Thursday, August 13, 2009


My article from today's Algona Upper Des Moines about prayer:

Q: What is it that motivates God to hear and answer prayers?

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells a story which illustrates the answer to just such a question:

"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. [11] The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. [12] I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' [13] But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' [14] I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:10-14 ESV)

God’s choice to hear and answer prayers is not founded on anything that we do. God does not hear our prayers because of their length, or how often we ask. (Matthew 6:7) He doesn’t listen based on our eloquence or the beauty of our words. He does not even take into account who is praying the prayer, other than whether the person is a Christian. A pastor, elder, or deacon’s prayer is no more worthy before God than that of any other Christian (although the prayers of pastors and Christian friends can be of great help in times of sickness or distress which make it hard for us to concentrate on our own prayers). Even though places like church buildings or chapels help us to focus on God in our prayers, He does not hear our prayers based on the location where we pray.

Nothing we do can force God to hear our prayers, and nothing of our own making renders our prayers more acceptable to Him. Like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable, we cannot rely on our own goodness or worthiness to have our prayers heard, because no matter how good we are, all people fall short of God’ standard, which is perfection. God hears the prayers of Christians solely because they have been forgiven by Jesus. When God hears the prayers of Christians, He does so only because of what Jesus has done by living perfectly according to God’s law, then being executed by crucifixion, even though He was innocent of any wrongdoing. This is why many church prayers end by saying “through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord…” any many Christians end their personal prayers, “in Jesus’ name.”

God is so good to us, that He even gives us the things we need when we forget or neglect to pray for them (Matthew 6:8). He also gives the Holy Spirit to Christians who gives and strengthens our faith in Jesus and helps us to pray, especially in times of weakness (Romans 8:26-27). God not only gives us prayer as a way to bring our needs to Him, but also as a way to thank Him for His blessings and intercede for the needs of our neighbors. He does not command prayer as a rigid duty, but instead, gives it to us as a gracious gift, and He Himself provides everything necessary for our prayers to be heard and answered for those who trust in Jesus.

Readers are encouraged to submit questions for inclusion in future issues. According to your preference, you may include your first name or submit questions anonymously, and I will do my best to answer your questions as my knowledge and research allow and according to their suitability for publication. You may submit questions by email to or by mail to P.O. Box 195; Burt, IA 50522.

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