16 Aug PRAYER – IS IT REALLY POWERFUL?
I’ve heard it said, “prayer is powerful,” but if I’m honest, that hasn’t always been my experience. For years, I was consistent in prayer throughout my day, but I rarely saw answers. At times, I wondered if my prayers were making any difference. I unconsciously blamed the lack of results on God, and my prayers became weak and void of emotion. I was most commonly asking for help, comfort, ease, and good outcomes.
God was more like a good luck charm for me than anything else.
The flaws in my thinking became evident to me as I started to study the Bible on my own. Not a devotional, but the actual Bible. With pen, highlighter, and journal in hand, I started to hear God speak. He began to reveal to me the reason for those years of unanswered prayers.
I was surprised to learn that there are certain attitudes and actions required on our part in order to receive what we ask for in prayer. There are conditions to effective prayer. James warns: “when you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)
The condition of the praying heart is the determining factor in the effectiveness of the prayer. Jesus preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins. That is turning from our old ways, and toward Him in obedience. When our hearts are still following our own desires, tangled up in sin, it wouldn’t be loving for God to grant us our requests, as they would only draw us further down the path to destruction. The Psalmist says it this way: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18)
“I believe our problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying; and it simply will not work.” – A.W. Tozer
Because our hearts are prone to wander, obedience isn’t a one-time decision, but a minute-by-minute commitment. Continually ask the Lord to search your heart, and reveal to you any areas that aren’t willing to follow Him completely. That is a prayer He will answer.
Hebrews 10:22 says, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” When a wandering heart turns toward God, its desires start to change. Instead of asking for comfort and safety, we will ask to know Him more. Instead of giving God a to-do list, we will have a two-way conversation with our loving Father.
Prayer must first change the person, but a changed person’s prayers can change anything. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)
Unfortunately, this does not mean the answers to all of our prayers will be answered with an immediate “yes!” Paul prayed for the “thorn in his flesh” to be removed, and as far as we know, it never was. Jesus prayed that the cup would pass from Him, but it did not. He followed through with obedience despite the pain and suffering his mission caused Him. But if we follow Jesus’ example and pray that God’s will be done, it will be done.
So let’s be honest and admit that not every prayer is powerful. But we would do well to ask God to give us hearts in submission to Him, because “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
Questions to think about:
- What is the content of my typical prayers?
- Am I trying to substitute praying for obeying?
- Ask God if there’s anything you might need to repent from in order to align your heart with His will.