The past few days, prayer has been our focus. I have written of What is Prayer, The Prescription of Prayer, The Posture of Prayer, The Purpose of Prayer. Today, and finally, lets look at the power of prayer.
I would not like to say a lot about what the power of prayer can do for us. There has been, in my opinion, enough written and spoken of that already. There is one very unpopular concept of the power of prayer that I would like to emphasize. It is sanctification! Prayer has much more to do with God changing us than it could ever have to do with our bending of his ear to our “needs”. In fact, our greatest need is for him to change us to be more like him and to bend us to his will rather than the other way around.
I believe there is a theology out there that gets this wrong most of the time. This mostly American theology that puts us over God, is constantly telling us to go to him so that he can right our poor lives by giving us what we want. And what is it that we want? On good days we want to keep our jobs, pay our bills, get along with our peers, feel good physically, heal our loved ones, never go through tough times or experience pain, never be sick, never lose people to death, etc. The fact is, God listens to those petitions and sometimes works to give us those things, but it is not as if he would not anyway.
Furthermore, we spend much of our time praying for stuff. Oh, I realize that most of us don’t pray for a million dollars everyday. We do still exhibit a great deal of self-centered and selfish motives in our prayers. We pray for good grades in school (for either ourselves or our children). We pray for “successful” lives for our children, and ourselves defining success in a way that we know is not Biblical. We pray for certain relational advantages with other people that we know, like their understanding of our lack of repentance. I could go on, but it’s likely that you don’t need me to do that.
So why pray for anything? If God is all knowing, immutable, and sovereign, why even go to him with any expectation of his work in our lives?
Prayer gains us a right perspective of ourselves to God. How can the power of prayer give us a proper view (perspective) of God? If we become dependent upon God’s power because we finally see ourselves as powerless, we are humbled in a way that brings us into worship and brings glory to him. Instead of God being our go-to guy when we need something, he becomes our necessary hiding place. When God’s holiness becomes apparent and our sinfulness becomes transparent, we should be driven to our knees. Martin Luther said that the only time the pronoun I should be used in a sentence with the name of God, is if the word mercy was present. He understood this perspective that is in the power of prayer. This God, this consuming fire, requires a little more reverence that we are used to giving him. The first power of prayer should correct that. The first power of prayer should give us a right perspective of God and us.
Another power of prayer is its purpose to conform our will to His. Have your ever wondered what’s the difference in our will and His? Most of the time there is a great deal of difference between the two. That being said, only one of those wills needs correcting and its not God’s.
What is it that your petitions are anchored in? Is your will bent towards the glory of God? Consider this as you pray. It’s probably true that many times you pray for a thing but as you pray the truth becomes apparent to you, Scriptures are brought to bear upon your mind, and your wishes change or are adjusted, even as you pray.
This, my friend, is the power of prayer! Things we wish are made low. Circumstances we ask to be relieved, we are brought through. People we are troubled with, we are made to love. Oh that each time I prayed I began the way that I ended. This is a power of prayer, God’s means to change our wills to match his.
How else does prayer conform us? Through prayer we gain right relationship with God. Although we are forgiven in Christ, we must continually petition God for forgiveness from the continued presence of sin in our lives. But why is this? Aren’t we already forgiven? Didn’t God say that our sins have been removed from us as far as the east is from the west? Maybe, just maybe, our relationship must be nourished, not because of God’s lack of forgiveness or some slack of his promise, but because of our complacency and/or paralyzed state. We often become complacent of our own sins and prayer to a holy God is a reminder daily of the state in which we exist. On the other hand, prayer reminds us of God’s forgiveness when we become so aware of our sin that we feel useless to God. Either way, ultimately, prayer is a means that God uses to free us from the chains of our sin.
Finally, and this is not meant to be complete, the power of prayer is God’s appointed means to accomplish his will. It is not as if God is disinterested in our concerns, but he is interested in making his concerns our concerns. It is that way which he plans on redeeming his creation. Prayer is the beginning of that process for us as we are molded and equipped to do his will in this present age.
God is not paralyzed in our lack of prayer. He is not idle as we pray badly or do not pray. His Spirit urges us to pray, we do, and God acts. It seems to me that the only person who is paralyzed in that description is us.
This Thanksgiving and everyday, pray. Pray for God’s will and his glory. Make those things the foundation of the your petitions. Build your prayers upon his promises and his revelation. Hide your fear in his glorious attributes. Raise him above all you have, want, and need and all of those things will be made true and right and all you will need will found in him.
If we put God’s concerns first, then we can bring our own needs. God is concerned about our needs and knows them even before we mention them (Matt. 6:8). If this is the case, then why pray? Because prayer is the God-appointed way to have these needs met (see James 4:1–3). Prayer prepares us for the proper use of the answer. If we know our need, and if we voice it to God, trusting Him for His provision, then we will make better use of the answer than if God forced it on us without our asking.-Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Mt 6:5). Wheaton, IL: Victor
Matthew 10:29–31 (ESV)
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.