Whether you’re searching for God or a longtime believer, there’s a good chance you have questions about prayer. How exactly are you supposed to pray? And why should you do it? Here are some guidelines from Billy Graham.
How do I talk to God?
Billy Graham: Prayer is simply talking to God—and the most important thing I can say about this is that God wants you to talk to Him! He loves us and He has promised to hear us when we pray. How can you learn to pray? First, understand why prayer is possible.
Prayer is possible because Jesus Christ has removed the barrier between us and God—a barrier caused by our sins. You see, sin separates us from God, and because of that we have no right to come before Him. But by His death on the cross, Christ paid the penalty for our sins and removed the barrier. God then gives us the privilege of coming into His presence when we commit our lives to Christ.
The Bible says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). If you have never done so, ask Christ to come into your life today.
Then understand that God now welcomes you into His presence and promises to hear you—and He cannot lie. The Bible says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). Trust His promises and learn to bring every concern to Him in prayer.
Does God only hear us when we pray out loud or does He hear silent prayers also? Please forgive me if this is a dumb question, but I didn’t grow up in a religious home and have just become a Christian.
Billy Graham: Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions when you don’t understand something about the Christian life; after all, God wants you to come to know Him more and more each day. Jesus’ disciples repeatedly asked for His help, and so should we. On one occasion they said, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).
Yes, God hears our prayers on all occasions, whether we’re praying out loud or praying silently in our hearts and minds. After all, He knows all about us and knows what is going on inside us—both good and bad. The Bible says that God “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible also says, “The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked, but those of the pure are pleasing to him” (Proverbs 15:26).
God even hears our prayers when we can’t even put them into words—times, for example, when our hearts are too burdened or confused even to speak. The Bible says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).
One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the privilege of prayer—a privilege that is possible because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Thank God for the privilege of prayer and learn daily to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Does God really answer prayers?
Billy Graham: Prayer is one of our greatest privileges as God’s children, and even if God doesn’t seem to answer your prayers at first, don’t stop praying. God loves you, and no prayer goes unanswered.
Jesus once told a story about a poor widow who repeatedly asked a corrupt judge to do what was right. (You can read it in Luke 18:1-8.) Repeatedly the judge refused—not because her request was wrong, but because he just didn’t care.
But because of her persistence, he eventually gave in and granted her what she deserved. In a far greater way, Jesus said, God (who is righteous and does care for us) hears the prayers of His people, and we must never give up.
But let me add two things. First, realize that sometimes God is actually answering our prayers when we don’t realize it—and the reason is because His answer may be “No” or “Wait.” Yes, we think we know what’s best for us—but God sees the whole picture, and sometimes He lovingly refuses to give us what we request, because He knows it isn’t according to His perfect plan.
Second, remember that we have the privilege of coming to God only because Jesus Christ died for our sins. Have you given your life to Him? If not, let your first prayer be one of confession and faith, asking Him to come into your life as your Lord and Savior.