Prayer is the indispensable and vital function of a believer. No aspect of our Christian life is more essential and crucial to our personal growth and spiritual health than spending time with God. We are never taller than when we are on our knees. We are never stronger than when we are confessing our weaknesses. We are never bolder in public than when we are quiet before God in private.
Why does prayer make such a difference?
Prayer brings God to us.
Prayer reminds us that we need God more than he needs us. Prayer brings God to us. The essence of prayer is to join God, not God joining us. We ask what is on God’s heart rather than telling God what is on our hearts.
Prayer is the lifeline that saves the drowning soul. Prayer is the umbilical cord that provides nourishment to the starving spirit. Prayer is the channel by which God’s life-giving presence flows to us.
St. Augustine, the early church father and theologian, described prayer as like a man in a hapless boat who throws a rope at a rock. The rock provides the needed security and stability and life for the helpless man. When the rock is lassoed it’s not the man pulling the rock to the boat (though it may appear that way); it is the pulling of the boat to the rock. Jesus is the rock, and we throw the rope through prayer.
Through prayer God comes to us. The Scripture states, “Come near to God, and he will come near to you” (James 4:8a GN). Prayer provides the communication that puts us in contact with God.
Prayer changes us.
A well-known preacher began his message by stating thunderously, “Prayer doesn’t change God.” The audience fell to a hush with an eerie silence. “Prayer doesn’t change things,” he continued. “Prayer doesn’t change circumstances,” he bellowed. “Prayer changes us.”
The prayers of the early disciples changed them. They were once timid and afraid, hiding and secretive, embarrassed and ashamed. But now they were praying for boldness and power in public ministry. “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus Christ” (Acts 4:29-30 NIV). Through their prevailing prayers God continued to change them. He took wimps (weak, ineffectual, and insipid persons) and transformed them into warriors (bold, courageous, and powerful people).
Real prayer is not only soul satisfying; it is life changing. Richard Foster wrote, “To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives. The closer we come to the heartbeat of God the more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ.”
The needed change occurs in the war with the enemy. As we grow more and more like him we move from the rear guard to the front lines. We move from weakness to power. We move from fearfulness to boldness. We move from the comfort of the sidelines to the action of the game.
Don’t pray unless you want to change. Don’t pray unless you want to be propelled to action. Don’t pray unless you want to move on the offensive. Don’t pray unless you want to go to war. And, when you go to war you need power.
Prayer unleashes the power of God.
Prayer is the most powerful weapon in the believer’s arsenal. Is it any wonder that the Evil One seeks valiantly to keep Christ followers from praying? When we don’t pray Satan has won the battle. But when we pray, the power of God is unleashed.
For those disciples in Jerusalem they experienced the power of God in a very tangible and real way. “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken” (Acts 4:31 NIV). Perhaps the shaking was from thunder in the sky or a tremor of the earth or maybe it was the devil shaking in his boots. Whatever caused it, the shaking gave those early disciples a sense of God’s presence and power.
That power is unleashed on two fronts. The power is felt on the human front. Sidlow Baxter wrote, “Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.” The chief priests and elders knew that these early disciples were unschooled and ordinary men, but they recognized them as having been with Jesus.
Then the power is felt on the spiritual front. Samuel Chadwick said, “The one concern of the devil is to keep saints from prayer. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”
Prayer determines the difference between a warrior and a wimp.
The practice of prayer in a believer’s life is an incredible, virtually untapped power source. Prayer moves the hand of God. Prayer turns ordinary mortals into men and women of power. It is the key that unlocks the storehouse of God’s riches. It is the call that moves heaven to act on behalf of earth.
And when we join God, we are now ready for battle and guaranteed victory.
Prayer equips us for battle.
The battle is for the hearts of men and women. The war is waged as followers of Christ retake the territory of men and women’s souls that was once claimed by Satan. That’s where believers come in. God needs us on the front lines telling others about him. The war is won in the trenches of men and women’s will. We are enlisted to take the message to them. Prayer equips us for that engagement.
The early disciples were equipped and ready because they prayed. “After they prayed . . . they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31 NIV). This was not a second Pentecost. This was a fresh filling, a renewed awareness of the Spirit’s power and presence in their life and witness. This endowment of power for witness would continue as they prayed. Boldness was the outward sign of the Holy Spirit’s anointing.
How foolish one would be to go to battle without proper preparation, training, and equipment. How foolish are we to go to spiritual battles without prayer.
We are not outfitted for the battle against evil unless we pray. John Henry Jowett claimed that “it is in the field of prayer that life’s critical battles are won or lost.” As believers and as a church we will only be triumphant in storming the lines of evil for the souls of men and women when we pray.
What would God have us do? William Arthur Wade wrote, “God wants us to be victors, not victims; to grow, not grovel; to soar, not sink; to overcome, not to be overwhelmed.” To display those traits happens as we pray. Let’s not just talk about prayer, and have seminars on prayer, and read books about prayer, and listening to sermons on prayer. Let us pray. The souls of men and women hang in the balance.