prayer: do we believe in it?

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

James 5

Of course read the context (click the link) of that passage. And I’m not suggesting that prayer in itself is what we’re to believe in, certainly rather the God who we pray to. But do we believe in prayer as the means by which we express our faith in God and submit our requests to him, so that we practice it? That’s the question.

The passage on Elijah James was referring to (1 Kings 18:41-46) makes it clear that prayer isn’t necessarily easy, or to be more precise, that seeing a prayer answered may take effort on the prayer’s part. In other words, that we may well have to work at it to get our prayers answered.

I’ve heard it suggested that all we have to do is simply pray and leave it at that, but this seems to fly a bit in the face of the witness of scripture. Some even have such a view of God’s sovereignty, that they question the necessity or efficacy of praying at all. That what God wants accomplished will be accomplished. But this, I  believe, is a failure to see that to a significant extent God has sovereignly confined himself to the limitations imposed on him by human faith or the lack thereof. We see that time and time again in scripture. No, I believe our praying can make a difference and a big one at that.

I think an interesting suggestion is that our faith is so tepid and weak, that repeated prayer is necessary. Maybe so, though I think any prayer offered at all is usually the sign of genuine faith. What might be legitimate here is the idea that there may be a needed change that needs to take place in us if we’re to be an accomplice in seeing God answer prayer in a given situation. What is certainly clear in scripture, especially in Daniel (10:1-11:1) is that there can be a battle in the heavenly realms going on which requires ongoing, persistent, even toilsome, laborious prayer. A kind of spiritual warfare. Whatever the case, it’s clear enough that we need to keep after it as far as praying is concerned. That we can’t let up, even in all our weakness.

I’ve found it almost a complete act of the will, nothing else at times, with plenty of weakness, but to keep praying and praying and praying some more over this or that matter. And how in the course of that I can get the sense of God’s presence, power and moving. Or at least that God hears in the sense that God is taking note of the prayer, that somehow in his work and will, it matters.

James says our prayers make a difference. Praying for others as well as for ourselves in seeking to love God with all we are and our neighbor as ourselves. Therefore prayer needs to become more and more a priority of our lives in and through Jesus.

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