pleasures. When you pray while fasting, examine yourself! Discern whether your attitude has been right. Seek to draw closer to God and to His will. Seek for faith (which He will give you). Then, when you have undergone this self-cleansing, and know you are in God’s will, believe His promises and expect your prayers to be answered” (January 1980).
God corrected Israel for its indifferent prayers. Do we earnestly pray from the heart? Answers to prayers do not come from casual prayer! Lack of results from prayers can occur because you never put your heart into your prayers the way you should.
Imagine you receive an invitation for a private audience with the Queen of England. Would you go with a ho-hum attitude, droopy-eyed and drowsy, mumbling some words before falling asleep?
How much more disrespectful is it to come before our heavenly Father in such a manner—entering His glorious and awe-inspiring throne room to mumble a few words when we are half asleep?
God desires our fervent prayers. Fervency is an essential element to powerful prayer.
Fervency means more than persistence. It includes feeling and expression, extreme vigor and ardor, being in a state of intense mental or physical strain, emotion or activity.
A weak-kneed, spineless, lukewarm prayer has never achieved miraculous results and never will.
When you pray, do you put your whole heart into it? Do you really pour out your heart before the throne of grace? Are you filled with zeal, motivated with spiritual energy and alertness?
When James wrote about the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man” (James 5:16), he used one Greek word: energeo! The effectual prayer gets results because of the effort, toil and labor that is poured into it.
The Amplified Bible reads: “The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available—dynamic in its working.” And as the Living Bible describes it: “The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results.”
Your persistent, determined, fervent efforts will reap a payoff if made in the right attitude. God will answer!
Faithful prayers must continually be offered up with the full assurance and complete confidence that the answer to our petition is on its way! (1 John 5:14-15).
Before His crucifixion, Jesus was in agony when He prayed (Luke 22:44). He wrestled in prayer—determined to know He was both heard of and empowered by His Father. Those prayers of Christ were heard! (Hebrews 5:7). What a powerful miracle that most fervent of prayers accomplished! Jesus pondered the tremendous responsibility that was placed on His shoulders. As a result, He threw His whole being into this prayer.
Humanly, He would not have looked forward to getting His flesh ripped off and being nailed to the stake. But He was far more concerned about letting the Father down in the final hours before His sacrifice. Thanks in part to the fervency of Christ, mankind can now enter the God Family! If that is not a powerful miracle, then what is?
God’s people have been called out of season to support the Work of God—to back the apostle God has appointed in this end time.
We supply much of that support through crying out to God. How powerful is the impact of our support? Do we limit God by thinking, Well, all I can do is pray?
Prayer is powerful! You have access to the power that performs miracles—miracles in your life and miracles for the Work of God.
Your prayers may move hundreds of people to watch The Key of David, to read the Trumpet, to request and stick with the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course. Your prayers can lead to more and more of our readers committing themselves to become co-workers in this great Work of God.
Your prayers can swing open the doors for a final warning work to Ephraim and Judah. Your powerful, persistent, humble and fervent prayers work miracles!
Don’t limit God!
Jesus Christ knew He could do nothing of Himself (John 5:30), and neither can we. Yet we are engaged in the Work of the great and living Almighty God! Christ meant what He said when He stated “greater works than these shall he [that believes on me] do” and “whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do” (John 14:12-13). Believe that He will work greater deeds through you than what He wrought on Earth in person! We need to expect greater miracles.
While on Earth, Christ did the Work of God. Today He does that same Work of God through you—including your prayers on behalf of the Work.
Are you holding up your part in the great commission? Do you really back and support God’s man with your prayers? Do you really trust and rely on the miracles God has promised to perform for us?
Am I personally dedicated to my part in the Work of God?
Do I pray for more laborers?
Do I pray that God would grant us the world conditions in which this Work can be done?
Do I pray for God’s Work to make a powerful impact in the nations of Israel, which are about to collapse?
Do I pray for a doubling or a tripling of Key of David responses and the income so we can continue to freely give God’s message to the world?
Do I pray that I may see how I can do more through prayer?
Do I pray that God’s Word will reach and impact every man, woman and child in Israel?
Would God not hear such prayers?
God’s Work is waiting and depending on you! Your prayers can have a tremendous impact. They can accomplish miracles never before seen!
But it is up to you: your obedience, your faith, your walk with God, your fervor and earnestness, and your unwavering stick-to-it-iveness.
What can be achieved by your urgent prayers is unlimited! As the return of Jesus Christ approaches, we must be more and more careful about our prayer life. Let’s make sure we all pray with power to witness “greater works than these”!