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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is Prayer Powerless

All of your comments have been so very helpful. It's funny, but you all agreed with each other. That really says something. I think I agree with all of you, even though many churches I have attended believe otherwise. This does stir up another question though. What place does of prayer have? If our prayer has no power, what's the point... right?

I think back to the Old Testament where God is ready to destroy the Israelites in the desert. Moses pleads on their behalf, and God listens. Was there power in Moses' prayer? How is God so easily swayed? "Hmm, I was going to destroy a nation, but since Moses asked me not to... so never mind". I could so write an entire post on how profoundly this part in the Bible disturbs me.

Then there was the time I felt like the Lord woke me up to pray for my husbands safe arrival to work (I never do this as I'm still sleeping) I prayed... and prayed... and after 30 minutes of prayer I finally felt released and went back to bed. Only to get a call from my husband to say he hit black ice on the way to work, spun around three times, and miraculously straightened out and went on to work. Then that evening a relative said they woke to pray for his safe drive to work that very morning. If we hadn't prayed would he have been in a wreck? Or died? Is there ANY power in prayer? And if there is don't we shoulder some responsibility?

I believe God will answer prayers that align with his will, but if we don't pray, will his perfect will still happen?

28 comments:

javamamma said...

To answer your last question - well to give my opinion. :) I DO NOT believe that God's perfect will is done whether we pray or not. Prayer releases the power for God to have His way on earth. If there's no prayer, His Kingdom has no vehicle to come down. I know many would disagree with me here but those are my thoughts.

Halfmoon Girl said...

yes, I believe that prayer has power. I don't believe it changes God's will or plans, but it does bring us into alignment with Him. He uses us to fulfill His desires, sometimes through us praying. Since the Bible says that God is all knowing and has a perfect will, than I do not believe that we change God. If we petition God for something, say healing, and are subsequently healed, I believe that God always intended that. I believe that He uses our obedience in prayer to grow us in the knowledge and grace of Him. The power in prayer is not the prayer itself, but GOD. It is not about us and our prayers. Our role is to pray. Why? Because He tells us to and He is sovereign. We do not know or will ever understand the depth and width of His knowledge and of the powers and principalities we are dealing with when God unleases His power through our faithful prayers and petitions. I am not an expert on this by any means, but these are just some of my thoughts.

Katie & the boys said...

Oh you Girl, getting us to talk theology here! I have found a wonderful article on the subject, here:
http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/love_worth_finding/Article.asp?article_id=746
oneplace.com by the way is an amazing web site. I listen to sermons from there and it is solid, biblical teaching.
However, I want to say one reason we pray is out of obedience, God tells us to. How else can we fellowship with our Savior if we don't pray to Him. How amazing that we have been given the precious gift of Jesus who died, allowing us to enter in with such intimate fellowship with our God.

I'm not in agreement that OUR prayers release power for God. Oooh that makes me a little fearful to even type that! God certainly doesn't need little miniscule me for anything. I'd like to know what scripture javamamma is referencing that from.

Emily said...

Any more huge posts like this in your future? Your head's gonna burst. You're a deep thinker! wow.

I went a few months with a horrible fear recently. (never happened before.) I was disturbed by all sorts of things in the spiritual realm and was really confused. The verses that settled me down all had to do with Gods unknown nature. And the fact that I truly am not meant to know everything.

To tell you the truth...I had to stop thinking about everything so deeply. I was getting up in the middle of the night and freaking myself out. I actually felt like I could understand why unstable people are pushed over the edge. 'Cause I'm pretty stable and I was being shaken!

Not sure why I'm telling you all of this, but maybe it'll help to know others think deeply and struggle with deep spiritual truths?

The issue really isn't your questions about prayer or healing...maybe something deeper? And if so, I'm sorry, 'cause it sortof sucks to go through that.

But If you want prayer...I'm your gal.

If I'm way off base...then just don't post my comment. :)

Love Emily

ConservaChick said...

Emily,
No, I don't have any issues that require healing. One always needs prayer, but that's not what I'm getting at here. All this "deep thinking" is coming from this:
Charismatic girl sees something really off in her church. She has seen something off in many charismatic churches.
NOW, Charismatic girl is in a Baptist church. Total different theology. And while i thought I could easily disprove much of their theology, I can't, 'cause darn it... those baptist KNOW their bible! It's shaking me up a bit.
Now there is a woman dying at the baptist church... and no one is praying boldly for her healing, and it bothers me.
I think I MUST agree with Javamamma about prayer releasing God's power. God DID give us free will, right? ~K

Katie & the boys said...

John Macarthur says the only place the bible tells us we have free will is to sin. I just listened to a teaching he did about that.
I am with you girl...I was a charismatic for years. It's a long process to really begin to know the Word. It's so worth it, so continue to seek His truth. God may be allowing you to be aware of these things so that you will learn. Go for it, seek after it!
If you aren't seeing fervent prayer, it doesn't mean people aren't on their faces at home.

Christin said...

OHHH girl! I love me some deep thinking!!!
I actually read the last post a couple of times and was trying to come up with a way to condense all the things I wanted to TALK to you about into itty bitty comment form. As you can see, that "condensed" version never happened. And now this. :)

I haven't read any of the other comments, so I have no idea what they said (so as to not be swayed, I guess)

Here are some things that I agree with (in other people's words b/c I lack the eloquence at present to say what I'm thinking):

E.B. Bounds said:
"God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world, the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against the evil...The prayers of God's saints are the capital stock of heaven by which God carries on His great work upon earth. God conditions the very life and prosperity of His cause on prayer."

John Wesley:
"God does nothing on earth save in answer to believing prayer."

Dutch Sheets:
"God didn't give away ownership of the earth, but He DID assign the responsiblity of governing it to humanity."

GOD:
"And I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. Thus I have poured out my indignation on them; I have consumed them with fire of my Wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads." ezekiel 22:30, 31

How do you argue with that? God was basically bound to his wrath b/c no one would pray.

Consequently, I think the PERFECT book that answers all the things you touched on is
"INTERCESSORY PRAYER" by Dutch Sheets. It is sincerely one of my all time favorite books. Ironically, I read it in Russia while teaching young Russian pastors on prayer. It. is. a. gem!


God tells us to ASK for things:
Matt 6:10
Matt 9:38
2 Thess 3:1

ETC ETC ETC

God gave us prayer as a tool. Not because he HAD TO allow us to be a part but b/c he wanted to.

personal analogy:
If I opened a puzzle for my family to do together...and gave each one of my children a handful of pieces, the puzzle would NEVER be completed if they refused to use what I placed in their hand....

Just a thought.

And this is my condensed version. ;) Am I still welcome to comment in the future now that I've written a book?

Gayle said...

I might as well go ahead and say right out of the gate that I believe in the complete and total sovereignty of God.
I don't think that there is any single thing that He is not in complete control of... and can our finite minds completely grasp that? No, I don't think so because He is GOD and we are dust. BUT I think that He so graciously and lovingly allows us lots of understanding even though He calls us to faith.
ALLLLLL of that being said, I don't think that God ever "needs to be released" (sorry Dani-girl, I hope you know that I love you dearly) because that takes away His power and gives it to us. No where in scripture does it say that we are in control and He is not.
My belief is that prayer is obedience. We don't know from the beginning to the end the way He does, so He calls us into intimacy with Him by way of speaking through His Word and prayer to us directly.
Every single time I pray, I am connected with a Holy God...a privilege unfathomable, (one that is oftentimes taken for granted)
So what if He knows the outcome of a situation before the foundation of the world? I still got to commune with Him and have my faith increased each time that intimacy was lovingly displayed through a very real act (like that of your husband's driving).
I could say sooooo much more, but girl, I haven't even had my coffee and I fear I am not making a lick of sense anyway.
I'll be back.

Cindy said...

Have you ever read Velvet Elvis? Your post reminds me of some of it. If you haven't read it, I think you'd really like it.

I agree that our prayer does have power, and I think I agree with javamamma.... we are told in scripture where prayer changed God's mind; we are told to be persistent with prayer. Clearly, He can release His power however He wants to. I believe He has given us a role in that. It's a cliche, but it is true... Prayer Changes Things. Often what prayer changes is US. Sometimes it changes the situation.

God's perfect will is just that... Perfect. And I can trust in that even if I don't understand how all of the pieces and parts work. I enjoy my tv and trust that it is doing what it is supposed to do. I don't understand how, and I probably never will, but my lack of understanding doesn't affect whether or not the tv works.

I love that we can count on you for deep thoughts. :) Love you, friend!

Gayle said...

Let me say another thing to clarify...If prayer was the only vehicle for God's Kingdom to come down, then who should we thank for Jesus' arrival? Just a thought...not meant to be hateful AT ALL...

EEEEMommy said...

"The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." (James 5:16)
God's word tells us there is power in prayer and that our prayers matter. How does it work? We can't know. Prayer is a mystery.
Can we change God's mind like Moses did, or Hezekiah? I can't even wrap my mind around that question! Is the purpose of prayer to draw us closer to God? Yes, but is that it? No. Is God waiting for us to pray so that His will can be done? I really don't think that's consistent throughout Scripture. And I have a hard time picturing God in heaven with His hands tied fervently hoping that someone would pray, because if they don't He's impotent. ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! He chooses to involve us in His will, could He accomplish it with or without us???

This is one of those topics that we could stay up past midnight discussing in a college dorm room. Fun stuff, but we'll never arrive at a complete answer. It's a mystery.

The important thing is that we pray. With boldness. With pure motives. Without sin in our heart. In Jesus' name (meaning-in accordance with who He is, according to His character). According to God's will. With faith. All of the verses in the Bible about prayer must be taken together as a whole. One must not be raised above another.

As far as your comments in the comments about charismatic girl meets baptist church...Having grown up in the Baptist church, I can tell you that there is a fear of the Holy Spirit. He is definitely de-emphasized. That fear is rooted in some of the false teaching and practices that are seen in the charismatic church. "We don't want to be crazy like them...God is a God of order not chaos...That's not accurate biblically...Those things only applied in the first century..." So they quietly omit the Spirit altogether. They know their Bible, but few understand the role of the Spirit in the believer's life. I'm generalizing and I'm SURE there are exceptions, but this is what I've seen in the majority of baptist churches. And having grown up in solid, Bible believing churches, where I learned much about the Bible, I have realized that I have been ill-equiped to live a Spirit-filled life. It's the pendulum swinging from one extreme to another. The answer is in BALANCE.

We have resonated with Calvary Chapel because there is so much more balance in this church than in others we've attended. Acknowledging the validity of all the spiritual gifts, yet not thinking possessing ONE is necessary for salvation, and not exhibiting them in such a way that results in a chaotic worship service that ultimately distracts from the Lord. Praying boldly for healing, yet trusting God with the results and submitting to them, not jumping to false conclusions about a person's faith or lack thereof. Acknowledging that God is sovereign, yet understanding free will, how can the two be hand in hand? My mind can't comprehend it, but I will choose to accept the "whosoever will"s with the "God causes" side by side without elevating one over the other. Balance. Understanding the totality of God's Word. Understanding that His thoughts are higher than ours.
It's good and important to wrestle over such things!
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let Him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind..." (James 1:5-6)

Anonymous said...

Who knows the mind of God? His spirit does and his spirit is in us. I have seen God answer many prayers and I have seen God not answer many prayers. I think of David fasting and praying for his son which God said would die. Because who knows, God might yet change his mind. God didn't but David washed, ate, and still worshiped His God.

Prayer does change things, often times I think it just changes our heart. Our thoughts are not God's thoughts and sometimes God needs to change our heart and mind.

We are often commanded to pray. Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

I come from both a Baptist, conservative, and Charismatic background. It can not be either or. I believe that it needs to be both that we are solid in knowing what scripture says, so that we not going off on weird tangents, but also believing that God is still working miracles here on planet earth and that we can ask him to do the impossible.

I certainly do not have all the answers on prayer and healing but I do know that prayer connects us with an incredible God that is capable of doing anything. I do not believe that prayer manipulates God but I have seen God do incredible things as a result of prayer.

I have a hard time with the charismatic attitude that seems to be very self centered and not God centered, As long as I am healthy and happy God is Good. But I love the charismatic attitude that loves God and believes that God is still alive and well on planet earth and can move any mountain for His glory. I want to be patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. I will trust God with the results whether he miraculously heals a man from stage 4 cancer or whether God heals him by taking him home. I have seen God to both and may God be glorified in both.

You are getting all of this before my first cup of coffee so I hope that I am coherent. These are questions that theologians have wrestled with for years. They are good questions for us to wrestle with.

Have a blessed Christmas!

Shari

Angela said...

I agree with Gayle, prayer is about obedience and also don't forget relationship. God reveals himself to us through prayer, His Word and other believers. I also believe that God is working in you girl, it's right to find out what God wants for us but as someone else said we have to have faith. Some things are too deep and can drive you batty trying to "understand". The fact that the earth spins and prevents us from flying off can freak me out a bit when I try to really really understand. Just know God is sovreign and when we are obedient God is able to work through us on earth to accomplish His will. If we aren't obedient He will use someone else because He will accomplish His purpose. The question is will "we" choose to be apart of it through our obedience.

candi said...

I have been staring at this post since about 5:30am trying to decide how to respond. I feel like the subject cannot really be addressed in short blog comments, as it would definitely leave some aspect of explanation out. That being said, here goes my best effort. Prayer often changes the way God acts (James 4:2, Luke 11:9-10, Ex 32:9-12, 2 Chron 7:14, 1John 1:9); Our prayers are made effective by Jesus (1 Tim 2:5 Heb 7:26-27, Heb 10:19); we pray to acknowledge our dependence on God as a loving and wise father, to recognize that he rules over all from his throne, to express trust in Him and a means to increase that trust, we pray to love him and fellowship with him, we pray because in prayer God allows us as creatures to be involved in activities that are eternally important, we pray to give Glory to God. When we pray in humble dependence on him than we are genuinely convinced of His goodness, love, wisdom and power. We pray out of obedience and desire to be with Him. We can pray for all of the right things but if they are motivated by self then we will be missing out on all that God has for us through our relationship with Him. It is about Him. In Him, through Him, by Him, and for Him.
That is my concise version of all that is on my heart. I would love to talk more with you either through email or dare I say, PHONE.
Great post I must say. You sent me on a five hour tour of God's word today and I am so blessed!!!!

One last question, could you clarify what you mean by charasmatic? I am not sure if I understand that properly.

candi said...

I don't know if I even answered the question you actually asked:)

ConservaChick said...

Candi,
Your comment was VERY helpful. I jut finished looking up all the verses you provided, and IN context they really speak for the power of prayer. THANK YOU! ~K

carrie said...

I think God wants us to ask, He likes it when we talk to Him ;)

I also think that there isn't a scripture anywhere telling us if we don't pray something bad will happen. It's just to see if we'll be obedient.

For example, Abraham prayed for Lot and his family to be saved, but God already knew Lot was there and that He would save him. BUT Lot's wife, she's in my salt shaker. How'd that happen? I mean Abraham prayed for the WHOLE family...
Also, if you want to say that OUR prayers will affect God's Power and Will then how do you explain people NOT being healed, or people dying or any other bad thing that happens despite the prayers that go the opposite way?
You can't. Because what you were praying was not what God wanted you to pray. He puts stuff on your heart to pray and then there are times when WE put stuff on our heart to pray. The stuff HE puts there, He already plans on doing but He wants us to obey Him.

reallyniceday said...

Living in an enviroment of 24/7 prayer, I've seen lots of answered and unanswered prayers. It seems to me that what we're looking for here is a formula to pin down. Absoute Soverignty. Prayer as a means of obedience. Prayer that ushers in the will of God. etc...

Prayer isn't a science. It's mystical. We're communing with a living being that created the universe and yet His eye is on the sparrow. As hard as it is to grasp, we're talking about a Being here. He loves people. He partners with people. He says to ask, seek and knock. He says to be persistent. By that mere fact, it proves that we can relent. We can give up too soon. And what if we do? Some things meant for us are not given. Is God mad? No. Is He punishing us? No. But Mstthew says that the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.

There is a place for soveriegnty. However, it is overly relied upon so that responsibility is completely off of our shoulders.

I love you all, but that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes my kids ask me for a piece of candy. Sometimes I think "this isn't a good time for them to have candy" and I say "no". Other times I just say "sure". Would they have gotten the candy if they had not asked? Probably not. Sometimes my kids ask me for lunch and I say "yes". Would they have gotten lunch if they hadn't asked? Of course. I often do things just because my kids ask (see Matthew 7:11). Of course I have my own agenda for my family, plans and convictions that I will not waiver on, but there is no question that my kids have influence over me (see John 14:14). It seems similar with my own Father. Sometimes I ask for things and He says "yes" and sometimes "no". I suspect He has His reasons that are beyond me. Nevertheless I know that I am His son and I most certainly have His ear (see 1 John 5:14). I also notice that my children seem to have no fear in asking me for almost anything. My 4 year old just asked me for a $70 skate board for Christmas. That one's gonna be a "no". If my 4 yr old told me about a little boy he knew who had no parents and he asked me for $70 to buy that kid a Christmas present, my answer might have been different. (see James 4:3). My son has about as much chance of coming up with $70 as I do of healing somebody with cancer, nevertheless he asked because he knows that it would be no problem for me to come up with $70. Just like it is no problem for my Father to heal cancer. Now I suspect that my son will grow and get to know me better and better. He will learn that Dad probably won't give you candy ten minutes before dinner, and Dad probably won't give you expensive skate boards that will be ridden for two days and then left to rust in the yard. Slowly I suspect my kids will learn what it is that I value, and I hope that they will begin to value the same things. As they begin to value the same things I have a feeling that more and more what they ask from me will change. In fact in my wildest dreams I can envision a day when the things that I value and the things that they value are almost identical. In that day anything they would want to ask from me would also be something I would want to give (see John 16:23). Anyway I think that we should follow our kids example. Don't be afraid to go to our Father and ask for things that to us would be impossible. Sometimes He will say "yes" and other times "no". I'm sure that we will not always know why He answered the way He did, but as we grow and learn more and more about Him we will find our values lining up with His. And one day we will find ourselves so much like Him that what ever we would want to ask would be something He would want to give (please see Romans 8:29).

ConservaChick said...

Thanks to all of you for pouring out your heart in this matter. I really put a lot of prayer and thought into this, and the scriptures and websites were very helpful. I feel blessed to have such brilliant and thought provoking friends!

I must say that I have concluded that what I believed before was correct, only now I can back these beliefs with scripture and a new found conviction! Prayer DOES have power! Thanks to all of you, even those who's opinion varies from mine. I respect you all so very much and can understand why you believe as you do. I found so many scriptures that spoke of the power of prayer, that I just can't ignore it. With that said, this post is closed for comments (no debating at Christmas time), unless you are commenting to say how wonderful I am, or Merry Christmas, or something of that nature! ( ; I adore you all! GOD BLESS YOU! And... MERRY CHRISTMAS! ~Karlie

carrie said...

Merry Christmas!!! You are a wonderful person and I look forward to reading more of your thought provoking posts in the coming year ;)

Kimmie said...

Well, we are commanded to pray

1 Thes 5:17

Pray without ceasing.

(the tense is in the imperative (which means it is a command, not an option)

Again, I think it never about us, but about Him...

I think prayer is our conversation with God and that through our continual conversations, and our time with him and his Word, that we are transformed and we are aligned into His will for us.

I do believe we have to be walking with him, living in line with the bible and confessing our sin- keeping those lines of communication open and not blocking them with our sin (when we sin, we build a wall between us and the Holy God...he doesn't move...we move ourself from Him by adding a wall of bricks that are formed by sin/rebellion.)

God can't be bullied, he is Sovereign- he is perfect and whole without us...he desires and commands us to pray, to seek Him- he tells us to ask (prayer), seek (can also mean prayer...) and knock (sounds like more prayer)...and we are promised we will find him (and His will).

God doesn't need us or our prayers, but he desires it...he doesn't need our prayers to come up with a plan...he made us for his pleasure. While we are praying and listening, oft times the still small voice of God will whisper to us, gently holding us, guiding us and directing us into His will.

not sure if I even answered your question, but I am praying that the Love of God shines on you and in you and directs you to the answer(s) you are looking for.

be blessed!

Rachelle said...

Just stopping by to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

EE said...

I believe that prayer is about relationship. It's our way of connecting with God.
I do believe in the power of prayer, but like Half Moon Girl, don't believe that it changes his will.
Merry Christmas!

His Girl said...

re: changing God's mind:

my kids: "dad never lets us have any fun!"
me: "you're right, he's mean. i'll see about getting you a better daddy."
kids: "no!no!no! we love him!we want HIM to be the dad."
me: "okay then, I guess we'll keep him after all... if you're sure"

do you think that maybe God put out the threat of destroying the Israelites because He knew that the possibility of losing them would not only move Moses to pray for a second chance from God, but that it would also change Moses' attitude toward the Israelites as well? Maybe Moses' intersession for the Israelites was not so much to change the heart of God, but to change the heart of Moses... making him a better leader & follower of God?

that passage has tripped me up too, but when I break it down to a mommy perspective, sometimes it makes it just a little clearer :)

His Girl said...

whoops! just finally read to the bottom to find you're closed for Christmas... in that case, ignore my last comment & I hope you find joy and peace with the new year.... in Him, of course!

Stacey said...

Wow.

Karlie, I have a black ice miracle story myself! It's so funny--I recently posted it on Miracle Word on the miracle section.

How could one believe that was anything other than from God? xo

Halfmoon Girl said...

Wow, this post sure did generate some deep thinking and thought provoking comments! It is now the New Year and I was thinking of how my kids are off to public school in 5 days. I have a tight chest when I think about it- how are you doing, and when do your kids start?

Jane