Prayer is more about changing us than changing God.
Do you remember hearing the gospel as a teenager and knowing you wanted Jesus? Did you pray and offer words to a Savior you barely knew but desperately wanted to follow? You may have realized that prayer was essential to the believer’s life and wanted to learn more. Your church might have held a time before service for teenagers to come forward and pray, and you went because you wanted to learn how to pray.
At the time, your youth pastor would tell you the battle was won in prayer, so you went to war. You went to Jesus with much bondage and hurt, like sexual sin, anger issues, and stronghold, desperately needing freedom. So when you heard that phrase from your youth pastor, you fought hard, and God listened to your prayers. Within the following years, altar calls seemed built just for you and in those intimate moments, you found freedom from the bondage and healed your broken areas.
God answered your prayers and did the impossible before your eyes. Your faith was strengthened through answered prayers in those early years. However, you started feeling like your prayers fell on deaf ears and were no longer being answered how you wanted them to as often as you’d like them to. You fought with God and wondered what was going on. Why weren’t your prayers being answered? Hopefully, you’ve learned more about prayer since then.
One common question people ask about prayer is why we should pray if God ultimately decides the outcome. Before we answer that question, it’s essential to differentiate between changing the circumstances and changing God’s mind. They might sound like similar questions, but they are two different ones. When we ask if our prayers change God’s mind, we wonder if there’s room for God to change based on our actions, and the answer is no. The reason is that God has already set His plans, and because He doesn’t change, neither do His plans.
In addition, changing God’s mind would mean that His original plan wasn’t best for that situation and there’s room for improvement, but that’s not His nature. However, our prayers can change circumstances. Knowing beforehand how our prayers and actions would lend to a change in outcome. God planned it accordingly. God answers our prayers for His glory in His perfect place and timing. So why do we pray? If God has already decided what He’ll do, what’s the point? There are essential parts of prayer we should consider.
We’re called to pray.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul writes that it’s God’s will that we should pray without ceasing. Still, instead of praying 24/7, he means we should have a lifestyle, heart, and attitude to pray and that our first thought should be to talk to Him. On our way to work, while we’re doing dishes, in the carpool line at school and when we have a moment to breathe, our thoughts should turn towards God. Furthermore, we should turn to God first instead of a spouse or friend when we encounter any obstacle. He is always our first line of communication.
More than anything, this reflects a heart that’s surrendered to God, which is what He desires for us, a life for Him. God is after our hearts, and a heart that’s for Him prays often. Prayer puts us in direct communication with Him, bringing down distractions and idols, paving the way for deliverance, and tuning our ears to His voice. We’re called to pray because so much hinges on communicating with Him.
Prayer changes things.
A righteous person’s prayers have great power, a promise we have in the Bible, specifically in James 5:16-18. Throughout the Bible, we see people pray, and things change. For example, Hannah prayed intensely for a child, and God opened her womb. Elijah prayed for drought and rain, and God answered both prayers. Peter asked to be released from prison, and God answered his prayer. Hundreds of answered petitions throughout the Bible serve as a lamppost of God’s faithfulness. We can have complete confidence that God hears our prayers and He will respond at the right time, in the right way. It won’t always be how we hoped, but it will be how He sees fit.
Prayer can change our hearts.
The most valuable part of prayer completely defies what we’ve thought about prayer for a while. Prayer is more about changing us than changing God. So often, we pray for a need and ask God to move. Still, what if that isn’t His will? That’s when we become upset because we want to believe that God hears our prayers, yet He might not choose to move in such a way. He might hold off on meeting that need or choose a different route. When He does, we should remind ourselves that in prayer, He might be more concerned about aligning us with His will, not the other way around.
When Jesus was in the garden before His arrest, He prayed to the Father and shared a petition. Still, ultimately, Jesus was committed to the Father’s will, not His desires. Prayer was the vessel by which Jesus aligned Himself with the Father. Prayer has immense power, but you may be missing its value in your life. How are you doing, and which of these three points could you improve upon most? Where does God want to stretch your faith regarding prayer?