I saw a prayer motto in a church years ago that struck me as right…and WRONG: “Prayer changes me.”
OK…sure. Of course, praying changes me. And for the record, I need to be changed. But the sign seemed to suggest something else – that I shouldn’t expect answers to my prayers – I should just expect to be personally changed.
Meh. Sounds a bit like eating your vegetables. Of course, I should do it, and of course I need to do it, but will I? If I’m honest, that’s not a motto that will get me on my knees every day.
But then…I read the Bible: Hebrews 13:18, 19 for instance – where we see that prayer does much more than change me. It connects me with God who changes my circumstances:
Do you see it?…The more earnestly they prayed, the sooner he would be restored.
Yes, prayer changes me, but what gets me on my knees is that prayer changes circumstances, at least earnest prayer does. Earnest prayer advances the Kingdom of God in a visible and tangible way. So there’s a cause and effect. That’s what I need to know about prayer. If…then.
“You do not have because you do not ask.” James 4:2 (ESV)
There are many important aspects of prayer to understand, but maybe this one is where we should start – it’s the heart of everything: God answers earnest prayer.
When we pray earnestly, He moves. He responds. He does things. The writer of Hebrews asks his readers to pray for him to be restored. Released from prison? From other pressing duties? We are not told the circumstances keeping him, because the circumstances don’t matter. All we need to know is all they needed to know – the motivating part: the more earnestly they pray, the sooner he will be restored. That’s what the Word of God says.
If they gave themselves to heartfelt prayer regarding this circumstance, they would see an answer.
Whatever it was that kept him from seeing them, if they were to pray in a tepid, unbelieving, “whenever I feel like it” manner, they shouldn’t expect to see him soon. But if they would give themselves to intense and earnest prayer, then they should hang a welcome banner out – he would be coming.
It’s a theme the author of Hebrews also writes about in chapter 11, verse 6: And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (ESV)
If you seek God, he will reward you. But…do you believe it? If you do, it will show in a life of earnest prayer.
Better get the guest room ready.