By Greg Quinn
August 6th, 2010
As I think about the various facts of our faith as Christians, I think of the power of prayer. Sometimes improperly used, often overlooked, frequently misused, and significantly misunderstood, prayer is a tremendous benefit and an attribute of most every faith. Whether Muslim, Jew, Catholic, Christian, Hindu, or other, prayer is something that bridges the barriers between faiths and something every religion endorses. The ability for a human to connect with a supreme God is significant. I thought Iíd take a moment to share a few thoughts about prayer.
First, prayer is universal. Every religion celebrates prayer in some fashion. As a Christian, believing in the teaching of the Bible, it is confirmed through Scripture that not all prayers are answered however. And, it does matter whom you pray to. I donít believe that man can pray to a stone statue of a fat man and receive forgiveness and wealth. I donít believe that prayer three times a day while denying belief in the Son of God provides any forgiveness of sin. So, while the notion of prayer may be universal, the fulfillment of prayer can only come from one who can grant the answers to these prayers. And the only One who can answer our prayers is the one true God. The one true God, the Creator, the God that is alive and that hears and loves us, is the God of the Bible. Only He can hear and answer our requests, which is what prayer truly is. Prayer is our requests, petitions, thanksgiving, and conversations between man on Earth and God in Heaven.
My beliefs about prayer are fashioned from my Christian faith as shown in the Holy Bible. Therefore, that is my point of reference. In the Old Testament of the Bible, since the beginning of time, mankind communicated to God through prayer. Adam and Eve talked to God in the Garden, before sin entered the world. Abraham prayed to God and became the father of many nations. Gideon prayed and the walls of their enemy came crumbling down. Jeremiah prayed and the sins of Israel were forgiven by a Holy God. Isaiah prayed and God used him to prophesy the coming Messiah. Jonah prayed and he escaped the belly of a whale. Elijah prayed and fire fell from Heaven. Noah prayed and the world was saved from the flood. Moses prayed and Israel was delivered from Egypt. Solomon prayed and received wisdom and untold riches. David prayed and went from a shepherd to a king. The Old Testament of the Bible is filled with answered prayer. The New Testament is built upon Godís promise of a deliver to allow forgiveness to mankind for their sins. The prophesied Messiah in the Old Testament was fulfilled in the New Testament through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. John teaches us that Jesus (God the Son) was in the beginning with God and created everything alongside God the Father. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John records the life of Jesus Christ and His work to reconcile us to a Holy Creator God. The writings of the Apostle Paul teach us how to understand God and what Jesus did for us to redeem us from our wrongdoing and place us once again in good standing before God. Peter ties Old Testament beliefs to New Testament fulfillment of these beliefs through Jesus Christ. Hebrews shares how our faith through prayer is made strong through Godís answer to our prayer. Revelation shows how prayers of generations of people are fulfilled through Godís plan for mankind. The Christian faith is built upon prayer.
Secondly, prayer is normal. Prayer comes from an inner need in every man to connect to the Creator, to God. Even those that consider themselves atheists and deny the existence of God have within them an undeniable hole within their spirit to connect to their Creator, whether they choose to admit it or not. We as humans are made with this desire to connect to God who formed us. We are created by God; we are not an evolved being that came from a worm or cell or monkey. The Bible says that He (God) knew us while we were yet in our mothersí womb. The Bible states that God created all of us, all mankind, all creatures, the entire universe. Not a big bang, but a creation by an all-knowing, all-powerful God. We were created to commune and fellowship with God. In other words, we were created to be friends with God. So, even when we do wrong and this action (the Bible calls it sin) creates separation between a Holy God who can do no wrong and mankind who can do no right, God still loves us enough as his creations to listen to us when we pray. We all have this inner desire to reach out to God, to commune with God, to be at peace with God. The vilest of person when facing death most often reaches out to God. So, we pray because we have this inner need to connect to the God who created us.
Third, prayer is answered. Not all prayers are answered, however, the way we want them to be. Let me give you an example. You have a small child who really loves animals. You take your child to the zoo. Your child loves the pretty lions and wants to get into the cage with the lions. Your child doesnít recognize the dangers of getting into the lionís cage, but of course you do. So, no matter how much your child pleads and begs you to go into the cage of the lion, you refuse. Your childís prayer (request) was not answered the way he wanted, but because you knew what was better for your child than he did himself, your denial of that request saved your childís life. The same is true between you and God. If you pray sincerely to God about things that will cause you harm, ruin your life, hurt others, or adversely impact Godís mission on earth, then no matter how sincerely you plead, your prayer may not be answered the way you want. This denial is for your own salvation, but we humans donít often see that. We want what we want when we want it and how we want it, and it takes a lot of humility, faith, and maturity to accept prayers that you think are ďunansweredĒ as Godís will for your life, and something that is ultimately in your best interests. If we stand on the fact that God loves us, and He does, then it is easier to understand that He will do what is best for us. If that means that our prayers are not answered exactly the way we want, just as not letting your child get into the lionís cage, this is what is best for us.
That said, I can provide thousands of illustrations in my life where prayer was answered. I can certainly point to the Bible which is filled with answered prayer, but I can also point to my personal circumstances and those I have witnessed of others to say unequivocally that God truly does answer prayer. Just as you love your children and want to make them happy and keep them healthy, God wants the same of us.
My mother was sick and dying of leukemia. I prayed, others prayed, Mom prayed, Dad prayed, and Mom was healed. She was sick and perhaps going to die. But the ďprayers of the saintsĒ as it puts it in the Bible saved her. We asked, God delivered. Mom is well to this day, completely cancer-free, and itís been more than 15 years. Prayer turned certain death into a long life.
My best friend is a guy named Tony Tennison. He and I are the same age. Both our dads are pastors. We both grew up in church. Iím from Tennessee and Tony is from Mississippi. We didnít know each other until our mid 20ís. But, our lives were running parallel courses even in our childhood. We both were rebellious teens. Tony, however, was more rebellious than I even. God got a grip on me and He turned my life around. Tony just needed a bit more encouragement. His Mom and Dad prayed that God would save their son Tony, even if it meant his physical harm to guarantee his spiritual health. One night after a drunken binge, Tony wrapped himself and his car around a tree. After six months in a body cast, Tony came out of the cast like a butterfly from a cocoon, a changed young man. God got Tonyís attention due to the loving prayers of parents who recognized that eternity in Heaven is better than the temporary joys of sin on earth. Today, Tony himself is a pastor and a dynamic preacher and has reached many others for Jesus, all because of the prayers of loving parents.
I have been sick and prayed and was healed. I have been broke and prayed and received financial blessings. I have prayed for my son, wife, friends, and family and have seen God move in remarkable ways. Iíve prayed for Godís salvation upon many and have seen many turn from wrongdoing to a life of peace with God. God took the life of a hard-headed rebellious teen engaged in drug and alcohol abuse and turned this person into one who would reach others for the same God who saved him. I was that teen. Prayer changed my life and the lives around me. Prayer works.
Perhaps you are reading this and prayer hasnít worked for you, because you donít know how to pray or who to pray to. Let me help. God recognized that because of sin all mankind (including you and I) were destined to a life without Godís blessing and eternal death in a fiery Hell. God loved us too much to want that for us, so God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to come to earth and provide a means of forgiveness between an evil mankind and a Holy God. All we have to do is to receive this free gift of Godís forgiveness, accept that Jesus is the Son of God and that He paid the price for our sin, and ask Jesus to come live inside of us and direct our lives. A prayer of salvation. Your first miracle will then occur, and you will be forgiven and saved. From that point on, God will direct your paths through an ongoing relationship with Jesus. If you pick up a copy of the Bible and read the first six chapters of the book of Romans in the New Testament, I believe all this will become very clear to you. You may also want to flip back to the book of Luke or John and read about the life of Christ and how what He did on the cross paid the price for your failures forever.
Maybe you are a Christian by faith in Jesus, but your life hasnít been exactly what it should be. Maybe you are not the parent you want to be, or not the worker you want to be, or not the wife or husband you want to be, or the child you should be. Just as taking one drink of water today wonít satisfy our thirst for the rest of the month, we must come afresh to God at times, re-engaging in the love relationship with God through Jesus, confessing where we fail, and asking anew for Godís help. A prayer for forgiveness and renewing. If you ask for Godís help and a new touch, He will give it to you.
Perhaps you try to do better but seem to struggle with sin. Maybe you need to turn off the TV more, or look at the computer less, and pick up the Bible. Godís Word is alive in the Bible, and it teaches us what to do and how to do it and when to do it. The words in the Bible teach us things and God speaks to us through the words on those pages. We obtain instruction, correction, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, wisdom, teaching, etc. from a study of the Bible. We cannot be full of God and full of evil thoughts, and at the same time, we cannot be full of evil thoughts and full of God at the same time. So, if you struggle with bad thoughts and deeds, then perhaps you simply need to rid yourself of some of those habits and replace them with more reading of Godís word and of prayer. Ask for Godís help; he will help you. A prayer for help.
Sometimes I think we just need to say ďthank youĒ more to God. Oftentimes we need to reflect back upon all the things God has done for us in our lives. It doesnít take much looking around to figure out that there are many others who have it much worse than we do. So, be thankful for what you have. If you have eyes to read this, then thank God for your sight. If you have ears to hear the loud bang of a firearm report, thank God for your hearing. If you can enjoy fried okra, lemon pound cake, chocolate, coffee, etc., thank God for your sense of taste. If you have family that loves you, there are just as many who have no one. If you have a wife or husband, there are many who do not. If you have a son or a daughter, there are many who donít. If you have a job, be thankful. If you live in America, be thankful. Reflect back upon your life and I believe that you will find so many blessings that it is hard to keep up with all of them. Remember, all good things come from God. So, say ďthank youĒ to God. A prayer of thanksgiving.
Prayer works. Faith means that what you pray, you believe will happen. So, I encourage you to pray often. Pray about everything. Pray because you know God and know God loves you. And, pray with the beliefs that God will do what is best for you because of this love. If you and I will do this, miracles will happen in our lives. We will live happier lives. We will make a positive impact. We will reach others for Jesus and show them the enlightened path that we personally enjoy.
My prayer today? I pray for everyone that reads this simple letter that God will touch you in a mighty way. I pray that God will help you, and will lead you into a closer relationship with Him.
Pray for me. Iíll pray for you. Deal?
If this message has touched you in any way, or if you have questions, feel free to pop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.