Does prayer really change things? It used to be a hip saying back in the seventies. Remember the seventies? When I think of the seventies I have to wonder if any saying from then could possibly ring true. “Prayer changes things.” In the church where I grew up there used to be these tiny pencils in the pews. There were little holders just for them. They looked like the tiny pencils you get when you are scoring putt putt golf. On the side of these little red pencils was printed, “Prayer Changes Things”. I wondered about that as a little kid. I wondered about that and why they never put erasers on the ends of those little pencils.
The Bible says that “The effective prayers of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16) That’s King James. I don’t really talk like that. My version of that is, “When you pray, stuff starts to happen.”
There’s another part of the Bible that says there is none that is righteous, no not one. (Romans 3:10) So… where does that leave us? If the prayers of a righteous man avail much, and there are no righteous men… then it sounds like we are up a creek.
The truth is, we are not righteous on our own. The only righteousness in us comes from Jesus and what he did on our behalf. It is because of his perfection and his sacrifice that we can even approach the throne of God with our petitions. It is because Jesus stands there, beside God, right at his right hand, and takes on the role of our advocate that God even entertains our prayers.
Some people are a bit put off by prayer. I am sometimes. People say it’s just talking to God. That’s true. I like a little light conversation as much as the next person. Sure. “Thanks for this beautiful Tuesday. Thanks for the decent hair day, today. Be with me today, God. Bless me today, Lord. yadda yadda.” But that’s like having a triple layer chocolate cake, and only dipping your finger into the frosting on the top. It’s good, but you are missing out on the layers beneath. The layers that require a bit more work to explore. It can get messy, but it is oh so good. And yet sometimes I just can’t go there.
I’d prefer to keep the conversation light. To go deeper requires more of me than I am willing to give. But if my prayers are going to be effective, I have to roll up my sleeves and get a little messy.
In all honesty, I didn’t know how to go deeper in conversation with God for a long time. I didn’t quite understand the real power of prayer. The power it has to change things. The power it has to change me. Here’s the truth about prayer… the deep, meaningful kind. It may not always change my circumstances, although it often does, it always changes me. Take for instance when I am mad at my husband.
I have found that it is hard for me to stay mad at him if I pray for him. Try it. Are you mad at someone right now? Go pray for them. Go ahead.
When I am upset with my spouse, and I pray for him, he doesn’t magically change the behavior that is presently irking me, but somehow, I am no longer mad. Or at least the smoke coming from my ears has dissipated.
So let’s say we are ready to ramp up our prayers. We are ready to go double fisted into that triple layer chocolate cake. What does that look like? Several years ago, I learned the practice of praying Scripture. When Jesus faced the devil in the desert he spoke the Word of God to his problem. When we face our trials and temptations, we should do the same.
Let’s think on this thing practically. I will sometimes hear my kids say something I have said to them. When that happens, I cannot help the smile on my face. Can you imagine the smile on God’s face when we remind him of his word? Need an example?
Let’s say your husband is consumed with worry over something and it is affecting him, and perhaps your relationship. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
So then, I would pray, “Dear Father, please remind Matthew not to worry, but rather in his current situation, to bring his concerns to You and to thank You. And then Lord, bring him your promised peace that will guard his heart and his mind through Jesus… because he’s driving me crazy.”
See? It’s easy. At least that one was. Sometimes the things we bring to the Father are more serious. That’s when the work of prayer is more difficult. That’s when we jump in with both feet, and we begin to pray out loud. If you don’t think praying out loud makes any difference, you’ve never done it. Especially if you are praying Scripture. God’s word is alive and it is powerful. There are many instances in the Bible where we are instructed to speak… to address the mountains we face out loud. James tells us there is power in the tongue. Proverbs says there is the power of life and death in the tongue. Jesus said if we have the faith we can turn to our mountain and tell it to move and it will move. How cool is that?
The saying, “Prayer Changes Things” may be the only really good thing that came out of the seventies.
Well, that and KC and the Sunshine Band.