Prayer is a confusing thing. Most people I talk with struggle to believe that prayer really changes anything. I mean, if God is all good and all powerful, won’t He simply just do what is best? Won’t He just do His thing no matter what or how I pray? I think this is a great question to be asked, and I have a few thoughts in response.
God wants to partner with His people.
When thinking about how God relates to His people in prayer, I think that it is important that we first take a look at God’s desire to work in tandem with His people. From the very beginning God has desired to delegate a certain amount of responsibility to humans. He has given them free will and also placed them in charge of the rest of creation (Genesis 1:28, Genesis 2:15). The theme of God using man to accomplish his purpose doesn’t stop there. Even after the fall it continues with Israel, and later the church. God desires to have his people play a roll in bringing about things to come here on earth.
God gives His people the ability to affect what happens both physically and spiritually.
Not only did God create humans with free will, and thus the ability to affect what happens here based on their free will choices. But God has also granted and ordained that His people are able to affect the outcome of things by spiritual means as well. I believe that it is such a deep part of God’s desire to incorporate his people that He chooses to limit himself in some ways in order for their prayers to really change the outcome of things. Put another way, God has decided not to move in some ways unless his people align their “spiritual” wills with His in prayer.
Paul asked the church in Rome to join him in his struggle by way of prayer (Romans 15:30). We are to struggle. Another translation has Paul asking for them to “labor in prayer.” Prayer is laboring in the spiritual realm. Another passage has him telling us to pray constantly as part of God’s will for us (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18) prayer is powerful because God has made it that way!
There are so many more passages that come to my mind when I consider prayer (Such as Isaiah 26:6–7, John 14:12–14, and Luke 18:1–8 to name just a few). God wants to work with His people, God has always wanted to work with His people. Because of this, He has decided that He will not move in some ways unless His people align their wills with His in prayer. Prayer isn’t simply to change us. Prayer is one of the means for us to have God’s will done here on earth as it is in heaven! So I encourage us to pray persistently and continue to labor, knowing that our prayers do matter.
Now even though we may embrace this idea, we must also admit that our prayers do not always seem to be answered, so next week I am going to take a look at some reasons why this might be happening.