Prayer is a powerful discipline in the life of a believer.
When practiced regularly and with faith, there’s nothing prayer can’t do.
It has the power to heal the sick, change hearts, mend marriages, change the course of a nation, end wars, stop a storm, move mountains, and set people free.
I’ve seen it happen in my life. I’ve prayed for healing, and seen people get better with no medical explanation. I’ve prayed for provision during the five years I made way less than I could live on, and saw God pay every bill even when the math didn’t add up. I’ve prayed for opportunities that would have been impossible to arrange on my own, and every single one has happened. I’ve prayed very specific prayers for both Monmouth College and the Czech Republic, and seen many of them come to pass.
I’m sure you also have at least one story of how you prayed and asked God to do something, and He came through.
Jesus gave us a promise about prayer in Matthew 21:22.
If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.
Theologians on Prayer
Some of the greatest theologians of our time — men and women who study and understand scripture in a way you and I don’t — have a lot to say about the power of prayer.
“God instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality.”
“We are working with God to determine the future. Certain things will happen in history if we pray rightly.”
“If we call upon the Lord, he has promised in his Word to answer, to bring the unsaved to himself, to pour out his Spirit among us. If we don’t call upon the Lord, he has promised nothing—nothing at all. It’s as simple as that. No matter what I preach or what we claim to believe in our heads, the future will depend upon our times of prayer.”
“God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil.”
“In every action, just as in every prayer, you are trying to bring about a certain result; and this result must be good or bad. Why, then, do we not argue as the opponents of prayer argue, and say that if the intended result is good, God will bring it to pass without your interference, and that if it is bad, He will prevent it happening whatever you do? Why wash your hands? If God intends them to be clean, they’ll come clean without your washing them. If He doesn’t, they’ll remain dirty… however much soap you use. Why ask for the salt? Why put on your boots? Why do anything?
We know that we can act and that our actions produce results. Everyone who believes in God must therefore admit (quite apart from the question of prayer) that God has not chosen to write the whole history with His own hand. Most of the events that go on in the universe are indeed out of our control, but not all. It is like a play in which the scene and the general outline of the story is fixed by the author, but certain minor details are left for the actors to improvise. It may be a mystery why He should have allowed us to cause real events at all, but it is no odder that He should allow us to cause them by praying than by any other method… He made His own plan or plot of history such that it admits a certain amount of free play and can be modified in response to our prayers. If it is foolish and impudent to ask for victory in war (on the ground that God might be expected to know best), it would be equally foolish and impudent to put on a [raincoat] – does not God know best whether you ought to be wet or dry?”
When Prayer Doesn’t Work
Prayer is powerful, but what do you do when prayer doesn’t work for you?
When you’ve asked God to heal the disease in your family member’s body, when you’ve begged for a job, when you’ve asked Him to change circumstances, give direction, provide for your need, change the heart of someone far from Him, allow you to get pregnant, asked Him to send a significant other, grow your church, reveal your calling, or any number of prayer requisitions — and nothing changes?
In moments like these, it’s easy to believe prayer doesn’t work. Or you just didn’t have enough faith. Or God is angry at you and doesn’t want to respond.
Believing in the power of prayer doesn’t mean that everything you pray is answered, or that it’s answered right when you want it.
Sometimes you pray, and the circumstances don’t change — but it doesn’t mean nothing has changed.
Prayer always changes one thing without fail: you.Click To Tweet
Prayer Changes You
Even if prayer doesn’t change your circumstances, it will always, without fail, change you.
Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself.
In Matthew 5:44, Jesus says: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Chances are, you don’t have legit enemies in your life — people who are actively trying to bring about your demise — but it’s likely there are people you don’t get along with, or people who have hurt you, speak bad about you, or people you really, really, really dislike (because you know it’s sin to actually hate someone).
Pray for those people this week. Ask God to bless them, to draw them close to Him, to give them favor at work. Pray that they stay healthy, accomplish their goals, and experience peace.
Even if they or their circumstances don’t change this week, you will.
The way you see those people will change, the way you interact with them will change, the animosity you have in your heart towards them will dissipate.
It is impossible to genuinely and regularly ask God to bless someone and not have it change the way you see them.
Prayer may not change the circumstances, but it will change your heart.Click To Tweet
Prayer will also push you into action.
One of the greatest criticisms of prayer and Christians in general, is about the inactivity of prayer.
It’s easy to sit on your couch and ask God to do something, say amen, and go about your life like nothing is wrong.
Terrorists attack a foreign city, a gunman shoots up a school, a family member gets sick, people are homeless in your city, and it’s easy to feel like prayer is nothing more than a crutch to deal with the reality of evil.
Given enough time, your prayers will lead to action.
Try it sometime. Pick one circumstance in the world that breaks your heart — the sex slave industry, starving children, the plight of the Syrian refugees, constant terrorist attacks — and spend time praying for change.
Ask God to help the victims in those situations. Ask Him to bring freedom and hope into their lives. Ask Him to provide for their needs and give them comfort.
If you pray about a situation long enough, God will tell you to be part of the solution.Click To Tweet
It’s like the poignant illustration says: I asked God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice in the world when He could do something about it. He asked me the same question.
God will change your heart about the situation for which you’re praying, give you an idea, and push you off the couch and into the arena of change.
It’s how some of the world’s greatest ministries started.
It’s Time to Pray
"If only we knew what was happening when we pray, we would never cease to pray."
Prayer has the power to change the world.
If we truly took Jesus, the Apostles, and some the greatest theologians of our time at their word and believed in the power of prayer, we would never stop praying.
But even if the circumstances don’t change, one thing is true.
Prayer changes you.
And often, it’s all that’s needed in order to change the world.
(Image via Alejandro Hernandez cc)