The Bible speaks a lot about prayer? Is there real power behind prayer? If so, how can we tap that power from God?
The Power of Prayer
There are thousands and thousands of actual accounts of prayer being answered and in powerful ways, however the real power behind prayer is the One to whom we pray. God has the power to answer prayers in ways that are supernatural and defy natural laws. Prayer does more to change the person who is praying than to change God’s mind because God does not change but the fact is that we are commanded to pray. There is no conflict behind God’s sovereignty in all things and the command to pray, otherwise we would not be told to “pray always.” Even a “no” to prayer is answered prayer. Jesus prayed three times in the Garden to have “this cup removed from Me” but He did defer to God’s will by saying, “but not My will, by Your will be done” (Luke 22:42).
Commanded to Pray
Why pray if God’s will is going to be done anyway? The answer is that we are told to pray by Jesus and Jesus being God, even He prayed while on the earth signifying the critical importance of prayer. The Bible commands us to pray, not just suggesting that we do.
First Thessalonians 5:17-18 “pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
We are told to “pray without ceasing” and to “give thanks in all circumstances,” good or bad because “this is the will of God.” This is an imperative command to pray, it is not a helpful suggestion. To be told to pray without ceasing doesn’t mean that we pray 24/7 but we ought to pray without stopping in our day. We can pray in the morning, at night before bed, during our lunchtime, pray and give thanks for our meals, pray during your drive to work…there are times when we have moments between activities we can use to pray. Pray during a walk, pray during times of stress, and certainly pray during trials because Paul said to pray and give thanks to God “in all circumstances.” Why do this? It’s because it is the “will of God.” Many want to know what the will of God is. Well, here it is spelled out. Give thanks in all circumstances, pray without stopping, and know that this is the will of God.
Luke 18:1-7 “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?”
Here is Jesus’ saying the same thing as Paul, that we “ought always to pray” but not only that, don’t “lose heart” or don’t give up. This also is a command to pray, not something that will just help us. The unjust judge finally gave in to the widow because of her persistence. This doesn’t mean that God will finally give up and answer our prayers but it means that we ought to continue in prayer over things that are especially important to us; a lost prodigal child to be saved, our neighbor to come to saving faith in Christ, for our aunt who is dying to be healed. All of this should be done in the context of the will of God. The will of God must always be the key to praying because God’s will is truly the one thing whereby He is glorified. Jesus means what He says; we “ought always to pray” and not “lose heart” but He always prayed according to God’s will and for His glory. So should we.
Ephesians 6:18-19 “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.”
Paul tells us to “pray at all times” but do this “in the Spirit.” He means that we ought to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit for the Spirit helps as pray in ways that we cannot even humanly imagine. Paul gives us a specific purpose for prayer; praying in supplications (requests) for the saints of God (the church) and to do this for all the saints, not just those we like or those who are sick. Paul also was requesting prayers so that the gospel may be proclaimed boldly by his mouth. I often request the prayers of the church where I am pastor at so that I might have the courage and confidence to boldly proclaim the gospel to the lost because I must admit, I am fearful at times. I have to admit that I have a fear of rejection and scorn when I do but after I do, I have such a joy and peace in my heart that I cannot even explain.
Getting Help in Prayer
Romans 8:26-27 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning’s too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Sometimes we are in such desperate situations that we don’t even know where to begin. It is times like these that even our groans are made known to God by the Holy Spirit to the Father what is in our heart. These are things that we cannot even express in words. Have you ever been in a place where you are so grieved that you can’t even say it in words or you don’t exactly know what to say? I know that I have and when I can’t, God knows what I am praying even in my crying and groans to Him. The Spirit will intercede for us when we don’t know what to say. That’s because the “mind of the Spirit…searches [our] heart.” Once again Paul writes that praying for the saints is “according to the will of God.” It is God’s will that we not only pray for our own needs (supplications) but for those of the saints in the church.
The Power of Prayer
James 5:13-18 “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. 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.”
James commands us to pray if “anyone among [us is] suffering.” The prayer of faith can save those who are sick. This does not mean that everyone will be healed that we pray for because again, we must pray for the will of God to be done and God’s will is not that everyone is healed. However, it is the will of God that we do pray for the sick and then leave the results up to Him for He always knows best. We ought to be praying for one another, for the sick, and doing so in faith. Even Jesus prayed showing us the importance of prayer. Jesus was a man of prayer which means that prayer is one of the most powerful things that we can do for the intervention of God. The same God Who answered Elijah in prayer when fire consumed the offering and the same type of prayer where the rains were stopped for three and a half years is the same God Who we pray to today. God has not changed. The only thing that might have changed is our belief in God’s ability to answer prayer. If we lack faith then we limit the power of God in answering our prayers. Really, is anything to hard for God (Jer 32:27; Gen 18:14)?
As we have seen, we are commanded to pray; for the sick, for the saints, for the gospel to be proclaimed, for our own needs, and that it is God’s will for us to pray. I heard an evangelist once say that a Christian’s spiritual strength and maturity is measured by the amount of time they spend in prayer. What about you? Do you begin the day with prayer? Do you pray during the day? Do you pray before you sleep? It is commanded that we should always pray (or at least as often as we can). Imagine you have a best friend but you rarely talk to him or her. How much of a “best friend” are they if you don’t speak to them on a regular basis? I would venture to say that the amount of time you spend talking to them is equal to the closeness of that relationship. How much more then is our relationship strengthened by and our lives empowered by praying regularly to God?
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon