“Effective prayer is prayer that attains what it seeks. It is prayer that moves God, effecting its end.”
Charles Grandison Finney
The next barrier against effective prayer on our list is: Prayer Doesn’t Work. Good grief! What in tarnation was I thinking doing a series with such unbelievably difficult questions to try to answer! Ok…whew…anyway, I believe this particular barrier to be one that finds its answer in our daily pursuance of faith. That said, I have a few thoughts for us to consider.
We’ve all thought these difficult questions at one point or another. And I’d dare say we’ve all felt the effects of someone close to us that has said them or dealt first hand with them as well…
- I tried praying for my grandma to get healed from cancer and she still died
- I prayed to be released from this addiction and I still fight it every single day
- I prayed for a boyfriend/girlfriend and I’m still single and lonely
I thought the Lord was supposed to give us the desires of our heart…so what’s up with this?!?
We could keep going with question after question…discouragement after discouragement. Yet, if this is how we truly and truthfully respond, we may be missing some very key principles about faith, God, and the purpose of prayer.
Instead of saying it doesn’t work, why not be honest with ourselves and say that prayer doesn’t work how I think it should. You see, often I have my own ideas about the when, where, why, and how prayers should be answered. However, there’s a very simple yet profound concept that I’m lacking when I think like this. I’M NOT GOD!!! And praise the Lord that I’m not! “The Lord sits enthroned on high and does whatever pleases Him (Ps. 115:3).” Who am I to question the unmatched character, supremacy, and sovereign will of God?
Isaiah 55:9-11 says that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways; and that His Word will accomplish what He pleases. Do you mind if I share a personal example of a time when I believed God was maddeningly quiet in my life? When His ways were certainly not my ways, and His thoughts were definitely not my thoughts?!?!
Like many of you I’m sure, I have not been unacquainted with suffering, difficulty, and even grief in my life. However, the past number of months have possibly been some of the most trying months of my life. Many of you may know by now that I have been dealing with some pretty rough health problems with my head. I no longer have the balance centers on either side of my vestibular system…or inner ears. This causes spontaneous and very severe vertigo that induces vomiting and possible blackouts. There’s no rhyme or reason for these “spells” that just come out of the blue when I least expect them. This has effected EVERY other aspect of my life as you can imagine.
In fact, on my last overseas trip I almost didn’t make it due to this health issue and being on airplanes for extended periods of time. God and I “had it out” a number of times while on that trip and I’ve made no bones about how angry I have been that any and all confidence I had, has abruptly and abrasively been taken away from me. You see, I have spent a lot of time in my life trying to build my OWN confidence so I can put on a brave face even when in pain…physically, emotionally, or spiritually. So, it hurt like crazy when it was all taken away. Alone and with tears in my eyes, I finally said, “Is this what You wanted…for me to not have ANY confidence anymore? Cause I have none left!!!” I didn’t hear a still small voice or anything, but I felt the Holy Spirit saying, “Yes, Clay! That’s exactly where I wanted you to get to. Now that you have no more confidence left in yourself, you can get immeasurable amounts of confidence in Me…where it comes from in the first place. I love you that much!”
Through this particular difficulty I have often felt very distant from God, wondering if He cares…all the while of course knowing that He does. But that is altogether different than functionally believing and trusting that He knows what He’s doing. After all, I am the one that is dealing with the chronic physical pain! But in that moment alone with the Lord, all of the pain, all of the difficulty, all of the fighting against God’s plan, all of my wanting to be “an Oak” so that no one would see me sweat, was answered. If only for a brief few moments, I knew that God had answered my prayer of unbelief and distrust with His patience and loving care!
What if God was getting me to a place where I had no other recourse than to finally, with all that is in me, become completely broken of any of my own efforts? It certainly looked that way. There are times when God, in His loving care, has to get you to a place of complete and utter dependence on Him. But sometimes there just isn’t a reason (sin, unbelief, distrust…etc.) to WHY we suffer physically. Not every single thing that happens to us is a monumental “teaching moment” from God or a “messenger of Satan” to torment us. Sometimes it’s as simple as understanding that we live in a fallen world where, due to original sin, things just aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. This is the reason for us as Christians to look forward to an eternity in God’s presence with no more sin, sickness, or sadness!
The whole purpose of prayer, remember, is to meet with God Himself, to be in His presence daily, to praise and thank Him for our lives that are “hidden with Christ in God.” Time after time in the Old and New Testament God Himself declares that prayer works by actually answering the prayers of His people. If He didn’t answer the prayers of His people, He would cease to be God, cease to embody many of His character attributes: His love, mercy, justice, peace, goodness…etc. There would be no reason to pursue an intimate and reciprocal relationship with the God of the Universe…what would be the point? Do you want to worship a cold, uncaring, and unrelatable God? I sure don’t!
And praise the Lord I don’t because I was finally able, in this situation, to know AND feel my own prayers and the prayers of incredible men and women of God, and they WORKED. I was able to get on the airplanes, I was able to learn and surrender my own confidence over to the Lord as He started to rebuild my confidence with His instead. I was able to even FEEL the prayers of God’s people working in my physical body…and that hasn’t happened very often in my life!
Prayer DOES work! We just have to have a willing heart to ask and receive. God is not some cosmic Genie in a bottle ready to grant your every wish at your command…that’s not how this works! But He truly does care and is completing a good work in each one of us. Will you be willing to surrender your plans and prayers that YOU want for His greater plans for your life? We should pray about it and watch how God answers!
Clayton J. Elliott, Kontaktmission USA
Pastoral Ministries and Prayer
clay@GoKMUSA.org (731) 217-1741
Here are two of this month’s prayer requests from KM missionaries in the field.
From Peter and Olga Vogel (KM Project manager for Central Russia and Central Asia) based in Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock, Germany.
“It is encouraging to see the congregation in Orenburg continuing to develop in missions. Last week we were with a team from Russia helping congregations in a central Asian country with their work. Please pray that enduring fruit will be seen in the workers as well as in those with whom we shared the Good News.”
From the KM team working in Kamnik, Slovenia, we hear “Slovenia has fewer professing Christians than Iraq or Iran. Please pray for revival in this country. Pray that this summer will be a season of growth for our little congregation in Kamnik.”