I believe in prayer. Prayer is the means in which we communicate with God. As a Christian, I believe that God answers our prayers and indeed, my experience of being a Christian since 1997 is that indeed, God answers our prayers. I was the proverbial wild child. Wine, women and song was my catch cry. My life was somewhat out of control at the age of 17 and this lifestyle continued till I was 30, where at that time, I was to meet the Lord in very real and powerful circumstances. My mother was and still is a woman of prayer. When I was 17, she was sharing with a group at a Catholic Charismatic retreat about her wild son, and a man called Bill said to her, “Pat, every time I have a shower for your son, I am going to pray for him.” Mum would see this man once or twice a year at a conference or retreat, where he would always make a point of asking her how I was doing, and reassuring her that he was praying for me. Sometime after my conversion and I heard this story, I knocked on that mans door, thanked him and gave him a hug.
In my early years of Christianity, I devoured every book I could get my hands on. I was encouraged by the faithfulness of George Muller, who fed and looked after thousands of orphans, without once asking anyone except God to fund and provide for their care. I was amazed at the faithfulness of God working through Reece Howell Intercessor, a man who was among many who was powerfully used in the Welsh Revival. His work among the poor, homeless etc in his era was commendable. Another man called Praying Hyde, who was a intercessor / missionary in India, also saw countless answers in prayer in many miraculous ways. There are just a few of many who spurred my imagination and faith on in regards to prayer.
I also read a lot of stuff that wasn’t so helpful. The basic premise of this teaching was that prayer is a method of gaining personal advancement. It was a method of twisting God’s arm to do what we want, and not what he wants. In many ways, the name it and claim it brigade became tantamount to witch craft. A number of years ago I counselled and mentored a young man who was caught up in that teaching, who was frustrated in his relationships and walk with the Lord. He wanted a wife, and would see a nice girl, and state in prayer, “Lord I claim her to be my wife…” Not surprisingly, it never worked out well for him. I took him aside and showed him a better way, explaining that his prayers were presumption and not wise and God honoring. God never calls us to bend another’s will to our own. It’s why Scriptures are filled with the principals of praying for wisdom from above. Seeking God for his will and not our own. Showing us to pray for others to be filled with wisdom and that the love of God be made manifest in their hearts. My friend took on board my counsel, and is now happily married, to the right woman. Instead of claiming a wife, he started to pray that he would become the husband that God wanted him to become. Instead of praying and claiming a particular person to be his wife – he started praying for who ever God had in mind for him to be his wife, to be blessed, filled with wisdom and love so they could become the couple God wanted them to be.
Sometimes our zeal for prayer can be distorted through right intentions, with a distorted foundation of self righteousness. There was a time when I was distressed at a local witch, and every time I would drive past her house, I would pray that the Lord would remove her. Never once did I pray that the Lord would deliver her from the powers of darkness. I never prayed that she would be filled with the knowledge of God’s love. Nor did I ever actually build relationship with her to share the good news of the gospel and the hope of Jesus. And after a few years of regular prayer, she died. Her family approached the church I was fellowshiping at to arrange her funeral. At the time I was gripped with a sense of self righteous satisfaction. However the Lord was soon to convict me of my own sin in this matter. He showed me a story of two of his own disciples, who asked him if they should call down fire on a town which rejected them and their message. Simply put, he never told them that they were gooses for doing such a thing…rather he rebuked them saying that they didn’t know which spirit was causing their self righteous indignation – in other words, their prayers were inspired by the evil one and not by the Holy Spirit.
The church I was involved with celebrated its 150th birthday. We decided to celebrate this 150 years of ministry by going to every business and office in town, telling them who we were, and that as part of this celebration, we wanted to pray for them. Some people told us to get on our bike and go. Others just turned away from us and walked away. Others though, were grateful for our presence and asked us to pray, sharing many personal and pertinent things to pray for. On one occasion the secretary went to her manager, telling him in a mocking way that there were some lunatics at the front desk wanting to pray for him and his business… to her surprise, he asked her to send us in. He looked at us with amazement, repeating a number of times, “You want to pray for me?”
He then told us that he had never really though much about God, but, had just spontaneously out of deep frustration looked up to the sky, thrown his hands in the air, saying, “If you are real, I could do with some help right now” as soon as those words had fallen from his lips, his secretary came to him saying we were there to pray for him…. A number of significant relationships were built up from that week of going trough our town.
Over the years I have had the privilege to pray for many throughout all levels of society. From laying hands on a politician at parliament house or in the middle of a dusty paddock with a grieving farmer, to sitting with a homeless person on the side street or shelter, another person battling with addictions or someone else across the eons of cyberspace having grieved deeply at hearing their story. No matter who we are, I have been impressed with the commonality for us all to be touched and effected by sin, death, and grief – and how our only hope for humanity is the knowledge of the love of God through Christ, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and allowing his ways to work through, over and through us.
I pray today that our Lord will grant you wisdom for life, that you will be filled with the knowledge of his love for you and all the saints, and that you will know his immeasurable great power of the Holy Spirit working through, over and in us all.