Saturday, May 15, 2010

Does Prayer Really Change Things? Pt 2

Welcome back. I hope you had a chance to look up verses about prayer. If you did, I am sure that it made you ponder the wonder of prayer. Last time we talked about the need for seeking to be in God's will when we pray. I specifically wanted you to be thinking about the question, "Does prayer change what happens in this world?" I know that we didn't answer that question yet, but we need to look at some other principles of prayer first. Yes, I am trying to string you along so you will keep waiting for the answer. Kind of like watching 24, right?

Let's start with a definition for what prayer is. The simplest, but most accurate definition of prayer in the life of a Christian, is conversing with God. Now, conversing assumes a two way connection. Speaking and listening. Most of us have no trouble with the speaking part. It usually involves asking for things. Even people that have no relationship with God do this, often quite regularly. The problem for most people, even believers is the listening part. Right now you might be saying, "What do you mean, listening? Do we hear God audibly?" It does happen, but I am usually a little wary of people who hear an audible voice. When you hear Christians say, "The Lord spoke to me," they usually don't mean audibly. It is often just an impression that is very strong. But it can often be a leading of the Lord to certain scriptures pertaining to your situation. That is probably the best way of hearing God speak to you. It has a built in safety net. Unless you take the verses out of context to get an answer you want, it is helpful to get guidance directly from God's divinely inspired Word. But there have been many times in my life that I sensed a direct leading from the Lord and had it confirmed by circumstances or other Christians.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. A little over a year ago, I had been asking the Lord to give me direction on how I could serve Him in a greater way. I didn't want to waste any of my time doing things that had no eternal value. During that time, the football coach at Garden Grove HS, who had taken over after my five year tenure, resigned. I sought the Lord to see if He wanted me to coach football again. For over thirty years, that had been my passion and ministry. I asked the Lord to be very clear in His direction because I had become very involved in ministry at my church. I really desired to do even more, but I had not ever been able to let go completely of coaching football. I wanted to know once and for all if my coaching career was over or not. If it was, I wanted the Lord make it abundantly clear whether or not He had more ministry for me. Well, to make a long story short, I interviewed but did not get the coaching job. I felt a great peace about it and soon after, I was asked to get more involved in teaching and counseling at church. Could God have made it any clearer than that? I don't think so! It has been such a great blessing to me, to know that the things that I do are what God has called me to. I have such a joy in serving Him in these ministries. One of them is writing this blog!

So you can see that there are different ways that you hear from the Lord. The real question is do you want to hear Him? Often times we only want Him to listen to us and do what we want. Even though the Lord delights in hearing from us, He also desires greatly for us to do more than just ask Him for things. Imagine if the only time our kids spoke to us was to ask for things. I know, I know, that is what they do most of the time! But think of the joy you have when they say thanks for something, or just share their heart with you. For you parents with young children, be patient, it actually does happen! It is important to know that God desires that from you as well. Have you ever spent time in prayer just telling God how much you love Him, acknowledging His greatness and majesty? Jesus said that we should begin our prayer time that way.

In Matthew 6: 9-13, He instructs us on how we should pray. He says that we begin by acknowledging that our heavenly Father is Holy. The word hallowed in Greek is from the word "hagios" which means sacred, pure, and morally blameless. Starting with that acknowledgement is to remind us who we are speaking to. Then Jesus brings us to the place we spoke of last time. Matt 6:10-11 says "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." We always want to be seeking for His will to be done. Why would we want anything other than His will to be done in our lives? I think it's much safer to be in the will of the One who knows the beginning from the end and has our best interests at heart, rather than our own plan, which is based on very limited knowledge, don't you? We are to ask for our daily bread (the needs of our lives) after seeking His will. I believe that the order is God ordained.

The Lord then reminds us to ask for forgiveness for our debts, sometimes translated trespasses. The Greek word implies that we are debtors to God, which is true. Jesus paid the ransom price for our debt. In the same way we forgive others who have committed wrongs against us. When we really comprehend what Jesus did for us, could we possibly do less? We conclude our prayer by asking the Lord for protection against the enemy of our souls, Satan, "the evil one." He would love to lead us into temptation just as He attempted to do with the Lord Jesus Himself. If Jesus told us to ask for this, I would think it's pretty important! Isn't it beautiful how the Lord gave us this model for prayer?

Well, we still haven't answered the question completely, have we? Maybe next time! One thing you can know for sure is that the biggest change that comes from prayer is the change that takes place in us. When we follow His model for prayer, seeking His will first and foremost, God changes our hearts. I will leave you with this beautiful verse from Ezek 36:26-27, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." AMEN!

GAME PLAN: Begin each day this next week following Jesus' model for prayer and watch what the Lord does.

May God bless your time conversing with Him!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Does Prayer Really Change Things? PT 1

With the National Day of Prayer coming up, what better topic is there to write about? Praying certainly seems to be controversial lately. The NDOP has now been recently declared unconstitutional. I'm confused. Does that mean we can't all pray about the issues concerning our country on Thursday? I think I'm going to do it anyway. Wow, I am really living on the edge now!

I am sure you have seen the signs and bumper stickers that say "Prayer Changes Things". Is that true? Some of the common questions about prayer are, "Why do we pray and does it really matter? Doesn't God just do whatever He wants anyway? Doesn't He know what we are going to pray about before we pray, so what is the point?" These are legitimate questions because it is true that God is sovereign and will accomplish His will. He also does know what we are going to ask before we ask it. He even knows what His answer will be before we ask. So why do we pray? What is the point of it?

Well, I certainly don't have all the answers here. Perhaps I should feel bad that I don't know all there is to know about prayer, since I have been a Christian for almost forty seven years, but guess what, I don't. Theologians have been studying and writing about prayer for centuries and they don't claim to have all the answers either! Maybe I can share a few things that will help bring some clarity to these questions. The only place we can really get the correct answers to these questions is in the Word of God, so let's take a look at some passages concerning this subject.

An early instance of prayer that is seen in the Bible is in Genesis 20:7. God tells Abimelech to return Sarah to Abraham and that Abraham will pray for him (Abimelech) to continue to live. Abraham does so and then prays for Abimelech's barren wife to be able to have children. God grants Abraham's requests.

This begins to give us insight into how God works in prayer. There is an amazing amount of information in this story. I suggest that you read the whole story, starting in Genesis 20:1. In verses 17 and 18 we see that God had already begun to work His plan by causing Abimelech's wife and slave girls to not be able to have children (a horrible fate in that culture). He also used Abimelech, by coming to him in a dream and telling him that he was as good as dead if he did not return Sarah to Abraham. God must have instructed Abraham to pray for Abimelech because we are informed that he did so and that God answered that prayer in a very exact fashion. So, what do we learn here?

  1. God is working before Abraham even prays
  2. Abraham is faithful to God's leading in his prayer, thus praying for God's will to be accomplished
  3. God's will is accomplished

Is this always the way it works? No, not exactly. We don't always get a direct order from God on what to seek in prayer. But it does give us one really important principle. If we want to see God work, we must seek to pray for things that are in accordance with His will. There are many things that we know are in His will and can pray for with great confidence. How do we know? He tells us in His word. For instance James says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."(James 1:5) So then, it is in God's will for us to have wisdom. When we pray for it, He will give it, but James adds one more principle to the equation. (James 1:6-8) "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." So, we have another important principle. We pray in God's will and we believe that we will receive it.

Jesus says in John 14:13-14 "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." The phrase in my name means exactly the same as "according to my will". This is an amazing concept. Again I want to emphasize that our first priority, before we ask for something in prayer, is to seek to be in God's perfect will concerning what we are asking for. Then, we need to believe that God will do as He says He will.

By the way, did you notice another principle in verse 13? We ask in the name of Jesus, so that Jesus may bring glory to God the Father. This is the true purpose of all our prayer, that the Son may bring glory to the Father. That helps us decide what things we should ask for. We don't always know for sure what may bring God glory. For example, sometimes we pray for a person's healing, believing that it would certainly bring God glory. But, God might receive more glory for the person's attitude and behavior in spite of not being healed.

Well, we have just begun to touch the surface of the subject of prayer. In the next few entries, I hope to share more biblical principles concerning this enormously important topic. I pray that by the end of this series, you will have a better understanding of how prayer works in the life of the believer.


  1. Look up at least ten verses in the OT and ten in the NT concerning prayer
  2. Write down as many questions as you may have concerning those passages
  3. Email those questions to me at
  4. Pray for wisdom in seeking the answers, believing that you will receive it

As Dr J Vernon McGee would say, "Until next time, may God richly bless you, my beloved!" Coach