September 02, 2021
“I’m praying for you.”
I stared at the message I was about to send to yet another person who asked for prayer. I had typed those four words almost automatically, but something held me back from pressing “send” this time.
How many times in the past week have I sent this response?
Or, more aptly: “How many of these people have I actually prayed for?”
When I’m in the middle of something, I sometimes tell myself that I will pray later when I’m more settled or I have more time. It saddens me, but I have to admit that there are instances when I would totally forget to pray for them. (Sorry!)
With many of our relatives, friends, and friends of friends getting sick and even losing loved ones, we always say or hear this. The folded hands emoji has become one of our default virtual reactions. It encourages us to know that many people are praying for us, and so we also want to encourage others by assuring them that they are being prayed for.
Has this become a colloquial cliche or do we really pray, with the belief that our prayers are making a difference?
Maybe, unlike me, you’ve always followed through with your promises to pray, but do you sometimes feel like your prayers are becoming repetitive and you’re not sure if you should keep praying?
You’ve started to wonder, “Is prayer enough? Perhaps I can do something more helpful instead of praying. How effective can my prayer be, anyway?”
James, the brother of Jesus who later became a leader of the Jerusalem church, encouraged his churchmates who were sick and suffering with these words: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).
This tells us that the one factor that makes our prayers effective is if the praying person is righteous. By ourselves, we are disqualified, because no one can claim to be righteous (Romans 3:23). Thus, all our prayers would be in vain!
Thank God, all is not lost. The game-changer is that God made a way for us to stand righteous before Him. The Bible says that He “made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
If it were not for Christ’s exchange of His righteousness for our sins, we would not be able to stand before God and it would be impossible to ask Him for anything. Instead, we can come before God with confidence that He is willing to give us what we need—healing, protection, comfort, and even our daily bread. Indeed, He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
The next time we doubt whether our prayers work, it’s good to remember that in Christ, our prayers are not only effective but also powerful. The power in our prayers is summed up in this line: In Jesus’ name.
“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
Our prayers are effective and powerful in Jesus’ name.
When we pray in His name, we have God’s favor by virtue of Jesus’ sacrifice. And this unmerited favor doesn’t end on having a free pass to the Giver of all good things. To all who believed in Jesus’ name, He gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12). As author C.S. Lewis put it, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”
Because of Christ, we don’t need to earn our right to be heard by God. We come into His presence as sons and daughters before our Father. He is a Father who knows our needs before we even tell Him (Matthew 6:8).
He is a Father who greatly values us and every part of us (Matthew 10:30), who sees the good work you do that nobody else notices (Matthew 6:4), and who gives good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11).
We pray to a Father who is able and willing to respond to our prayers. But He doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want. It may seem to us like nothing is happening or that what’s happening is the exact opposite of what we’re praying, but we can be sure that our God is a Father who gives and withholds things for our own good.
Remember, He did not hold back from giving us His only Son. If He withholds anything from us, even if we don’t understand, we can surely trust that He is working out His good, pleasing, and perfect will in our lives.
Our Father answers our prayers according to His purpose.
Truly, the best thing about prayer is it’s not something that we do to fulfill an obligation. Rather, it’s one of the privileges of being in a relationship with God. Prayer is not just a means to an end. Our time of prayer itself gives us comfort, peace, strength, and joy as we spend time in the embrace of our Father.
While His word says that we can be confident to ask for anything according to His will (1 John 5:14), He also tells us that in all things He works for our good according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). As we pray for ourselves and for others, His answers may be in how He transforms our hearts.
Joel Comiskey in his book Appointment with the King said, “In order for God to agree to our prayers, He must prepare us to receive the answer.”
God will change us as we pray.
I can say that yes, prayer is enough and it is always our best and first response. But as we pray, God can also use us to be the answer to someone else’s prayer. As we pray continuously, our lives can be instruments through which God provides, heals, protects, and shows His power.
As I am writing this, I keep receiving numerous requests for prayer in private messages and group chats. Before I reply to each one, I pause to whisper a prayer right at that moment. Instead of my usual reply, I instead say, “I prayed for you now.”
I then press “send” with confidence in Jesus’ name that my Father in heaven has heard my simple prayer and is working out His good purposes in our lives.