Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Does Prayer Change Things?"

(Friends: we rarely send out devotionals on weekends, but this own was ready to go. Thanks.)

In one sense, the answer to the question is certainly yes, and in a profound way. The Bible's promises concerning prayer are vast beyond measure, and taken as literally as they were offered, are a force that Satan himself cannot counter (a primary reason our enemy works so hard to hinder our prayers). "The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16).

In most literal Scriptural terms, however, the truth of the matter is that prayer, in and of itself, does not and cannot accomplish anything. In fact, it can be a dangerous and deceptive practice if understood wrongly, and if emphasized in a manner that causes us to trust in our God-given and commanded capacity to ask rather than His promise to answer the effectual, fervent prayers of the righteous.

"O Lord God of hosts, how long wilt Thou be angry against the prayer of Thy people?" (Psalm 80:4).

Long ago, the people of Israel actually angered God by their praying because there was no heart in their offerings, and no faith in the God they were approaching. They believed, wrongly, that there was merit, effect and power in the practice of prayer, regardless of whether they rightly related to their Lord in consistent faith, devotion, submission, and obedience. They were trusting in their prayers rather than the Answerer of their prayers, and this is the primary truth of genuine communion with God. By defintion, prayer is the admission of our abject need for Divine activity and intervention on our behalf. It is the acknowledgement that the Lord must do for us that which we cannot do for ourselves. Therefore, it cannot be viewed as the agent of change. Prayer does not change things. God changes things, albeit often through our praying.

This is not mere semantics, or an unnecessarily technical way of viewing prayer. Again, God was "angry against the prayer" of His people. We do well, accordingly, to apply ourselves to prayer as Scripturally revealed if we are to have strong confidence and hope in its "availeth much" dynamism. Prayer is not to be prayed for prayer's sake, but rather as the expression of devotion, faith, and submission to the glory and will of God. Prayer is affirming to God and within ourselves that we are not and cannot be the do-er of that which only He can do. It is holding out an empty cup to our Heavenly Father, as it were, and trusting Him to fill it with the content that quenches our thirst. By God's own design, the cup is necessary. But it is not that which fills our void.

Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have been given the sublime gift of His own praying heart revealed in our spirits. "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6). We are called into the conscious and vital presence of the infinite, majestic Lord who is also our loving, intimate Father. A way has been made, stained by holy Blood, and our fellowship with God is far more precious to Him than it will ever be to us. "The prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 15:8). The consideration of such grace is overwhelming, and causes us to desire an understanding and application of prayer that is as faithful to its reality as possible. Prayer does not change things, and it is all the more precious because it does not. Instead, it is an open door the door into the very heart of the God who does change things, and who most importantly, changes us.
"Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."
(Jeremiah 33:3)

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