Written by Michael Manthe
“There’s a very real downside to praying. It lulls believers into a false sense of accomplishment. We cannot solve our problems—much less the world’s—through prayer.” – Hemant Mehta, The New York Times
You might be thinking, “What a way to start off an article about the power of prayer.” This example shows what the world thinks about prayer: that it is pointless, does nothing, and gives people an excuse to not do anything to help. Let’s look to the Bible to see what it has to say about the power of prayer.
The Bible is full of examples of people praying to God, and God answering their prayers and delivering them. In Genesis 18, God told Abraham he was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham began pleading with God for the sake of the righteous people saying in Genesis 18:23-24, “Would you also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would you also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?” God responds in verse 26 saying, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.” Abraham continued pleading with God, asking the same question but with 45 people, then 40, then 30, 20, and finally with 10 people, and God agreed he would save the city for the sake of 10 righteous people. Now this is a more direct prayer, because he was speaking to God and getting a response, but nonetheless it was still a prayer, and God answered it. This is a great example of what persistent praying can do.
In the book of Jonah, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish because he tried going the opposite way that the Lord had commanded. Jonah was in the belly of that fish three days and three nights. Now God let Jonah out of the fish, but not until after he prayed to God first. After three days and three nights, Jonah prayed earnestly to God for deliverance. Jonah 2:10 says, “So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” It’s interesting God that waited to save Jonah until after he prayed.
In 2 Kings 19, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, had decided to take over Judah. So King Hezekiah of Judah prayed earnestly to God asking for deliverance from the king of Assyria, and God responded through the prophet Isaiah in verse 20, saying, “Because you have prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard. This is the word which the Lord has spoken concerning him…” God goes on to tell of how he will deliver Judah, and how he will defend the city. Once again God delivered them after they prayed.
Just like in the Bible, God will sometimes wait to deliver us from whatever problem we are facing until we fervently pray to him. God wants us to come to him in our time of need, because he wants us to come closer to him. My father would tell me the same thing as I was growing up. I would say, “Dad, why didn’t you help me sooner?” He would respond, “Well, you didn’t ask me sooner!” Fathers want their children to come to them for guidance and help. They want their children to realize they can’t do it on their own. However, even when we pray, sometimes the answer is no, and that’s a hard thing to swallow. In times when our answer is no, and we lose a loved one or don’t get that thing we want, it’s important to remember that God has a plan of ultimately working everything together for good. A plan where He sent Jesus to take our sins, nail them to the cross, and rise from the tomb. And now, on the Last Day, all believers will get to spend eternity with Him.
God is our Heavenly Father. And like all fathers, He wants us to go to Him for help. He wants us to thank Him for the good things He has blessed us with, and He wants us to go to Him in times of need. James 5 does a good job of telling us the power of prayer. I’ll just point out one verse, but I recommend reading the whole chapter. James 5:16, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
We all get to be on the answered side of a prayer that wasn’t answered for a long time. The prayer of a Savior. What an amazing gift we received as sinners. Jesus living a perfect life, fulfilling all the prophecies, which included dying an excruciating death he did not deserve, so that we may have eternal life with him. We don’t deserve for this prayer to be answered, and yet God answered it anyway. Praise be to God!
God knows what He is doing, and when He repeatedly demonstrates to us the power of prayer, we should listen to that and not what the world has to say about it. If people regularly turned to God for what they need and gave thanks for what they already have, we would live in a very different world. That’s how powerful prayer is.