Prayer: How to Get the Greatest Return on Your Investment

Prayer: How to Get the Greatest Return on Your Investment January 31, 2013

If you had invested in gold a decade ago — and some of you did — you’d be pretty happy with the return on that investment. It may even have given you the greatest return of any investment you’ve ever made. So far. And that’s too bad.

Every day we turn down an investment with a guaranteed rate of return beyond our wildest imaginations — with a value far greater than gold. We turn down the opportunity to put God to work through the power of prayer.

When we say that prayer puts God to work, it is simply to say that man has it in his power by prayer to move God to work in His own way among men, in which way he would not work if prayer was not made. Thus while prayer moves God to work, at the same time God puts prayer to work…. [P]rayer is the one force which puts God to work in earth’s affairs through men and their prayers. ~ E.M. Bounds

Nothing Else Comes Close

What other investment of your time and energy could you make that would produce a return greater than moving the very hand of the Almighty God? I can think of nothing that could possibly come close.

Yet how often we neglect time in focused and intense prayer.  If we believe that our greatest return on our investment comes from diligent prayer (united with a careful study of Scripture) wouldn’t we be doing more of it? And not just whenever we could squeeze it in. It would be the first thought in our day, the first priority on our task list. We would be checking its status often, reconfirming our right-standing before the throne of glory without ceasing.

Why Don’t We Invest in Prayer?

Do we really believe the words of Scripture that if we ask in faith, without doubting, that our Father will do it? Of course, if we ask to consume the answers on our own desires, without seeking first the Kingdom of God, we can expect no return on our investment.

But that restriction may be enough for us all too often. We are inherently selfish beings. Perhaps the reason you have not yet received the greatest return on your investment in prayer is that you’ve been asking for stuff you want, without regard for His Kingdom purposes. I know I’ve done that before and still must check my heart daily to strip prayer of those deadly weights.

But there is little else to limit the return. That’s about all there is in the fine print.

God commits himself into the hands of those who truly pray. ~ EM Bounds

Our Investment Insurance

Why then do we feel compelled to hedge God in when we prayer? We place all manner of excuses in our prayers as if to protect God — more likely ourselves — from failure. Perhaps, deep within, we know that the absence of a return on our prayer investment reveals more about us than it does Him.

He is eager to be put to work if we’d but ask in faith. Truth be told, we are afraid to ask for fear that He won’t answer. And we’ll just look stupid. Exposed for the faithless follower we really are.

We make God small. Then we put little faith in that little God. ~ E. M. Bounds

A True Prayer Story

I’m no expert on praying with this level of expectant confidence. But I’m learning quickly. A few months ago, I prayed that God would sell a large tractor in our backyard to help pay the bills as we start out on this new ministry journey. I and others prayed earnestly.

Things seemed to be moving — and then I got busy. I traveled a bit, other stuff came up. To my shame, I neglected fervent prayer for the sale. We also didn’t have the time to do the prep work that needed to be done for the sale. Perhaps that is another reason why God delayed His answer.

At times, I confess that I simply couldn’t see how God could answer. The tractor weighed more than 6 tons. It hadn’t moved in four years. I know next to nothing about mechanical stuff. It needed to cross a creek on a bridge that I wasn’t sure would hold it — if we could find a way to move it at all. And then we had to find someone willing to buy it for more than anyone had yet offered.

Then I chose to confess my sin of prayerlessness and get refocused. Beginning on a Thursday, I prayed a very specific prayer: that God would sell the tractor for at least $1,000 and have it out of our yard by that weekend. Only two days to put God to work. I invested the time and passion in focused and specific prayer for the good of something he had already promised to do — provide for the needs of His children.

Two days later, the tractor left our property for $1,000.

The FDIC of Prayer Investments

Far too often, I hear prayers, my own and others, laden with trapdoors, escape hatches, and peremptory reasons why God may not answer. We ask, but then spend more time bracing ourselves for our investment to fail. Our lack of faith acts as the FDIC of prayer investments. We guard ourselves from failure, but we also won’t begin to approach the greatest return on any investment we could ever make.

As to insurance on our investment, I’ll take this promise any day:

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Rom. 8:32)

Have you seen God come through beyond your imagination when you invested the time and energy into focused and specific prayer? Share your story to help us all live with abundant faith.

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  • Will

    So what you are saying is that the eternal and immutable creator of life, the universe, and everything, took time to specifically and accurately answer your prayer…to sell a tractor. That is the explanation that you have found for why your tractor sold.

    Mr. Blankschaen, while you read that first sentence, a half-dozen Hondurans died in agony, doubtless most of them praying more fervently than you have ever felt *anything.* It’s one of the most pious countries on Earth, and it’s also essentially Hell. The Dominican Republic is like that, Pakistan is like that, Haiti is like that…I’m having a hard time coming up with a place where enormous piety *doesn’t* accompany widespread suffering. The Vatican? I can think of no more useless, pointless, utter waste of time than to turn to prayer as a solution to any problem, great or small. To describe it as an “investment” insults the Madoff Fund.

    “He is eager to be put to work if we’d but ask in faith.” I’ll be sure to mention that to Honduras.

    • Alissa

      Will: SPOT ON and well said.

    • One barrier to communicating about this is that you are using words without defining them. Words such as *prayer* *piety* *faith* Admittedly, posting this at an Evangelical site, I am assuming a good deal about the readers so that I do not have to undertake a systematic theology course with each post. No offense meant, just the reality of the medium and audience.

      You seem to be assuming that the “eternal and immutable creator of life, the universe, and everything” would not take the time to specifically answer a request. Why not? Especially if that same God has said that he would and that He is sovereign over the ends and means and committted to hearing and answering those prayers — both mine and those who trust Him in Honduras. If God is a personal being, the fact that he takes personal interest in His creation should come as no surprise. That doesn’t mean the answer will always be Yes. The Bible is clear on this also. But since you reject the Bible (based on your comment on another post) as having any claim to authority or even accuracy, then you are left to other, far more vague, revelations of who He is. Not surprisingly then, your view of God is one that I do not recognize, one limited and restricted in ways the Bible does not reveal Him to be.

      Essentially, your protest as I understand it is a simple objection to the problem of evil. Why would a good God let bad things happen? I hope I’m not putting words in your mouth on this, just trying to understand. Many others have dealt with that question at great depth should you wish to explore that question further.

      • John

        Bill, you’ve just shot up your own investment analogy. If the capital (time) invested is in no way proportionate to the return – which is the point raised by Will, and no return is guaranteed at all – a point you raised yourself in your reply to Will – then this is not investing. It is at best gambling, at worst wishing into the wind.

        • Jennifer

          Why do you assume that a “No” answer is equal to no return?

          I am new to praying. I don’t even know exactly what I believe which makes things tricky to say the least. I’m banking on God having a good sense of humour mixed with some endless patience. To pray in the beautiful way Bill is describing – to drop fears of rejection and doubt and to lay ourselves vulnerable in our trust and absolute faith – has absolute returns.

          And @Will (first comment above). . Have you considered WHY some of the most hell like places on Earth are so pious? Do you think that if prayers were useless people would keep praying for generation after generation? Prayers do more than always offer material results.