Power of Prayer
There is great power in prayer, but we must be careful to remember that the power is NOT in the words we speak, but in the God to whom our prayer is directed. Sometimes when our prayers are answered in the way we have asked or desired them to be, it is easy to think that it was OUR praying that did something, when in fact it was God hearing our pleas and responding to our petitions that made the difference.
We must never lose sight of the fact that God is SOVEREIGN; and HE has given us the PRIVILEGE, through His Son, to come before the throne of grace to ask and petition Him for whatever we need. But it is always with the understanding and acceptance that EVERY petition we make will be answered in accordance with HIS perfect will.
Here is where much confusion has been brought into the church by unsound teachers, who teach a false doctrine on prayer which is so DECEPTIVE that it leads many into an erroneous belief about what prayer is and how it works.
Here is the problem as I understand it. Many people teach that we can COMMAND or Decree whatever we want “in JESUS’ name” as if the holy, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God of Creation is nothing more than a genie in a bottle who is required to grant us our wishes, or some cosmic bell hop who is beholden to jump and run at our every whim!
How dare we presume to use His holy name as if it were some kind of magic word like “abracadabra!” This brand of teaching isn’t Biblical at all. It is OCCULTISM.
This teaching is DANGEROUS because it implies, subtly, that it is WE who command and GOD who must then do OUR bidding, which Almighty God is then BOUND to do what WE ask, speak, or decree.
The idea that we, who are fallen sinners saved only by the mercy and grace of a loving, merciful God, can COMMAND or decree ANYTHING of holy, omnipotent God is not just ludicrous, but is in reality sacrilege and an affront to the holy righteousness of God.
It was Jesus Himself who told us that we, as believers, because of the matchless grace of God by which we are saved, have the absolute PRIVILEGE that we MAY come before His throne of grace. We certainly may ASK; we may SEEK; and we may PETITION our Heavenly Father for any request or concern we may have, as long as what we are asking is in accordance with God’s Word. But we may NEVER demand or expect that GOD Almighty is beholden to do what we ask, to decree when we want it done, or demand how WE wish Him to do it.
We must never lose sight of the fact that He is GOD, that His ways are not our ways, and that sometimes in His omniscient sovereignty He sees fit NOT to answer our pleas in the manner, way, or in the timeframe that we might want.
There have been many times throughout the years when God’s people have cried out to Him to intervene in a certain way or situation: for healing; to save a life; or to bring what we have felt was justice when, for whatever reason, God has seen fit not to grant those prayers in the manner those asking may have wanted Him to do. Does that mean then that God didn’t care about these Christians, or that concerns do not matter to God? Are these Christians “lesser” Christians than others?
NO. NO. NO. — a THOUSAND times NO! What it DOES mean is that God is SOVEREIGN. He answers the prayers of His children in the way HE knows is eternally best for each and every one of us, and for His honor and glory. Does it mean then that because God is sovereign, that there is then no NEED for us to pray? Again, NO!
God WANTS us to ask; but He wants us to ask in FAITH, trusting that HE will do whatever is best for us in accordance with HIS perfect will, in HIS manner and in HIS timing. That is the whole point of asking “in Jesus’ name.”
Prayer is petitioning an all knowing, all powerful, all seeing God to intervene in our lives in a supernatural way, but ONLY in the manner and timing He knows is best for us and those around us for the fulfilling and outworking of His perfect plan.
“With prayer and SUPPLICATION let your REQUESTS be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6-8).
This way, when He answers our requests in whatever way He knows is best, we learn the lesson that transcends all our temporal understanding — that His grace IS sufficient and His strength IS made perfect in our weakness. In that manner, we learn that we CAN trust Him; then He alone gets the glory and not we ourselves.
We see things only from a temporal perspective. We do not consider or even fully grasp the reality that this world is not our home. THIS world is headed for judgment and destruction. These bodies are not our REAL bodies. We have yet to be given our glorified, Immortal, incorruptible bodies, and we have yet to reach our real and final Home.
Every time God does answer a prayer in the way that we would like, it is a down payment on all that is to come. And all the times when He sees fit NOT to answer our prayers in our way or in our time, is a reminder to us that we live in a fallen world and we see through fallen eyes.
We need a God who can look beyond the circumstances we are in to see our greater need, for our eternal good.
Jesus Himself — being God wrapped in flesh, as He agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His crucifixion, asked His Father, “If there be any other way, TAKE THIS CUP FROM ME.”
Notice that God the Father remained SILENT. He HAD to remain silent in the face of His only Son’s request; for had He answered ANY OTHER WAY, all of mankind would have been doomed to an eternity in Hell with no hope of redemption.
Jesus HAD to go through the agony of Calvary or else there could have been no eternal victory at the resurrection. There was no other way to procure our pardon from the “wages of sin.”
God the Father remained silent in order to procure our salvation; and Jesus, God the Son, was obedient and in complete surrender to the PERFECT WILL of God the Father, which set the example that all of us must follow by saying, “Nevertheless not MY will but THINE be done.”
The real power in prayer lies in our complete surrender to the sovereign will of a holy God, who loved us enough to die in our stead so that we who are born condemned might be eternally pardoned.
We can see that power manifested in the prayers of the three Hebrew children who, being faced with the fiery furnace, stood before a pagan, Babylonian king and said with all boldness and confidence, “Our God is ABLE to deliver us from your hand oh king, BUT IF NOT, we will not bow to you.”
We see the power of prayer answered in Elijah, the Prophet of God, who stood before a throng of bloodthirsty pagans and petitioned God to show Himself greater than the false god Ba’al; and fire came down from Heaven, proving to ALL assembled there as witnesses that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was and is the one true God above all others.
We see the power of prayer manifested in a young Christian named Stephen who lay huddled at the feet of a howling, enraged mob hurling stones at him to kill him, who with his dying breath saw in vision the Lord he was about to die for rise from His throne in Heaven and stand to greet him. As Stephen’s dying body lay broken, bleeding and crumpled, his spirit was ushered into glory and into the presence of his Lord.
In each of these instances, God answered the prayers of His people in the way HE knew was best.
God preserved the three Hebrew children through the fire, showing a pagan king the power over death of the Hebrew peoples’ God. He demonstrated His unequaled power and supreme holiness through Elijah’s answered petition by sending down His holy all-consuming fire to burn to ash the sacrifice of the powerless “god” Ba’al. And in allowing the death of Stephen, He made the first move to reveal Himself as the resurrected Lamb of God to a young man at whose feet the stoners laid their coats.
A particular young man, whose hatred and persecution of the newborn church was legendary, watched as Stephen lay battered and dying with a peace beyond understanding shining on his face; and this sight made an impression that God later used to open this young man’s heart to the identity of the true Messiah on a Damascus road. Had God answered the prayers of the early church on Stephen’s behalf by sparing his life, then the Gentile world would never have had the Apostle Paul, who brought the gospel to those like us.
We see only a small portion of life at any given time, but the canvas upon which God is working His masterpiece spans all of creation. We live short periods of time in temporal years, yet God’s work spans millennia, eons, and eternity.
Christianity is a paradox. In order to live, we must first die. In order to gain, we must first lose. And in order to be exalted, we must first be brought low.
The secret to power in prayer lies not in commanding or decreeing the outcome we want, but in surrender to whatever our perfect, merciful God knows is best for us.
Praying “If it be Thy will” is NOT a sign of NO faith. It is a sign of GREAT faith. It is the mark of a true follower of Christ.