I think it all started with the shooting at the Orlando nightclub.
Hashtags popped up all over social media – #prayforOrlando, along with the articles essentially saying, “Stop #praying and do something!”
Maybe my heart was worn out from my own little complex life. Maybe it felt like another step in a hopeless march of #prayfor tragedy-after-tragedy. But something strange rose up in me – this midwestern mama in my bubble of security…
I don’t want to pray for Orlando! What does it matter? God’s going to do what He’s going to do whether I pray or not, so what is the point?
It wasn’t about Orlando specifically, of course.
I was frustrated because I had not yet reconciled my understanding of who God is with my role in His Kingdom.
If you’ve grown up in the church, you’ve probably heard adages like “PUSH: Pray Until Something Happens” and the parable of the persistent widow. You know, the one with the judge who acted because the widow simply would not leave him alone?
When I heard these lessons, I couldn’t help wondering… Is God such a tease that He would withhold His hand because He’s waiting for some magical number of prayers to come His way?
Please? NO. Please? No. Please? No. Please? No. Please? Ok. Healing Granted.
The Abba I know and love is not a genie in a bottle who needs to be rubbed exactly the right way in order to perform His miracles. So WHAT is that about?
Questions formed in my mind and would not leave:
If I don’t pray for the people of Orlando, is He going to withhold His comfort and protection from them? Is He so fickle or I so important that the wellbeing of Orlando lies on my shoulders? Or would my lack of prayer rob the bowl of that perfect number of prayers required to tip His grace?
If I don’t pray for my son’s healing every day, will God allow Isaac to keep suffering? What’s the magic formula, Lord, because I’ll do it. Just tell me what it is!
I know I’m not the only one who’s wondered if my prayers matter. Our friends and family ask for prayer for someone sick or dying, and it seems random whether the person is healed or dies anyway. How much are my prayers budging the scale?
(…And do I want to serve a God so egotistical He waits until a certain number of offerings come His way before He acts?)
I mean, think about it.
And there it was: At the heart of all of our concerns, doubts, and disobedience as human beings and believers, there is always a question in our minds about the character of God.
You can hear him, right? The conniving snake whispering, Did God really say…
It all becomes so clear to me, then. The lies that infiltrate our faith and lead us unconsciously down a path that begins to believe Christian prayers are no different than pagan offerings. God, our loving Father who sacrificed His own SON to bring us back to Him, is reduced to some distant and fickle god on Mount Olympus who follows His own whims and childish emotions.
Oh Abba, forgive me.
I certainly don’t have it all figured out; this is a journey I’ve been taking with the Lord for several years, now. I’m still learning and growing in my understanding of prayer, but here are a couple of things I have found to be true:
- God wants us to pray. He wants us to talk to Him. He wants us to ask Him for things. He seeks relationship with us, because He loves us.
- God is sovereign. He was before time and He will be at the end. His will is uninterruptible, unbreakable, unhindered, unimaginably powerful. And I am decidedly not sovereign.
- Our prayers do matter. Our prayers change things. God listens to us and moves in response to our prayers.
Ultimately, as a believer, my duty, destiny, and honor is to bring glory to my Father and live in intimacy with Him. Prayer is an integral part of that calling.
First, when we are told to pray continually and ask without giving up, God is leading us into deeper relationship with Himself. In those moments of intimacy, it is not He who is changed by our pleas, but we who are changed by His presence and perspective. He wants us to come to Him with our concerns so that He can show Himself to us.
We boldly enter the throne room of God, not to demand, but to recognize our dependence.
Second, because of the Holy Spirit in us as believers, we have been given the authority to pull the Kingdom of Heaven into intersection with this earthly, physical reality we live in. Jesus, as He walked the earth, regularly acted as a conduit for the will of God – the Kingdom of Heaven – and it manifested in salvation, healing, comfort, deliverance, and change. Think about all that Jesus accomplished in His short three years of ministry, and yet He says, “Greater than these things you will do…”
How could we possibly do “greater” things than minister freedom and healing and bring people back to life?
Some suggest that the “greater” has to do with our place in history after the completed work of Christ and the range of the miracles. Jesus was one man in a physical body in a fixed place and time. But after He ascended and the Holy Spirit came, His power is available through every single believer on planet earth for generation after generation until He returns.
Still, my logic struggles to wrap itself around the balance between God’s sovereignty and the impact of my prayers… Because Satan would love to push us into one ditch of extremity or another.
Timothy Keller, in his book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, writes,
We are seeing the necessary balance of two purposes of petitionary prayer – to put the world right (“the kingdom come”) and to align our hearts with God (“they will be done”). Neither of these should get the upper hand or our supplications will become either too shrill and frantic or too passive and defeatist. We must make our desires known – and also rest in his wisdom (230).
We, as conduits, call upon the Kingdom of Heaven to come to earth, and our Father obliges according to His will. This is my role in prayer as it changes things here on earth. This is my responsibility according to Scripture.
Oh there’s so much more to write, but I’ll leave it at this for now.
Just know, even though it doesn’t make sense, and our prayers do not always seem to yield the results we’d hoped, the Father we serve is asking us to pray. And He is working His will on this planet on a scale we cannot begin to conceive. Yes, we live in a broken world where evil exists and people die. AND God is Good, and we’ve been invited to partner in His work.
Love you all and love walking this journey together. ❤