Friday, June 15, 2007

The Power of Prayer

We've talked a lot about prayer on this blog. I've asked for your prayers - you've told me you're praying for me (even some of you who don't believe in a Personal God!). And I've detailed some specific answers to prayer I've experienced.

But why do we pray? If God is in control of all things - as I believe the Bible teaches - isn't He going to do whatever He wants, anyway, despite our prayers? Can our prayers actually influence God in some way?

I can't pretend to have anything like a definitive answer. Ultimately, God's ways are far beyond our ways, and it's simply not possible for finite beings to understand how an infinite Being operates within His creation, or how He interacts with His children.

But the Bible does provide some clues for us to at least begin to approach the matter. First, the Bible is clear: God wants us to pray to Him!

Psalm 32:6: "Let everyone who is godly pray to You."

1 Thess 5:17: "Pray without ceasing."

James 5:14: "Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him..."

Indeed, James 5:16 tells us that the prayers of a righteous man "avails much."

Second, while God will surely accomplish His purposes, He is not a distant tyrant, ordaining whatever happens from afar. Instead, He is intimately involved in our daily lives, constantly WORKING all things according to the council of His will (Ephesians 1:11). The verb "working" implies an active, involved RELATIONSHIP with the created world, and specifically with each of us - His children.

So, why do we pray when God will accomplish what He wants anyway? A friend of mine shared this story with me a few years ago, and I think it a perfect illustration. My friend - like me - has a young son. My friend would work on projects in his garage on weekends, and sometimes, his little son would come and ask to help. My friend knew that it would be easier and faster if he denied his son's request. He'd do a better job on his own. But, because he loves his son, he wanted to include his son in the project. "Sure! Let me show you how to use this tool..."

My friend's purpose was to complete the project. He could have done so with or without the participation of his son. He chose to include his son in the process. His purpose was still achieved - just not in the way it would have been, had his son not offered to help. But the process of working with his son built up their relationship, and the project - in a very real sense - reflected both the work of son and father.

Ultimately, prayer is not for God - it's for us. It puts us in the proper relationship to God - with us seeking His guidance, help, strength, healing, wisdom. Ultimately, as our relationship with God grows, He will change our desires. We will grow out of selfishness and self-centerdness and focus more on Eternal Realities - we will end up wanting exactly what He wants, for the same reasons He wants them:

Psalm 37:4: "Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart."

So, friends, continue to pray - not just for me, but for every aspect of your lives. If you don't know God in a personal way, pray that He will reveal Himself to you profoundly. He is not far from any of us! (Acts 17:27).

1 comment:

Shannon C., Chatsworth, CA said...

Dear Bob,
Thank you so much for the illustration regarding the father and son working on the project. That is something that I can really understand. It makes perfect sense. Thank you!