If we have walked with God for a long time then we have had powerful experiences where we have seen prayer work. We may have even witnessed divine healings or spiritual deliverances that have rocked our world. But (if we are perfectly honest with ourselves) we have also had times when prayer has not worked. And these experiences have shaken our faith to the core. See “Faith Versus Experience” for my personal story on this.
For this very reason, I feel led to create a series of blogs on prayer. In “The Hope of Prayer” (an in depth teaching on prayer), John Eldredge says “There is a way things work in the physical realm and there is a way things work in the spiritual realm.” (CD 3) To illustrate this point, John explains that if we turn a canoe sideways in a current, it will tip over. This is a physical reality. Similarly, there are spiritual realities that we must understand for our prayers to be effective.
One very important spiritual reality is that our holiness matters. “The prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective.” (James 5:16) Who prays for you will make a difference! Some people are more mature in their character, and their prayers get things done. Conversely, an immature Christian with many strongholds in their life will be less effective in their prayers.
In 1 Peter 3:7, Peter encourages husbands to treat their wives with respect, “so that nothing will hinder their prayers.” Allowing sin in our lives will hinder our prayers! I find this to be a powerful motivator in my pursuit of holiness. This may also feel intimidating, so lets unpack it a little bit more.
On CD 4, John says, “Start small and let God force you into more. Let him build the character to handle more in prayer.” John also encourages us to begin prayer with sanctification. Just keep in mind on a practical level, that we must be right with God before we begin prayers of intercession.
Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.” William Barclay offers some beautiful insights into this verse in “The Letter to the Hebrews”:
“We are easily vanquished: we never know temptation at its fiercest and its most terrible, because we fall long before that stage is reached. But Jesus was tempted as we are–and far beyond what we are. For in His case the tempter put everything he possessed into the assault, and Jesus withstood it.” (p. 38)
This same Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)
As Jesus matures us in our faith and in our character, we will find that our prayers gain momentum. We become more and more effective to advance Christ’s spiritual kingdom, and what we can accomplish is so vast and important! We will quite literally do what he did as we become more and more like the person he was. So let’s become like him.
P.S. Lately, God has been showing me how to battle temptation effectively. I used to think that I had to withstand assaults indefinitely, and I would crumble early on. But in reality, spiritual attacks come in a series of battles. We only have to buckle down for short bursts, and after we have stood our ground, we will find that we will enter in to our more rewarding times of prayer.