True confession time: haven’t you sometimes wondered if prayer isn’t a waste of time? Blame it on one of those “dark night of the soul” moments or on the harried pressure of your tension-filled life if you must assign blame, but haven’t you at some time had to deal with that spiritually-errant, all too human question of whether prayer makes any difference at all to your life?
There are probably several reasons why this unwanted question might surface, but allow me to just suggest two. The first is practical. It’s hard to have a serious conversation with someone who isn’t physically present. It sometimes seems like the words prayed just bounce off the ceiling. The second is theological. What do you say to someone who knows what you are going to say before you say it and knows what he will do before you ask? That God is omniscient and sovereign is not the problem but such sovereignty does at times seem to make prayer unnecessary.
Think about the Apostle Paul and prayer. He shows no indication of wrestling with such doubts. Paul prayed. Because of his Jewish heritage I can see him praying at regular assigned times of the day and I can see him praying as he bends over the tent he is making. Just go to the beginning verses of most of his letters to see his love for the people he wrote to and his prayers for them.
Paul asked others to pray for him. Check out the beginning verses of Colossians 4 and the ending verses of Ephesians 6 to see some of the things they were to pray for. No, Paul knew that prayer does make a difference and so should we.
Paul believed God acts in response to prayer. “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.” (2 Corinthians 1:10-11, NIV 2011) “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” (Philippians 1:19, NIV 2011) In both circumstances Paul believed he was delivered from physical harm through the prayers of his friends.
Perhaps James wasn’t just speaking in hyperbole when he wrote, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16, NIV 2011)
That’s what breaks through the prayer ceiling.
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