When the disciples walked the earth with Jesus, they had the privilege of being able to ask him any question they wanted. (We have that same privilege as well.) But of all the things that they asked Jesus, one of the things that sticks out above the others is when they asked him to teach them to pray.
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples’” (Luke 11:1).
What is it about prayer, or what is the power of prayer, that would cause the disciples to want to learn how to do it correctly? A basic definition of the power prayer is when you invite heaven’s resources to intervene in your earthly situation. Since heaven’s resources are unlimited, then you are inviting the omnipotent God into the equation and asking him to fix or do something about your circumstance. When you grasp that, then you are getting hold of what the power of prayer is.
What Does the Bible Say about the Power of Prayer?
There are numerous scriptures throughout the Bible that encourage us to pray and highlight the true power that is in prayer. Here are just two.
“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven”
“’Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:28-30).
From these two verses and so many others, you can see that one of the powers in prayer is when God’s people ask for his help in their current situation.
Why Is Prayer So Powerful?
There is an old expression that says, “God helps those who help themselves.” Many people think this is in the Bible, but it is not. Not only is this not in the Bible, but this is also not really true. If you hold onto this type of thinking you will nullify prayer’s power.
When you think about what the real power of prayer is, it is not coming from a person who believes they can help themselves, but from a person who knows they can’t.
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus told this parable, and when you understand it you will understand what the power of prayer is.
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted’” (Luke 18:9-14).
There is a stark difference between these two men praying. One came with full confidence, knowing he had done everything right and his praying was just the icing on the cake of his self-righteousness. The other one could barely lift his eyes toward heaven, yet he is the one that experienced the power in prayer. There were two simple but important reasons why:
If there is a key to experiencing power in prayer, it is making sure you pray from a place of reality. What I mean by this is that you don’t hide the truth of your situation and how you feel about it.
One reason we never have real times of breakthrough in prayer is because we often approach God like the Pharisee, either falsely believing we have it all together or thinking we must get it together before we approach God, because “God helps those who help themselves.” The truth is you need to come to God just the way you are, bring the situation just the way it is and be open, real, and honest before God. This is what God wants from you and when you do this, you position yourself to experience the real power in prayer.
I mentioned earlier that statement about God helping those who help themselves. The truth is the opposite. God helps those who realize they can’t help themselves – those who cry out to him for his help. When you invite heaven’s resources into your situation, that means you are acknowledging that what you have is not enough.
If you are repenting of sin, you are admitting you don’t have enough righteousness on your own.
If you are praying for opportunities, you are admitting you can’t create them on your own.
If you are praying for wisdom, you are admitting you don’t have all the answers.
It does not matter what you are praying for, when you humble yourself and recognize that without God’s help this is not going to happen, then you have positioned yourself to know and experience what the power of prayer really is.
Does Prayer Physically Aid Us?
As great as the spiritual benefits are from prayer, there have been studies that show there are physical ones as well. Admittedly this is not my area of expertise, but here is information from a 2009 study:
“A 2009 study by Koenig and colleagues found that six weekly in-person Christian prayer sessions with patients at a primary care office lowered their depression and anxiety symptoms and increased their optimism.”
Because God understands fully all the benefits of prayer, it is no surprise that he would encourage us to do it. It is why verses like this make more sense.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
As these patients continued in prayer, their anxieties and worries were lowered. This happens because in prayer, they transferred their anxieties from themselves to God and allowed him to carry them.
In prayer God is not just concerned about your need, he is concerned about you as well. Part of the reason God desires you to pray is because he knows it is good for your health. The things you let go of and give to God are not only good for your spirit, but they are also good for your body and mind too. This is a power of prayer that we most certainly overlook.
Is There Anything Prayer Cannot Do?
As powerful as prayer is, there is one thing that prayer, faith, or anything else can’t do. Prayer cannot supersede or override the will of God. You can pray as much as you want, for as long as you want, and with as much faith as you can muster, but it will not change what God has willed to do. For this reason, one of the most powerful weapons in prayer is agreement with God’s will. Not only are we encouraged to pray God’s will be done (think the Lord’s prayer) we are also assured that when we pray according to God’s will, he will do what we are praying for.
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
When we consider this verse, we get an even better understanding of the power of prayer. The real power of prayer is when your will and desires come into alignment with God’s will and desires. When this happens, there is nothing that God will not do in answer to prayer because your prayers are already aligned with what he wants to do in the first place.
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