The Power of Prayer
Prayer has been a part of my daily life for as long as I can remember. Sometimes the whole idea of prayer is a mystery to me. Let me be clear, I don’t doubt that God hears my prayers, but I have lots of questions about prayer--and I know others do too.
Most often, this particular question comes to mind: Am I just talking to myself?
When I reflect on what I have been taught and what I believe, the answer to this question is “No, I’m not just talking to myself.” The God who created the universe, created me in his image and sent his son to die for my sins, hears my prayers. And not only mine, he hears the prayers of all who approach him. This is mentioned in the Bible in 1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
This is a powerful idea. The Almighty God hears us when we pray.
There are many passages in the Bible that address God hearing and answering prayers (Mark 11:24, John 14:13-14, Matthew 7:7, to name a few). Although these verses give us hope, we might still question the power of prayer. God’s power is too great for human beings to fully comprehend. We do not know all that he does and we do not understand why things happen the way they do. We just know that it is all part of God’s bigger plan for our lives. Lately, I have been wrestling with this idea, but I have found hope in the power of prayer.
I have a former teacher who dedicated his life to the Lord, his wife, his three young children, his students, and his community. His wife, my former youth leader, has done the same. They both had a big impact on my life and my faith. They have always held a special place in my heart. At the end of September of this year, this teacher was in a very serious car accident. I don’t remember the last time I prayed to God so fervently. I had hope that God would heal this man and return him to his family, his students, and his community.
He died one week after his 37th birthday.
What does this mean for the power of prayer?
If prayer is so powerful, why didn’t God heal this man?
We don’t know the answer to this. Matthew 18:19-20says, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” There were far more than two or three gathered together to pray for this family. I know this because his family had been inspired to put all the places where people were praying on a map for his kids—and others who were praying—to see:
If so many people prayed, why is he not alive today? Why didn’t God heal him? It would be easy to say that God just ignored our prayers. Clearly he did not do what we asked. However, as I said before, God has a plan and a purpose for everything, and he knows things that we cannot begin to fathom. God did not answer our prayers in the way we all wanted, but he heard our cries. The Lord called his child home to heaven, to eternal life, and he is no longer in pain. That is a blessing to my former teacher, but it comes with great sorrow for the rest of us on earth. I think God answered our prayers by using the community that my former teacher built during his lifetime to lift up the family he left behind. Hundreds came to the funeral to say goodbye and show support for the family. We all questioned together why this happened, but reminded one another that we have hope in God and in eternal life. That is powerful. We lifted our voices in song and in prayer and God heard. He always hears. Even though we don’t understand, his ways are best.
We “stormed the gates of heaven” in prayer for the life of my former teacher, and God answered by opening the gates for his child in pain. That is powerful. God hears our prayers and he answers us.
Sometimes the answer just isn’t the one we want to hear.