By Daniel Yoder
Since God is sovereign, do my prayers really matter all that much? Isn’t God going to do what He wants anyway? Most people believe just that, even without admitting it. They prove they believe this in their prayer life, or lack of prayer life.
Can my prayers actually change things? Can God’s will on earth be frustrated and not accomplished if I don’t pray? Does God need me to pray or does He just want me to pray? Some would argue an omnipotent God doesn’t “need” anything, including our prayers. But these and other questions deserve answers.
I Need To Know.
When God says, “Pray,” I want to know it will matter. I’m not into religious exercises and my time is valuable. So is yours.
If God is going to do something regardless of whether or not I pray, than He doesn’t need me to ask Him and I don’t need to waste my time.
We could say: “If everything is just going to happen anyway, then let’s take a nap and let is all just happen.
Scriptures Reveal 2 Facts:
1. God sets things in Motion when I pray.
The book of Acts tells us that in response to the prayers of the early church, prison doors were opened, chains fell off, people brought their possessions to share with the poor, lives were changed, miracles took place, the sick were healed.
John Wesley put it this way, “God does nothing on the earth save in answer to believing prayer.”
If that is true, I’ll lose a little sleep for that. I’ll change my lifestyle for that. I’ll stop whatever I’m doing in order to pray. I’ll even miss a meal or two.
Prayer sets in motion the things that our strength cannot. Nothing moves, until prayer is started. But when prayer is started, even Satan’s strongholds can be knocked down by the force of it.
I agree with E.M. Bounds when he said: “God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil. The prayers of God’s saints are the capital stock of heaven by which God carries on His great work upon earth.”
If you believe that, you’ll pray more. In fact, you will most likely pray with greater faith too.
2. God sets up His purposes when I pray.
God uses your prayers to accomplish His will. In 1 Kings 18, we find the story of God using a person’s prayers to accomplish His will. It is the account of Elijah praying for rain after three years of drought.
1 Kings 18:1 says, “After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: ‘Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.’”
James 5:17-18 also mentions this occasion: “Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”
We know from James’ account that not only did Elijah’s prayers bring rain, but his prayers also stopped the rain three years earlier.
In 1 Kings 18:1 God asked Elijah to see King Ahab, because “I will send rain on the face of the earth.” And in 18:42 we see Elijah climbing to the top of Mt. Carmel, bending down to the ground, putting his face between his knees, and PRAYING.
He asked the servant to “Go and look toward the sea . . . “ Elijah prays 7 times and finally the rain comes.
Whose idea was it to send rain? Whose will? Whose initiation ?
Answer: God’s, not Elijah’s. Then why if it was God’s will, idea, and timing, did it take a humans prayers to “birth” the rain?
Why must Elijah persevere in prayer? Why did Elijah have to ask 7 times?
Seven is the biblical number of completion. I’m sure God was teaching us that we must pray until the task is accomplished.
But why would this or any other prayer effort require perseverance, when it was God’s will, idea and timing?
And finally, did Elijah’s prayers really produce the rain or was it simply coincidental that he happened to be praying when God sent it? James clarifies the answer to this last question.
<p”>Yes, the prayers of this man did stop and start the rain: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the havens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” James 5:16-18
The only logical answer to the question of why Elijah needed to pray is simply this:God has chosen to work through people.
God has chosen you to spread the good news about Him. What if Jesus’ disciples refused to go? What if they stopped after some persecution? Does God have a contingency plan, a plan “B”? No!
We are the instruments in His hands today – He is going to accomplish His will through you and me. Your prayer will “birth” the purpose of God. Prayers bring to fruition His will and plan.
Even when it is the Lord Himself initiating something, He still needs us to ask. Even when He desires to do something, He needs us to pray.
Andrew Murray writes of our need to ask: “God’s giving is inseparably connected with our asking. Only by intercession can that power be brought down from heaven which will enable the Church to conquer the world.”
God wants us to pray.
God’s existence and character are completely independent of any created thing (Acts 17:24-25). God already has all resources in His hands (Job 41:11; Psalms 50:10-12). Nevertheless, God needs our prayers:
“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.” Ezekiel 22:30-31
The deep meaning of these verses is strong enough to make us stagger: God’s holiness prevents Him from simply excusing sin. It must be judged.
On the other hand, not only is He holy, but He is also love. His love always desires to redeem and restore. Scripture tells us that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. (Ezekiel 33:11)
In this passage, God is saying: “While My justice demanded judgment, My love wanted forgiveness. I wanted to find a human to ask Me to spare this people. If I could have found someone to pray, it would have allowed Me to show mercy. Because I found no one, however, I had to destroy the people I love.”
I don’t like what this passage shows any more than you do. I don’t want the responsibility it brings. I don’t like to consider the thought of a God who has somehow limited Himself to us earthlings. But in light of these and other passages, I can come to no other conclusion – God will act in response to my prayers.
Either God wants the world to be in this condition or He doesn’t. If He doesn’t then we must assume one of two things. Either He is powerless to anything about it, or He needs and is waiting on something from us to bring about change.
This truth can cause us to feel intimidated, because of the responsibility it carries. Yet a responsibility can also be a privilege. We have this wonderful privilege of praying and seeing God’s purposes fulfilled in our own lives, our families, our friends, our church and our community.
Jack Hayford said, “Prayer is essentially a partnership. In prayer, the redeemed child of God is working hand in hand with God. Because of prayer, they move together toward the fulfillment of God’s redemptive purposes on earth.”
Let’s rise to the occasion and embrace the invitation to be co-laborers with God. Let us set things in motion and set up God’s purposes and will in our world today.
God has chosen to work His will in the world through you. Let us offer our life for Him, PRAY His purposes to fruition, pray His promises into reality.