Welcome back to this series on prayer. If you have missed any previous posts you can click here to catch up.
In this post, I wish to look into the power of prayer. Perhaps one of the most widely assumed facts about prayer is that it is powerful or we hope it is powerful. We expect or hope that prayer will change something over which we have no control ourselves.
But I’ll be honest. When I think about prayer, the first thing that comes to mind is not the power of prayer. If you were to get a glimpse into my prayer life, that much would be evident. The simple fact is; the amount I pray doesn’t reflect the power of prayer. When the Bible talks about prayer, it speaks in explosive, world-altering terms.
James 5:16-18 says this;
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
These verses paint a breathtaking picture of how powerful prayer is. It draws a direct line between the weather-altering prayer of Elijah and my own prayers. It is absolutely unbelievable. God wants me to look at Elijah’s prayer and to think, “The same kind of powerful praying is available to me.”
The plain truth is that I take prayer for granted. I was taught to pray at a young age and my family always said prayers before meals and bedtime. My Dad would sometimes pray before we left on long trips and pray for us when we got sick. And I continue the same sort of patterns of prayer in my house. Regular rhythms of regular prayers that are not terribly remarkable. There aren’t any miracles happening after these prayers.
And if you were present for any of these prayers it would probably be pretty obvious that I am not thinking about the power of prayer at that moment.
Why is this?
One reason may be that, because Christ has opened the way into God’s presence, I can pray freely at any time of day. I can pray in the car, as I’m working and while I am watching my granddaughters. Being able to pray so freely is such a wonderful blessing.
But, that very freedom with which I can pray causes me to take prayer for granted. I don’t treat prayer as particularly powerful or sacred. I don’t come to terms with the reality that prayer is a real live exchange between me and the living God who created everything.
If I want to start appreciating the divine power of prayer, I need to remember a few things when I pray. And these things constitute the power of prayer.
1. God Hears
Psalm 4:3 - But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him.
Psalm 5:3 - O Lord, in the morning You hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for You and watch.
When I pray, the Lord Himself, the King of kings, the commander of the armies of heaven, hears me. The God who crushed the Egyptian army and humiliated the prophets of Baal hears when I call to Him. The God who split the Red Sea, who singlehandedly dismantled the Babylonians, who conquered the Midianites with 300 men and a coward of a general, is tuned in to my prayers.
The power of prayer does not come from the words I say but from the God who hears.
When I call, God hears.
I’m not speaking empty words into emptiness and I’m not simply speaking to myself. This is not the power of positive thinking.
When I call, God hears.
Can you believe how astonishing this is? God truly and really hears when I pray. Why would I not take advantage of this more often? Why do I so often struggle in my own strength when the omnipotent (all-powerful) God is waiting for me to pray to Him?
2 Chronicles 16:9 - For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless towards Him.
2. God Acts
Matthew 21:21-22 - And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea’, it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
Not only does God hear my prayers, He actually responds to them. The more I think about this, the more trouble I have comprehending it.
I ask and God acts.
3. God Strengthens
Psalm 10:17-18 - O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; You will strengthen their heart; You will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
So, not only does God hear me when I pray. He also strengthens me. In the midst of difficulty or trial, when I think I barely have the strength to call out to God, He hears me and strengthens me. He gives me real spiritual, emotional, and even physical strength.
Prayer connects me to the awesome strength of God. This is the glorious power of prayer. Though I am pathetically weak, prayer plugs me into the One who makes supernovas look like nightlights. Prayer is a divine invitation to experience the life-changing power of God.
4. God Blesses
Matthew 7:11 - If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
God is eager to bless me. Just as I am eager to bless my own kids by giving them good gifts, so is God eager to give good gifts to me. When I pray, God unleashes blessings into my life.
And I am not talking in the way that some of these ‘faith preachers’ or faith healers’. I am talking about a biblical understanding that God will use whatever means is necessary to conform me to the image of His Son and that means is a blessing, whatever it is.
And we must not forget that the purpose of the blessings of God is so that we may be a blessing and that it would be known that there is a God in heaven that ought to be worshipped and adored by every people, tongue, tribe, and nation.
Over and over in Scripture, we see God responding to prayer with blessing. When I neglect prayer, I am missing out on unique grace that God wants to give.
So, given what we have seen about God’s hearing, acting, strengthening, and blessing in prayer, how would you describe your prayer list, if you have a prayer list?
Don’t misunderstand me. Prayer lists can be wonderful tools. They help me remember to pray for things that I would normally forget. I would say that I tend to abandon a prayer list because my prayer lists are boring and unimaginative. They tend to be stale, like old, bland biscuits. They read like recipes.
If you look at my prayer lists, you wouldn’t say, “Hey, hold me back! You must think you’re Moses or Elijah or John the Baptist or something because you’ve got some crazy things you’re asking for here.” I tend not to have any big, fat, bodacious, faith-stretching requests on my prayer list.
Why is this? Why do my prayer lists tend toward the boring? It’s probably because I fail to take into account Scriptures like Ephesians 3:20 which talk about the glorious power of prayer:
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…”
If I sat down and thought about it, I could come up with some pretty big, important things to ask God. Things that I wouldn’t normally ask for because they’re...well... they’re so big, things that definitely stretch my faith.
I pray for the salvation of my kids. If I’m being really bold and imaginative, I could pray that God would dramatically and powerfully get hold of each of my kids. Ephesians 3:20 tells me that God can do incredible, powerful, life-shaking things for my children that I couldn’t even imagine! Do I really believe this?
I pray for God’s provision for my family. If I’m being really bold and imaginative, I’ll pray that God would provide enough for us to give a chunk of money away to someone in need. Ephesians 3:20 tells me that God can provide for my family in breathtaking, surprising, “Oh my goodness, God is here” kinds of ways. Do I believe this?
I pray that God would deepen my love for Him. If I’m being really bold and imaginative, I’ll pray that God would increase my love for His word, increase my love for fellow Christ-followers, and let me experience the reality of His presence every day. Ephesians 3:20 tells me that God can meet me and change me and work me over in ways I never could have dreamed.
Given the power of prayer, my prayer lists should be inspired, bold, and imaginative. And I should approach my prayer times with eager expectancy. I should expect God to blow away my expectations. I should expect God to give me more than I ask.
I should expect God to surprise me.
What about you? Do you have big, fat, bodacious, faith-stretching prayers? Or is this something that you could do better? Let me know in the comments. And please share this post with your friends.