By Dr Roy B. Zuck

Praying in times of crisis

HONORING KATRINA SURVIVORS: New Orleans 9th Ward residents and their supporters pray at the rebuilt levee wall during a Memorial Day service on May 29, 2006 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The September 11 terrorist attacks on America brought the nation to its knees. So did Hurricanes Katrina and Rita when they slammed into the U.S Gulf Coast, the worst natural disasters to ever hit this country.

These historical, devastating events caused many Americans to begin praying as perhaps never before, People prayed for the victims and their families, for the relief teams, and for our nation's security.

But catastrophes that cripple our communities or our nations are not the only ones that cause us to grieve and pray. Dire circumstances of many kinds point to our need for divine help. Crises, whether national or individual, reveal our human weaknesses and prompt us to turn to God.

That's what the nation Israel did in the wilderness. "They cried out to the Lord in their trouble" (Psalm 107:6). And in King Asa's day "in their distress they turned to the Lord" (2 Chronicles 15:4).That's what God wants us to do. He longs to hear from us, for "the prayer of the upright pleases Him" (Proverbs 15:8).

Can we be sure God hears our prayers?

Does He always give us what we want – even in times of distress? No, not always. Sometimes His answers are delayed, awaiting His perfect timing. At other times certain obstacles can hinder our getting through to God. He won't answer us, for example, if we harbor sin in our lives.

As the prophet wrote, "Your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2). Nor does God respond to our requests if we are guilty of pride (Matthew 6:5) or if we pray to satisfy our own wants (James 4:3).

And if we merely recite a memorized prayer without it coming from our hearts, those petitions will not reach heaven.

To be effective, our prayers must be offered from humble hearts, godly lives, and in faith in the Lord. Also, in our praying we must be submissive to God's will. As Jesus prayed, we too must say, "Not as I will, but as You will" (Matthew 26:39).

Many people wrongly think of God as an emergency agent ready to respond to their 911 calls. Prayer is much more than that, for it includes praising Him, confessing our sins to Him, and thanking Him for who He is and what He has done.

In times of personal or national crises we can turn to God, the Christian's "refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). If you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, you have the privilege of entering God's presence at any time, in any circumstance, and with any problem no matter how big or small. You can cast "all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

If you have not received Jesus Christ as your Savior, you need to ask God to forgive you of your sins and give you eternal life. Ask Him right now to save you. He will do it.

This is the most important prayer you could ever pray, for it will determine whether your destiny after death will be hell or heaven.

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