How is prayer communicating with God?

Question: "How is prayer communicating with God?"

To understand the nature of God's communication to us, and ours to Him, we need to start with a few key precepts. The first of these is that God only speaks truth. He never lies, and He is never deceitful. Titus 1:2 "... in the hope of everlasting life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago." Job 34:12 "Surely, God will not act wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice." The second precept is that the Bible is God's very words. The Greek word for "scripture," graphe, is used 51 times in the New Testament to describe the Old Testament writings. Paul affirms in 2 Timothy 3:16 that these words are literally "breathed out by God." The word graphe also applies to the New Testament, specifically when Peter calls Paul's epistles "scripture" in 2 Peter 3:16, and also when Paul (in 1 Tim. 5:18) quotes Jesus' words as found in Luke 10:7 and calls them “scripture.” Thus, once we establish that a New Testament writing belongs to the special category "scripture," then we are correct in applying 2 Timothy 3:16 to that writing as well, and saying that that writing also has the characteristic Paul attributes to "all scripture": it is "God-breathed," and all its words are the very words of God.

Why is this information pertinent to the subject of prayer? Now that we have established that God only speaks truth and that the Bible is God's very words, we can come logically to the following two conclusions about communication with God. First, since the Bible says that God hears man (Psalm 17:6; Psalm 77:1; Isaiah 38:5), man can trust that when he is in a right relationship to God, and he speaks to God, God will hear him. Secondly, since the Bible is God's words, man can trust that when he is in a right relationship to God, and when he reads the Bible, he is literally hearing God's spoken word. The right relationship with God that is necessary for healthy communication between God and man is proved in three ways. The first is a turning from sin, or repentance. Psalm 27:9, for example, is the plea of David for God to hear him and not turn away from him in anger. From this, we know that God does turn His face away from man's sin and that sin hinders the communication between God and man. Another example of this is found in Isaiah 59:2, where Isaiah tells the people "...your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear." So when there is unconfessed sin in our lives, it will hinder communication with God.

Also necessary for communication is a humble heart. God speaks these words in Isaiah 66:2, "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word." The third thing is a righteous life. This is the positive side of turning from sin and is marked specifically by effectiveness in prayer. James 5:16 says, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

Our speech to God may be vocal, in our minds, or written. We can be confident that He will hear us and that the Holy Spirit will be helping us to pray what we ought to pray. Romans 8:26 says, "In the same way, 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."

As far as God's method of communicating back to us, we should be looking for God to speak to us primarily through Scripture, rather than trusting that God will put thoughts directly into our minds in order to guide us to specific actions or decisions. Because of our capacity for self-deception, it is not wise to accept the idea that any and every thought that enters our minds is from God. Sometimes, regarding specific issues in our lives, God does not speak to us directly through Scripture, and it can be understandably tempting to look for extra-biblical revelation in those instances. However, at such times, it is wisest—in order to avoid putting words in God's mouth and/or opening ourselves to deception—to find answers by referring to biblical principles that He has already given us. It is also advisable to pray earnestly for the wisdom to come to the right conclusions, for He has promised to give wisdom to those who ask for it. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him" (James 1:5).

Recommended Resource: Prayer, The Great Adventure by David Jeremiah.

This page is also available in: Español

Related Topics:

Who are we to pray to, the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit?

What are some hindrances to effective prayer?

How can I have my prayers answered by God?

What is the proper way to pray?

Why pray?

Return to:

Questions about Prayer

Return to: Home

How is prayer communicating with God?