Updated: Sep 10, 2021
“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many” (2 Corinthians 1:11, ESV).
“Don’t just pray! Act! Do something! ” My heart broke for my friend as I read her Facebook post, one of several, about the horrific news coming from Afghanistan. I felt her pain, literally. She’s a fellow military spouse whose husband did multiple deployments to Afghanistan, and Iraq, as did mine. I was tempted to comment on her post and remind her about the power of prayer and how it's not something to be belittled, but I decided that would just be adding insult to injury by calling her faith into question, which I know isn’t fair. She’s rock solid in her belief. She’s just heartbroken over recent events, as many of us are.
I have often heard people say that praying is “the least they can do.” I’ve even said that myself at times, but as Christians, our attitude toward prayer should be that prayer is the most we can do, the first thing we do, and the most significant thing we do, always in any situation or circumstance. Prayer is powerful because it invokes the work of the Holy Spirit. (See Romans 8:26,27)
Prayer is significant.
Look at all the scriptures I listed for further study at the end of this blog. They all reference prayer as an avenue of support, of healing, of power, and of primary importance. Prayer not only works for the individual who does the praying, but it also works on behalf of the recipient of a prayer. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells them “You must help us by prayer” (2 Corinthians 1:11, emphasis mine). He made it an imperative, not a request. We should never diminish the importance of prayer by saying it’s the least we can do. No! It’s the most we can do for anyone.
Prayer is powerful.
In 2 Chronicles 7:11, Solomon had just completed the house of the LORD, the temple in Jerusalem that David, his father, wanted to construct (2 Samuel 7:4-13), but that God appointed Solomon to build instead. Solomon apparently prayed over the temple, perhaps asking that God would find it acceptable, because verse 12 says, “Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice.’”
Solomon prayed over the temple, and God blessed it and made it holy by His presence. He honored Solomon’s work and prayer of invitation. Our prayers don’t enable God to act; He needs no help from us, but our prayers do invite God to act in our lives and our circumstances. Sometimes they even convince Him to withhold His righteous anger.
Prayer is sacrificial.
In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God says that if His people will humble themselves before Him, pray and seek His face, He will forgive them and heal their land. But this doesn’t mean some half-hearted, “Sorry, Lord.” It means true, penitent prayer. (See Jonah 3:6-10.) This is the type of prayer where we hit our knees, crying out to the Lord for His grace and mercy. It’s the type of prayer that takes time and energy, where you focus your whole heart, mind, and strength to reach God in the highest heights of Heaven. These are the prayers that I imagine are held in the bowl mentioned in Revelation 5:8, that become an incense, a pleasing aroma to the Lord.
There’s a movie called War Room, starring Priscilla Shirer. In it, Shirer plays a woman whose family is falling apart. They claim to be Christians, but, really, they’re just going through the motions, until she meets a woman who teaches her how to pray, and their lives are transformed. That’s the kind of prayer I’m referring to, and that’s the kind of prayer the world needs right now. In the movie, Shirer cleans out a closet and makes it her prayer room, her “war room,” because that is how we mere mortals do cosmic battle. We pray through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us (1 Corinthians 3:16), and the Spirit intercedes for us with God. (See again Romans 8:26,27 and Ephesians 6:13-18.)
Now imagine how powerful that intercession is when millions of believers unite in prayer over a common cause.
Friends, never doubt that God sees us and hears us when we pray. Prayers don’t have to be eloquent or lengthy. They often don’t even require words. God knows our hearts. He knows our minds. Sometimes the most powerful prayers are formed while just sitting in silent contemplation before the Lord. But this doesn’t mean that we neglect to pray just because God knows what we need or what problems we’re facing. As James wrote in James 4:2, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” But note, he is also quick to warn us that we must approach God with the right motives and intentions, and not ask for things out of greed or jealousy. (For context see James 4:1-3.)
It’s important to keep in mind that God is God, and there are things of which He approves and things He does not. It’s vital to know the difference before we go asking for our heart’s desires, making sure our desires are in line with God’s.
So, pray every day, in every circumstance, and for everyone, whether they know God or not. Pray for your friends and your enemies. Pray for the stranger down the street and on the other side of the world. You never know who you might help or what life might be changed by your prayers.
For further study:
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14, ESV
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. 1 Timothy 2:1, ESV
And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Revelation 5:8, ESV
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
Colossians 1:9, ESV
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
James 5:16, ESV
“…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”
Ephesians 6:18, ESV