Prayer is one of the strangest parts of the Christian faith. How can talking out loud to someone that you cannot see cause a change in this world? Even stranger, how can thinking about something in our head be a prayer that is heard by God that makes a difference in the world?
When Jesus was on earth he prayed a lot. He often went off on his own to pray. Sometimes he prayed in front of others. Prayer seemed to be a mystery to his friends – the disciples. They didn’t seem to understand what he was doing but they did know that his life was supremely effective. When he met with challenges he always knew exactly what to do- he had great wisdom from somewhere.When he came across someone who was ill when he touched them or spoke to them they were instantly healed- he had great power from somewhere. When he spoke to the crowds he was compelling – he spoke with authority that came from somewhere. I believe that this power, authority and wisdom flowed from Jesus’ relationship with Father God through prayer. It is not surprising that his friends asked him to teach them to pray. (You can read about it here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+11%3A1-13&version=NRSVA)
We may not understand how prayer can possibly work, but if you are a follower of Jesus you are called to pray and pray with a boldness, persistence and with faith. Unfortunately, much of the time our prayers are half hearted prayers of hope. Often even while we are praying we are not even expecting God to either hear or answer. However, throughout history Christians have claimed that God answers prayer. In Jesus’ teaching on prayer he encourages us to keep praying and to ask the God who cares with boldness and persistence. An important part of the Lord’s prayer is to pray for God’s kingdom (or rule) to come on earth as it is in heaven. In other words, “let the good things of heaven come to earth now.” This can include praying for healing, justice, peace, love etc. These things will all come in their fullness when heaven comes to earth when Jesus returns. But while we are waiting we are to be busy praying and working to see more of these good things come now. As we are told to pray for these things we can pray with more confidence, faith and persistence.
Answers to Prayer
Lately I have been seeking to pray much more. Over the last few weeks whenever I have faced a problem that I cannot work out how to tackle it I have prayed. Each time the problem comes to my mind, instead of worrying or getting anxious about it, I pray. The results have been fabulous. Over the last few days 3 of 4 really difficult situations that I had no idea how to tackle have been sorted spontaneously and easily. I believe that this is the result of prayer.
A number of people in my congregation over the last few months have faced significant medical procedures. After the operations they have all have testified to 3 facts: i) they encountered a peace that they didn’t expect before the operation ii)the operation went better than expected iii) They recovered better than expected. These all could be co-incidences. However, this pattern keeps happening as many at church are praying more frequently. Those involved certainly believe that the positive results are because of prayer. The great Anglican Archbishop William Temple once said, “When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t, they don’t.” Over the 20 years that I have been a Christian I have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of these “co-incidences.” Some may have just been co-incidences. Many, I believe have been significant things that have happened as a direct result of prayer.
Prayer is not some sort of magic pill. It certainly isn’t a guarantee that everything will always work out just how you hope. However I do believe, from my experience and from the witness of the Bible, that prayer releases God’s power into situations.
God is still God. On occasions we may disagree with his timing and sometimes we may not agree with his choices. But as God is full of perfect wisdom, knowledge and experience we need to remember that he always will do the right thing at the right time. Our job is to pray (and keep on praying) and trust him with how and when he answers.
Getting Started with Prayer
The best way to get started with prayer is to hear others praying and to hear from others their stories of answered prayer. Psalms in the Bible contains many great prayers for a variety of circumstances.
Here are a few websites which may help: