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Who does prayer work for? Part 2 of Why Pray?

Who does prayer work for? Part 2 of Why Pray? November 25, 2021

Do you have to be deserving for prayer to work?

What if we’re wealthy, or “sinful,” sick, in prison, or broken? Yes, prayer works! There is no “Opt-in,” no exclusion list, no exchange this for that transaction, nothing! It’s truly free.

In Need of Prayer

Image by Sharon Tate Soberon on Flickr

Does prayer work even for the wealthy?

Everyone likes to question why the wealthy, especially wealthy religious people, aren’t regarded as hypocrites and on a steep slope to some kind of special Hell. Jesus said to the wealthy Jews, they would find it harder to squeeze through the eye of a needle than to get into Heaven.1 But he said this in the context of helping them understand that just following the law would not get them into Heaven. The law only condemns. He added to his statement, “But with God, all things are possible.” We often forget context.

Statistically the wealthy don’t pray much. Does this condemn them all? There are a few apples with worms in them everywhere. It’s easy to blanket judge them all when so many are poor. A few of them represent the lukewarm wealthy people talked about in Revelations: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”2 Harsh words.

We misjudge the wealthy

I’m not rich, I promise, except in love from others. I pray for them a lot, for their best lives. Nor do I have anything against the wealthy. To whom much is given, much is expected. Many are very benevolent with their wealth. I understand that most people really do need to feel they are contributing to society and assisting others, so the wealthy do this through foundations and in many other ways, and they don’t let money stop them.

Consider Abraham, patriarch of three religions, who was very wealthy for his time. He is praised, not vilified. We shouldn’t jump to conclusions about wealth and demonize it. I’m not convinced that praying less actually means anything significant beyond having fewer physical needs.

What about those who miss the mark, the “sinful?”

Ah, we love sin – it’s scandal, it’s delicious, it’s what other people do, and those we accuse make us look more perfect than we really are. But none of us can throw the first stone. We all miss the mark set for us.

The origins of the word “sin” are likely German and Old Norse, meaning guilt – the criminal. But in both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, the word sin is translated from an archery term meaning to miss the mark.

The mark is what we “should do,” hit the bullseye, and we all fail. Missing the mark is human, not criminal. It’s likely we all miss the mark every day. We seem to justify and accept our failures, but not other’s failures. The guilt produced by the word “sin,” drives people away when what they really need is to be accepted by us, by we who miss the mark to the last person.

Reality check on disobedience

When your child is disobedient, do you take everything from them and refuse to hear them? How much greater is God’s love than ours? God makes the sun shine on everyone, cares for us just like the birds in the field, and he is very patient in waiting for us to come to him and to change.3

Ignoring those who are struggling would only drive them away, but love draws people to God. It also draws people to us, that is, we who love as God mentors us to do.

Is it all God’s design, his fault?

It’s not God who brings bad things to us, it’s we ourselves through our own defective behavior. It’s not God who denies us our best life, it’s we who damage ourselves and our relationships. It’s part of our learning and transforming experience. God is not the author of temptation and suffering.4 “We’ve met the enemy and he is us,” said Walt Kelly’s funny animal comic strip Pogo.

Prayer works for everyone, the wealthy, the poor, those who miss the mark, the damaged, and the insignificant …. As the article 3 Reasons God Condemns Favoritism explains, God is impartial. We’re the ones who show favoritism. We’re “guilty.”

God is impartial: Deut. 10:17, Rom. 2:11, Eph. 6:9, Acts 10:34, Jas. 2:1, Jas. 2:9.

What is prayer?

Is it simply wishful thinking? Do we only need prayer because we’re financially stressed and in need? Or do we need healing, guidance, comfort, strength, miracles, help with relationships, to feel closer to God and something bigger than ourselves? Yes to all of these and more.

So then why is there so much doubt? Because guilt, expectations, and skeptics get in our way. Expectations and skeptics are addressed in this series in later posts.

An example of prayer that worked

An example of prayer is when millions of Christians prayed for Afghans to safely get out of Afghanistan as the US was leaving. As reported on Fellowship.org, in Operation Rescue, Marine veteran, Chad Robichaux, who had done many tours in Afghanistan and made many friends and connections, was part of the effort to get 12,000 Americans, interpreters, Christians, women, and children (including 3,000 orphans) out of Afghanistan. A major concern to Chad was that he suffers from panic attacks related to PTSD.

Chad was in Afghanistan for eight days, and got around two hours sleep a night. He said, “In awe, we watched as God orchestrated what none of us could do. It was success beyond imagination to be able to get so many out in such a short period of time! What He did for me personally was as miraculous as the thousands we got to safety. I did not have anxiety or stress, functioned at a high level despite almost no sleep, and was able to use all the experience and skills I had acquired in Afghanistan. God spared me the entire time, and He spared all the thousands we got out.”

See Prayer Stories publication on Fellowship.org for more stories of answered prayer.

Pray and keep communicating with God. It works.

Take Home Points

It doesn’t make any difference if we’re wealthy, or “sinful,” sick, in prison, or broken. God is impartial and prayer works for all of us. We don’t have to “Opt-in.” There is no exclusion list, no exchange this for that transaction, nothing! Prayer is available to everyone.

God is a very tolerant father who gives us space to grow and learn. We may bring consequences on ourselves, but God doesn’t bring us bad things, he can only bring us good things.

Pray and keep communicating with God. It works.

Next in the series

Next in the series: Expectations of prayer – Part 3 of Why Pray? Why we don’t let ourselves believe in prayer. Unrealistic expectations.

_________________

Our answer is God. God’s answer is us. Together we make the world a better place.

– Dorian

References

  1. Matthew 19: 23-26 (NASB).
  2. Revelation 3:15-17 (NIV).
  3. Matthew 5:45, 2 Peter 3:9.
  4. James 1:13-17 (NASB), “No one is to say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust [longings, desires]. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it has run its course, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
  5. Other Patheos writers on prayer.
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