Paragraph 2 (p. 164) states, “If we want Jehovah to listen to our prayers…we must pray to him in the way that he approves.”
Although a Christian wouldn’t disagree with that statement, I’m struck by how much of the Watchtower’s teachings are phrased like provisions of a law code.
For example, paragraph 5 (p. 166) says, “For our prayers to be favorably heard by God… we must meet some basic requirements.”
Prayer and works
Paragraph 6 (p 166) explains, “A primary requirement is that we exercise faith.” The emphasis is on exercising—that is, on works. Although the book doesn’t say this, if you get involved in Jehovah’s Witness meetings, you discover that “exercising faith” means doing theocratic works (such a door-to-door witnessing) under the direction of God’s organization, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
The same paragraph goes on to say, “Having true faith is more than merely knowing that God exists and that he hears and answers prayers. Faith is proved by our actions. We must give clear evidence that we have faith by the way we live every day.—James 2:26.”
My question would be, “Give clear evidence to whom? Doesn’t God know our hearts without outward evidence?”
Paragraph 7 (p. 166) states, “Jehovah also requires that those who approach him in prayer do so with humility and sincerity.” While this is true, in the Jehovah’s Witness religion, “humility” often translates into unquestioning obedience to Watchtower teachings and directives.
Paragraph 8 (p. 167) says, “Another requirement for being heard by God is that we act in harmony with our prayers. Jehovah expects us to do all that is within our power to work at what we pray for.”
Notice how the Watchtower focuses prayer on us—all the requirements we must meet and all the works we must perform in order to get Jehovah to heed our prayers.
According, this would provide you another opportunity to reinforce points you have made from The Faith and Works Approach and The New Birth Approach from my book, Getting Through to Jehovah’s Witnesses: Approaching Bible Discussions in Unexpected Ways. The point is that good works are not a prerequisite to a relationship with God.
Rather, we need to receive an inner transformation by God which comes by faith before any works (as Romans 4 shows from the life of Abraham). It’s this inner transformation that makes us righteous and enables us to do the works that God has prepared for us to do (see pp. 91-97 of The Faith and Works Approach, especially its discussion of Ephesians 2:8-10).
Praying to “Jehovah” by name
Paragraph 9 (p. 167) asks, “To whom should we pray? Jesus taught his followers to pray to “our Father in the heavens.” (Matthew 6:9) Our prayers, then, must be directed only to Jehovah God.”
What this doesn’t tell you is that most Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that if they don’t direct their prayers to Jehovah by name, those prayers will really go to Satan. Thus, when you listen to Jehovah’s Witnesses praying aloud, you’ll find that they nearly always start their prayers by saying, “Jehovah…” They usually repeat the name “Jehovah” multiple times, even in short prayers.
Don’t criticize their praying this way, but you can use The Divine Name Approach (pp. 213-214) to ask them to show you anywhere in the Bible where Jesus addressed his prayers to Jehovah by name. In fact, in his model prayer, he said to address God as “our Father.”
Paragraph 7 (pp. 167-168) declares, “… Jehovah requires that we acknowledge the position of his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ…For our prayers to be heard, we must pray only to Jehovah through his Son.”
Because the Watchtower teaches that Jesus is not God, Jehovah’s Witnesses consider it sinful and idolatrous to pray directly to Jesus. They fear that such prayers would really go to Satan because they are not directed to Jehovah.
This is a real barrier to Witnesses coming to Jesus for salvation or obtaining a personal relationship with him.
For this reason, I recommend that you use The Come to Jesus Approach, pp. 84-86 to show them biblical examples where Christians did address their prayers to Jesus. That section of my book discusses passages such as 1 Corinthians 1:2, Acts 7:59, Acts 9:20-21, and 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.
Paragraph 10 (p. 168) says that no specific position or posture is required for prayer. We can agree with this. Normally, we bow our heads and close our eyes when we pray, but if we understand that it isn’t required, we can pray more often, such as while driving.
Next week, we will look at what the Watchtower says about praying and getting answers to prayer.