Although there are many great tools at our disposal, which we talk about each month, there is one that is probably the most important tool we have. This tool alone is very powerful, but combined with any other tool, it will upgrade those tools. It strengthens, it solidifies, it helps us use any other tool more effectively. Without this, we basically work with our other tools on a beginner level. With it, we become masters, but not on our own ability. This much needed tool is prayer.
Prayer is not just making a request, or asking a favor. It is not a way to “make” God do what you want, in your way, or with your desired outcome. It offers us an opportunity to sit and wait and to ponder. Prayer is communication with God in a way that opens us up for change. The change is not necessarily in our circumstances, but within our heart. It is vital that we recognize this so when the circumstances don’t change, or change in a different way than we want or expect, we aren’t disheartened, but rather, we are encouraged as God knows what we need. It is through this change of our heart that we become better at using the other tools.
We will only experience this change if we see prayer more as a dialogue rather than a monologue. As with any conversation, if you are only focused on talking, telling your point, or on what you are saying, you will miss half of the conversation. But if you approach prayer as a conversation where there is time to talk and time to listen, you will see the fullness of prayer. If you focus on your wants, you will miss it.
Last month, the tool we talked about was recognizing the dragon. Through prayer, your awareness of the dragon increases. Through prayer, your response after recognizing the dragon becomes quicker and stronger. In April, the tool was about filtering, deleting or getting stuff out of your home that causes you to stumble or holds you back. Through prayer, you are able to not only recognize these quicker, but also to approach removing them with grace for you, a family member, or a friend and allowing for healing to take place from any harm. Prayer isn’t just another single tool. Prayer in and of itself, is an army of tools. If your required tool is a sander, prayer brings all the different grades of sand paper, vacuum, air purifier, extra power and the glasses to protect your eyes.
Think about prayer alone, and all that it can do.
Prayer guides. “Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:3 While at the church at Antioch, Saul/Paul and the other prophets and teachers were worshiping and fasting and the Holy Spirit directed them to set apart Barnabas and Saul. Then through the Spirit, they were guided to Cyprus and beyond on their first mission trip. Through prayer, God will guide us. It may be responding to an opportunity to be sent on a mission trip. It might be guiding you on how to respond to someone who is hurt, or even how to handle a difficulty at work or home.
Prayer cleanses. We read of so many people coming to Jesus and asking for healing. The woman who touched the hem of Jesus; the Roman commander who knew that Jesus could heal his servant with just a command; or, among others, the father who’s daughter was thought dead. They were able to physically come to Jesus. But we still are able to come to Jesus in order to be cleansed. Those who came to Jesus had to take action and seek him out and then they had to listen to what Jesus said. The same goes for prayer. We must first seek and then listen. “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!”
Prayer helps solve tough situations. “This can only be done though prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21) Fasting is a way to bring our flesh under control so that we are able to respond to the answer of our prayer. If we allow the flesh to control, then we tend to ignore what the Spirit has told us and we attempt to fix things on our own.
Prayer strengthens. “May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion!” (Psalm 20:1-2) This was a verse that a dear friend gave us when we were going in to the hospital because our baby, at 30 weeks gestation, was not moving like he normally did. Jenna ended up have a c-section and during the week of Toby’s life, we clung on to this verse every day. We felt God’s strength as we saw him get better, and worse and then better again. His strength kept us going as we watched the doctors do everything they could do before our son’s death. His strength keeps us going still.
Prayer comforts. Psalm 4:1 “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in [my] distress; Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.” In searching for comfort through prayer it is not unusual to find yourself in tears. Tears can come when you are crying out or when the comfort comes. Your tears can feel cleansing and tiring all at the same time. Yet at the end of it all, there is relief that comes and often even feeling rejuvenated to continue with your day or the situation you face.
Prayer brings discernment. “Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:3-6)
Prayer removes our “self” from the equation. When Jesus was facing the moment before His crucifixion, He prayed harder than any of us have ever prayed. In the end, He removed himself from the equation, “Not My will, but Your will be done.” How many situations have we been in where we can’t see how God could even possibly use this for good! There is nothing good in the situation. There seems to be no hope. Yet, God, in His infinite wisdom, allows things because only He knows how it will strengthen you, guide you, be used through you to help others, or many other purposes. When we pray in God’s will, we remove ourself, our wants, our own way from the equation allowing God to work in us and through us.
1 Kings 8:37-39. “When there is a famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when their enemy besieges them in the land of their cities; whatever plague or whatever sickness there is; whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward this temple: then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men).”
We don’t deal too much with pestilence, blight or mildew. But what kind of things do we deal with that are out of control. Think of that same verse in this way:
When there is struggle in your life and you feel empty, trials at work, attacks by a friend or family member, divorce, or abuse; division or separation comes into your world; any type of ailment, death, or loss; then pray. Any of the words we offer to God on behalf of ourselves, our friends or family and our circumstances, when we can see our own sin and our fallen behavior, and we, instead of reaching out, we reach up in surrender, then God hears, forgives and moves. He offers himself to anyone who would ask. He already knows your heart and its shortcomings and He is able.
Prayer draws us closer to God. There is an old country song that goes, “I’d start walking your way, You’d start walking mine, We’d meet in the middle, ‘Neath that old Georgia pine.” James puts it this way, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” By earnestly coming to God in prayer, He promises that He will answer you. By seeking Him out, He promises that you will find Him. What better benefit of prayer can you think of than getting closer to God!
By itself, prayer is a very powerful tool, but just consider what it can do when used together with other tools: it becomes a multiplier, a strengthener, and it solidifies those other tools so they are more effective.
When you experience pain, sorrow, suffering. Power up and pray. When you have trials and lack perseverance. Increase your arsenal and pray. If you stumble and fall or if you get tripped up on the same thing again and again. Keep looking up, searching and seeking for what it is that God is wanting you to see or know, or how He is extending a hand of refreshment to you. When each day is a struggle and you don’t see an end in sight. You have access to the greatest tools that we have ever been offered. Even if it is a “shout out”. HELP!!! You are heard and you have the ear of God Almighty.
What tools have you been trying to use in your own strength? How could prayer help you? Sometimes it gives us the strength to work more, sometimes it gives us the freedom to put that particular tool down as we discover it isn’t needed. Prayer gives us the courage and the ability to act and respond according to God’s will.