I had never prayed before when I was praying for salvation. When I was sixteen and hearing the gospel for the first time, I knew immediately that I wanted Jesus. And so I prayed and offered a Savior words that I hardly knew but that I was dying to follow.
Quickly realizing that prayer was an important aspect of a believer’s life, I wanted to know more. Our youth group held a time before the Wednesday evening service so that the youth could come and pray an hour earlier. It was called Warfare Prayer and I went to everyone because I wanted to learn how to pray.
My youth pastor at the time, Scotty Gibbons, often said, “The fight is won in prayer.” So I fought.
I came to Christ with much hurt and bondage – anger problems, sexual sin, and fortress – and I was in dire need of freedom. When I heard that the battle would be won in prayer, I fought hard. And God answered my prayers!
Over the next two years, I found freedom from these fortresses and healing in my broken realms at altars that appeared to be built just for me in those intimate moments. God answered many prayers and did the seemingly impossible right before my eyes! My faith was strengthened through answered prayers in these early years.
But then I felt like my prayers fell on deaf ears. Prayers weren’t answered as often as I wanted them to be. I wrestled with God and wondered what was going on. Why weren’t my prayers answered?
Since then I have learned so much about prayer. And I was asked many questions about praying. One of the most common, if God will ultimately decide the outcome, why should I pray?
God or circumstances change?
Before answering this question, it is important to distinguish between two thoughts: changing God’s mind and changing circumstances. While they may sound like similar questions, they are, in fact, two very different ones.
When we ask if our prayers change God’s mind, we wonder if there is room for God to change because of our actions. And the answer is no. The reason for this is that God has already established His plans and because He is not changing, nor His plans. Also, changing his mind would mean that God’s original plan for this situation was not the best; that there is room for improvement. But that wouldn’t be in his nature either.
However, can our prayers change circumstances? Yes, you can. Knowing in advance how our actions and prayers would help change the outcome, God planned this accordingly. At His perfect time and place, God answers our prayers for His glory!
So why do we pray? If God has already determined what he will do, what for? There are three important aspects of prayer that we need to consider:
1. We are called to pray.
“Always rejoice, pray incessantly, thank you in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. “1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 (ESV)
Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians that it is God’s will that we pray without ceasing. But instead of literally praying around the clock, he says we should have a heart, a lifestyle, and an attitude to pray. That our first inclination should be to talk to Him.
At school, on the way to work, doing the washing up, and when we have a moment to breathe deeply, may our thoughts turn to God. In addition, whenever we encounter an obstacle, we always turn to God first, not a friend or spouse. God is always our first line of communication.
What this reflects more than anything is a heart posture that is given to God. This is what he wants from you and me – a life entirely for him. God is after our hearts, and a heart that is for him is one that prays often.
Prayer puts us in direct communication with our incredible God, brings down idols and distractions, paves the way to liberation, and tunes our ears to His voice. We are called to pray because so much depends on our communication with him.
2. Prayer can change things.
“A righteous person’s prayer has great power when it works. Elijah was a man of a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the heavens rained and the earth bore its fruit. ”James 5: 16-18 (ESV)
A righteous person’s prayer has great power – that is a promise we have in scriptures. Throughout the Bible we see people praying and things changing. Hannah prayed fervently for a child, and God opened her lap. Elijah prayed for drought and then for rain, and God moved both times. Peter prayed to be released from prison and his prayer was answered. There are hundreds of answered prayers throughout God’s Word that serve as lampposts for God’s faithfulness.
You and I can have complete confidence that God will answer our prayers. And that He will respond in the right way at the right time. It won’t always be what we hoped it would be, but it will always be how he would like it to be.
3. Prayer changes our hearts.
“My father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by; still not as I want, but as you want. ”Matthew 26:39
I have found that the most precious aspect of prayer completely contradicts what we have believed about prayer for so long. Prayer is more about changing us than about changing God.
So often we go to prayer for a need and ask God to move. But what if that is not his will? This is when we become discouraged because we want to believe that God hears our prayers and yet doesn’t choose to move like that. He may refuse to meet this need or choose another path. In doing so, we need to remember that in prayer he may be more interested in directing us to his will than the other way around.
When Jesus was in the garden shortly before his arrest, he prayed to the Father and shared a request. But in the end Jesus was completely committed to the will of the Father and not to what he wanted himself. And prayer was the vehicle that Jesus used to align himself with the Father.
Prayer has great power, but it is entirely possible that you may miss its value in your life. How are you and in which of the three points could you improve the most? Where does God want to expand your faith in relation to prayer?
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Brittany Rust has a passion to see how people are influenced by the power of God’s word and his abundant grace through writing and speaking. She is the founder of Truth and Grace Ministries, Truth x Grace Women, and the author of five books. Brittany lives in Castle Rock, Colorado with her husband Ryan and their son Roman. Learn more at www.britanyrust.com.