The Power of Prayer
[Presented in church June 9 2018]
[I asked my wife, Judy, an amateur painter, to paint me a picture about prayer, and this was her painting that was unveiled prior to my presentation. I hadn’t seen the painting until I revealed it in church.]
When I started coming to this church 3 1/2 years ago, one of the real struggles I had was praying out loud in public. I always thought that prayer was a silent thing between God and me, and that only certain people, more learned than myself, could offer public prayer. During family gatherings, I always asked Judy’s brother to offer grace, much to his dismay, but the request was made because he was the Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus, and therefore in my mind was highly qualified to offer grace.
I struggled with the public prayer issue, even to the point that at prayer nights in Rorketon I could barely pray with one other person. But God changes us, albeit could be slowly. I’ve always prayed, for many many years, even though I wasn’t a true believer. I’ve done a silent prayer every night before bed, but that was between myself and God. Now being in the church, I’m having to step outside my comfort zone and am often called upon to pray publically. But it helps. At family gatherings now, I offer the prayer without a second thought and with God’s help, I know I can get through these simple requests.
I found this article on the internet, author unknown:
I asked God to take away my habit. God said “No it is not for me to take away, but for you to give it up.” I asked God to make my handicapped child whole. God said “No, his spirit is whole, his body is temporary.” I asked God to grant me patience. God said “No, patience is a byproduct of tribulations; it isn’t granted, it is learned.” I asked God to give me happiness. God said “No, I give you blessings; Happiness is up to you.” I asked God to spare me pain. God said “No, suffering draws you away from worldly cares and brings you closer to Me.” I asked God to make my spirit grow. God said “No, you must grow on your own, but I will prune you to make you fruitful.” I asked God for all the things that I might enjoy life. God said “No, I will give you life so that you may enjoy all things.” I asked God to help me love others as much as He loves me. God said “Ahhhh, finally you have the idea!” God answers all our prayers, but unfortunately sometimes the answer is “No!”
In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus introduces us to The Lord’s Prayer, and we’ve been repeating it ever since. When I was younger, before political correctness took over, we recited the prayer every day in school, and it became ingrained in our memories. Over the last few years as my knowledge of the Bible has increased, I’ve taken a closer look at the verses just prior to the prayer in an effort to understand what Jesus was teaching us.
To begin with prayer doesn’t always have to be spoken and public. Jesus tells us in Verse 5 and 6 to not be like the hypocrites or the Pharisees, who prayed in public, outloud for all to hear how dedicated they thought they were to God, but instead to pray in private and in secret and God will reward you openly. And then in Verse 7 He tells us to not repeat over and over again the same words as the heathens do. He then introduces us to a model prayer, which is The Lord’s Prayer. Did Jesus intend us to repeat The Lord’s Prayer or was He using the words only as an example of a way to pray that would be pleasing to God? I’ll leave that one for further discussion.
We’ve all heard incredible examples of answered prayers, some of them seems so far-fetched that they almost seem impossible, but we have to remember that through God, all things are possible, so we must have absolute faith in the prayers that we bring before God.
Before my mom passed away in 2015, we prayed every night, not for healing for her, but instead for peace and for ease of pain and suffering and then we placed her fate in God’s hands. We accepted that God chose to heal her pain by taking her. Sometimes that is the only way. Death is a normal part of life, whether that is the death of a child, or of someone much older. Without death, we cannot get our reward.
But as I said, sometimes God says No! There’s an old joke about a man who asks God to help him win the lottery. It doesn’t happen. The next week he asks again and doesn’t win. The third week comes and goes and again he doesn’t win. He calls out to God and asks why he can’t win the lottery, and God answers back, “At least buy a ticket!” Now while that may not be the greatest example, sometimes God needs us to help Him and to meet Him halfway. If a person suffers from addiction, and prays to be released from the addiction, they have to be prepared to give it up. Asking God to help them to not drink alcohol, while sitting in a bar is probably not going to be successful. A change is obviously required to make it happen. God helps those who help themselves.
On my last day in jail in 2014, Judy was making the long drive from home to Regina to pick me up. I’d heard on the news that there was freezing rain in the forecast, and I was concerned about Judy’s safety on the trip. Judy was scheduled to arrive to collect me at 2:00pm. Every day from 1:00pm to 2:00pm, we were locked in our cells for a quiet time. Usually I read or studied during this time, but on the last day it wasn’t possible. I paced my cell for the whole hour, praying outloud for Judy’s safety, and that the bad weather would stay away. That prayer was answered completely as Judy arrived just before 2:00pm and there was no freezing rain on her trip at all.
Ellen G White teaches us all about Prayer in her book of the same name. Chapter 10 gives us Reasons to Pray:
Why is it that we do not receive more from Him who is the source of light and power? We expect too little. Has God lost His love for man? Is not this love still flowing earthward? Has He lost His desire to show Himself strong in behalf of His people? Christ will give us victory in the conflict. Who can doubt this when we know that He laid aside His royal robe and kingly crown, and came to this world in the garb of humanity, that He might stand as man’s substitute and surety? Pr 90.1
We do not value as we should the power and efficacy of prayer. “The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which can not be uttered.” God desires us to come to Him in prayer, that He may enlighten our minds. He alone can give clear conceptions of truth. He alone can soften and subdue the heart. He can quicken the understanding to discern truth from error. He can establish the wavering mind, and give it a knowledge and a faith that will endure the test. Pray then; pray without ceasing. The Lord who heard Daniel’s prayer, will hear yours if you will approach Him as Daniel did. – (The Review and Herald, March 24, 1904.) Pr 90.2
Oh, do we know God as we should? What comfort, what joy, we should have if we were to learn daily the lessons He desires us to learn! We must know Him by an experimental knowledge. It will be profitable for us to spend more time in secret prayer, in becoming personally acquainted with our heavenly Father. – (Medical Ministry, 102.) Pr 91.1
Prayer unites us with one another and with God. Prayer brings Jesus to our side, and gives to the fainting, perplexed soul new strength to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. Prayer turns aside the attacks of Satan. – (Christ’s Object Lessons, 250.) Pr 91.2
Why should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence? Without unceasing prayer and diligent watching we are in danger of growing careless and of deviating from the right path. The adversary seeks continually to obstruct the way to the mercy seat, that we may not by earnest supplication and faith obtain grace and power to resist temptation. – (Steps to Christ, 94, 95.) Pr 91.3
Christ is our only hope. Come to God in the name of Him who gave His life for the life of the world. Rely upon the efficacy of His sacrifice. Show that His love, His joy, is in your soul, and that because of this, your joy is full. In God is our strength. Pray much. Prayer is the life of the soul. The prayer of faith is the weapon by which we may successfully resist every assault of the enemy. – (Selected Messages 1:88.) Pr 91.4
To the humble, believing soul, the house of God on earth is the gate of heaven. The song of praise, the prayer, the words spoken by Christ’s representatives, are God’s appointed agencies to prepare a people for the church above, for that loftier worship into which there can enter nothing that defileth. – (Testimonies for the Church 5:491.) Pr 91.5
Our convictions need daily to be reinforced by humble, sincere prayer and reading of the word. While we each have an individuality, while we each should hold our convictions firmly, we must hold them as God’s truth and in the strength which God imparts. If we do not, they will be wrung from our grasp. – (Testimonies for the Church 6:401.) Pr 92.1
Every promise in the word of God furnishes us with subject matter for prayer, presenting the pledged word of Jehovah as our assurance. Whatever spiritual blessing we need, it is our privilege to claim through Jesus. We may tell the Lord, with the simplicity of a child, exactly what we need. We may state to Him our temporal matters, asking Him for bread and raiment as well as for the bread of life and the robe of Christ’s righteousness. Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things, and you are invited to ask Him concerning them. It is through the name of Jesus that every favor is received. God will honor that name, and will supply your necessities from the riches of His liberality. – (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 133.) Pr 92.2
Every soul has the privilege of stating to the Lord his own special necessities and to offer his individual thanksgiving for the blessings that he daily receives. – (Testimonies for the Church 9:278, 279.) Pr 92.3
Prayer is not understood as it should be. Our prayers are not to inform God of something He does not know. The Lord is acquainted with the secrets of every soul. Our prayers need not be long and loud. God reads the hidden thoughts. We may pray in secret, and He who sees in secret will hear, and will reward us openly. – (Messages to Young People, 247.) Pr 92.4
Those who at Pentecost were endued with power from on high, were not thereby freed from further temptation and trial. As they witnessed for truth and righteousness they were repeatedly assailed by the enemy of all truth, who sought to rob them of their Christian experience. They were compelled to strive with all their God – given powers to reach the measure of the stature of men and women in Christ Jesus. Daily they prayed for fresh supplies of grace, that they might reach higher and still higher toward perfection. Under the Holy Spirit’s working even the weakest, by exercising faith in God, learned to improve their entrusted powers and to become sanctified, refined, and ennobled. As in humility they submitted to the molding influence of the Holy Spirit, they received of the fullness of the Godhead and were fashioned in the likeness of the divine. – (The Acts of the Apostles, 49, 50.) Pr 92.5
Pray most earnestly for an understanding of the times in which we live, for a fuller conception of His purpose, and for increased efficiency in soulsaving. – (Selected Messages 2:399.) Pr 93.2
God’s faithful messengers are to seek to carry forward the Lord’s work in His appointed way. They are to place themselves in close connection with the Great Teacher, that they may be daily taught of God. They are to wrestle with God in earnest prayer for a baptism of the Holy Spirit that they may meet the needs of a world perishing in sin. All power is promised those who go forth in faith to proclaim the everlasting gospel. As the servants of God bear to the world a living message fresh from the throne of glory, the light of truth will shine forth as a lamp that burneth, reaching to all parts of the world. Thus the darkness of error and unbelief will be dispelled from the minds of the honest in heart in all lands, who are now seeking after God, “If haply they might feel after Him, and find Him.” – (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 459, 460.) Pr 93.3
The truth of God received into the heart is able to make you wise unto salvation. In believing and obeying it you will receive grace sufficient for the duties and trials of today. Grace for tomorrow you do not need. You should feel that you have only to do with today. Overcome for today; deny self for today; watch and pray for today; obtain victories in God for today. – (Testimonies for the Church 3:333.) Pr 93.4
[Copyright 2002 Ellen G White estate]
In our modern and twisted world, we can still occasionally see the power of prayer at work. I saw an example in a video from the internet. A car was involved in a violent crash and burst into flames. While witnesses jumped into action to rescue the driver from the burning car, a woman began to record the accident on her phone. The whole time she was recording, she was praying for safety for the driver in the name of Jesus. After about 2 minutes the driver was rescue and eventually the flames consumed the car, but the driver was relatively unharmed. After the fire was put out, only one other item emerged from the car undamaged, a copy of The Bible from the front seat. God does answer prayers!
All we can do is ask in prayer for God to help us, it is up to Him how He replies.