Praying really does make a difference.
I was speaking to The Belfrey congregations last weekend on Luke 19:45-48 about becoming even more a house of prayer – a community marked by prayer – and reminding everyone that our prayers really do make a difference. They really are transformative. That’s why if we want to be disciples who see the world changed, we must pray. So here’s how I ended, sharing five reasons to pray.
- PRAYER CHANGES SITUATIONS
When we pray, situations change. Most disciples have seen this time and time again on a personal level. I remember praying for a young couple with a fourteen month old baby who hadn’t ever slept through the night. These loving parents were exhausted. That very night, the baby slept right through. They were thrilled – and asked ‘what was that prayed you prayed?’ I explained that I didn’t have the magic words! Prayer doesn’t work like that. Our job is to pray, from the heart, and not to be afraid to ask God, because he is a good, loving Father.
Prayer also changes situations on a national level. In 1756, the king is England called the nation to a day of prayer and fasting in view of a threatened invasion by the French. John Wesley, the Methodist revivalist, recorded this in his journal of Friday 6th Feb 1756:
‘The Fast was a glorious day, such as London has scarcely seen since the Restoration. Every church in the city was more than full, and a solemn seriousness sat in every face. Surely God heareth prayer, and there will be yet a lengthening to our tranquility’ (which means that Wesley is now expecting peace). A footnote tells us: ‘Humility was turned into national rejoicing for the threatened invasion by the French was averted.’
Sceptics would say that any link between the nation praying and the invasion not happening was purely coincidental. But prayerful disciples know that Archbishop William Temple is right when he said: ‘When I pray, coincidences happen; when I don’t, they don’t’
- PRAYER BREAKS CHAINS
Jesus said that when we come across people or situations influenced by evil or the demonic, we need to pray – and sometimes fast too (see Mark 9:29). As we pray in the powerful name of Jesus so we can see chains of the enemy break. Sam and I have seen this on quite a number of occasions. A few years ago we got to know a lovely gentle lady who was unsure what she believed, had a difficult relationship with family, and lacked confidence. Over time she put her faith in Christ but found it hard to worship him as very oppressive images came to her as she focussed on Jesus. Through allowing the truth of the bible to sink into her life – and especially through number of prayer sessions – things changed. These dark images disappeared and she was released from spiritual chains that were constraining her. Now it’s wonderful to see her following Christ and serving him full-time, encouraging others to follow him!
Our prayers are powerful. And they frighten the enemy. As the saying goes: ‘Satan trembles at the weakest Christian on their knees.’ That’s one reason why, having made his declaration about the temple once again being a house of prayer, the religious leaders decide that Jesus must be killed (Luke 19:47). A praying community is a massive threat to Satan’s plans. That’s why opposition normally grows when we pray. Which is why the Bible says that we need to be clothed in Christ and wearing his armour (see Ephesians 6). And we need to be brave and bold in our prayers.
- PRAYER OPENS DOORS
The apostle Paul writes to the disciples in Colossae and says ‘devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message’ (4:3). He says that prayer opens doors. Doors to hearts. Most Christ-followers who look back on how they began as disciples later recognise that one or more people were praying for them. Praying that the Lord would open a door to their heart to accept the good news of Jesus. Prayer does that. It opens doors to hearts.
Sometimes it opens doors to places. I often tell the story of when I was a little boy and found myself locked by myself in the bathroom of the top floor of an old castle. I was too weak to open the heavy lock of the old door. I tried many times. And I thought I was stuck there for ever. I was in tears. And then my father came and sat on the other side of the door and he prayed. He then asked me to try again. I did and the door opened. Immediately.
Prayer opens doors. Sometimes literally!
- PRAYER OPENS EARS
Often as we speak to God, he speaks to us. As we pray and wait and listen, with an open Bible, so we hear his voice. Disciples want to follow Jesus and be led by him. That’s why we need to spend time listening in prayer. As we do, he opens our ears to his voice.
Sometimes the Lord literally opens ears. At the recent New Wine United conference in August, I prayed with a man who came to the front asking for prayer that he might hear. He was wearing a hearing aid in each ear, said he was seventy two and that he’d been losing his hearing for some time (I think he said for twenty years). So we prayed. I asked the Spirit of God to come, and laid hands on his ears and told his ears to be opened in Jesus’ name. After a couple of minutes or so he was about to go back to his seat, so I asked him how he would know if things were improved. He said he didn’t really know but maybe he should take out one of his hearing aids. So he did this, and I clicked my fingers by his ears and spoke, and he said he could hear. He put the hearing aid back in and then out again as I continued to click and speak, and he said that he could hear better without the hearing aid. He was starting to get excited! Then he took the other hearing aid out and I continued clicking and speaking, and again he said he could hear much better in the other ear too without the hearing aid. And at that point he began to weep, saying ‘I can’t believe it. I can hear! I can hear!’ He even said that he could hear me speaking despite all the background noise, which he hadn’t been able to do for many years. We hugged and thanked the Lord for what he was doing and I prayed that the Lord would continue to be at work, and that he would indeed be able to hear for the rest of his life. It was a wonderful moment and reminded me that prayer really can open ears.
- PRAYER SPARKS REVIVAL
Renewal is when God pours out his Spirit on his church in love and power. Gifts are released. Worship is transformed. Joy is experienced. This renewing work of God is wonderful and important. But disciples must not be satisfied with renewal. We need to be praying for revival.
Revival is when that work of God spills outside of the church, impacting families, streets, communities and nations. Lots of people put their faith in Jesus Christ. Churches become full to overflowing. The disadvantaged are cared for, and many are lifted out of poverty. And society is transformed.
The history of revivals shows they’re usually sparked by prayer, and often by a few faithful praying people. The nineteenth century revivalist DL Moody said: ‘Every move of God can be traced to a kneeling figure’. Will that be you? And will that be me? Why can’t we, as a house/community of prayer play our part in sparking a great move of God in our day?
Prayer really is transformational. That’s why God is looking for a people who simply pray.
‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal they land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14).