How much good do my prayers really accomplish?
It’s a question I’ve been thinking about ever since our Project X meeting on Monday night. Project X is a youth outreach that I’m a part of, and in addition to running our yearly event, we also meet every week to pray together. In fact, Project X is pretty much built entirely on prayer. Some awesome stuff has happened; stuff I’ve rarely seen anywhere else.
While I was there, someone quoted a verse from the Bible:
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
James 5:16 NIV
A thought jumped instantly into my mind.
I mustn’t be a righteous person, because my prayers aren’t powerful or effective.
The thought left, but I pondered it. Were my prayers weak and ineffective? When had one of my prayers really, unmistakably, worked? I couldn’t think of a single instance. My ‘prayer resume’ certainly couldn’t compare to Project X’s. Wherever that group goes, awesome stuff seems to happen. But not so with me individually.
I kept trying to think of answered prayers during the week. I still couldn’t come up with anything. But I while I contemplated the issue, I held back on feeling guilty, frustrated or sad. I hit the pause button. Because I’d seen this trick before.
I’ve often blogged about my frustrations that my good works seem ineffective, and sometimes it feels like God doesn’t use me. God’s been changing me in that regard all year. This prayer thing was just a variation of that same old lie. I didn’t want to get sucked into that trap again.
But still, the question remained in my mind. That is, until I started planning this blog post. This is, word-for-word, what I wrote in my red polka dot notebook.
“Be on guard. Holy Spirit for all. No favourites. Duh.”
I looked at what I’d written, and the penny dropped. God doesn’t play favourites.
It’s a simple truth that I know in my head, but my heart looked at other people whose prayers got answered all the time, and wondered, ‘What’s wrong with me?’
The answer? Nothing.
If God has told us that He hears our prayers, and I pray, then my prayer is just as effective as anybody else’s. Sometimes it might not look that way. But what do I trust more? The way things look, or what God says?
That’s part one of God’s answer to my query. Yesterday morning, part two happened.
It was about 5.50am, and I was sitting in bed, yawning, doing my morning devotions. I prayed for various people and my writing and causes like Project X. Well, not so much praying as begging. “Please, please God, help us with this event. Please, please, please touch my reader’s hearts with what I write today. Don’t let it all go to waste. Please don’t let me miss an opportunity.” I was imploring Him to act, like I had to talk Him into it.
Then remembered that the Lord’s Prayer does not start with a shopping list. So I backtracked and figured I’d honor God by thanking him for some stuff.
“Thanks God, that You’re this big, amazing, powerful God who knows everything and sees everything and knows what He wants to happen and has the power to do it —” then I stopped. God knows what He wants to happen and has the power to do it. So I don’t have to talk him into it.
This doesn’t take away from that fact that I should obey God by doing good stuff. It doesn’t take away from the fact that God tells me to pray. Obeying and praying aligns my heart with His, which is a great thing. We should pray with passion, even urgency.
But I’ve been thinking that His work won’t get done unless I badger him into it. I have to convince him. And I can never be confident that I said things the right way and He’s convinced. I feel like Project X has cracked a secret to prayer that I’m yet to discover.
But God is God. He knows what He wants to happen and when He wants to do it. I’ll be obedient in taking action, and obedient in prayer, but I can also be confident in His intentions.
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