While I have been praying for decades, in many ways I really haven’t understood the amazing power of prayer. I am so grateful that God continues to patiently teach me about this gift that I fear many other followers of Christ likewise neglect due to ignorance.
A big part of my confusion was understanding precisely how prayer “works.”
What I mean is this: Since God knows what we need before we ask, why do we need to ask? I previously resolved this question for myself in thinking that, because He loves us so much, He wants heart-to-heart interaction with us, His children. He doesn’t merely want to be an impersonal, prayer-answering machine. He is a Person. He is our Father!
While all that is very true, it is also true that we are told in Scripture, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2 ESV). Even though God knows what we need, and loves us greatly, we won’t get what we desire if we don’t ask for it in prayer.
This analogy helps me understand the role of prayer: People come to faith in Christ because someone shares the gospel with them in the power of the Spirit. But He is really the One who draws people to Himself. He doesn’t need us, but He chooses to partner with us to bring people to Himself. Would they come to Christ if we didn’t share with them? I think not. (See Romans 10:14-15.)
In a similar way, while God doesn’t need our prayers, He lovingly chooses to partner with us in listening to and responding to them. As we pray according to His will, He hears us, and our prayers are amazingly and wonderfully answered! If our lost loved ones are not prayed for, they may never come to Christ. But we can impact their eternal destiny through our prayers of faith!
What’s helping me grow in this understanding has come in part by re-reading that amazing classic by Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer. Even though written over 100 years ago, this book is life-changing! Here are a few brief excerpts:
- Answered prayer is the interchange of love between the Father and His child.
- Most churches think their members are to gather simply to take care of and edify each other. They don’t know that God rules the world by the prayers of His saints, that prayer is the power by which Satan is conquered, and that through prayer the Church on earth has access to the powers of the heavenly world.
- Jesus never taught His disciples how to preach, only how to pray. He did not speak much of what was needed to preach well, but much of praying well. To know how to speak to God is more than knowing how to speak to man. Not power with men, but power with God is the first thing. Jesus loves to teach us how to pray.
- Christ the Son has the right to ask whatever He chooses. Through our abiding in Him and His abiding in us, His Spirit breathes in us what He wants to ask and obtain through us. We pray in His name. As we do, the prayers are as much ours as they are His.
- [Prayer] must be to the glory of God, in full surrender to His will, in full assurance of faith, in the name of Jesus, and with a perseverance that, if need be, refuses to be denied.
I love this last statement! Once we know something is the will of God, we need to pray with a perseverance that “refuses to be denied.” But how do you know if something is the will of God?
Is it consistent with Scripture? Is it for the glory of God? Has the Holy Spirit put it on your heart as a real desire from Him? Then it is His will! Persevere with faith until you see the answer.
A personal example: My wife and I are in a small group that meets weekly. We saw a neighbor woman come to Christ about two years ago, and she joined our group. But her husband had been a holdout to the gospel. Knowing her husband’s personality well, this woman felt it might take him “20 or 30 years” to come to Christ.
But a few months ago, we sensed in the Spirit and consistent with the Word that it was time for her husband to become a Christ-follower himself. So our small group began to pray, diligently and full of faith, believing it was God’s will for her husband to come to Jesus. Within a month of our starting to pray with this sort of faith, God miraculously engineered painful circumstances in his life, and he trusted Christ as His Savior and Lord!
We need to pray with this sort of perseverance for our families, our churches, our cities, and our nation. Imagine how the Great Awakening will truly become reality as we join together to pray for it with persevering faith!
Can we count on you to do that?