Since I was little, I have been one that constantly prays. I was terrified of everything when I was growing up and would often pray, asking God to protect me. I would fall asleep every night, praying.
As I grew into an adult, even though I wasn’t really honoring God with my life choices, I still prayed all the time. When I became a mom, I prayed even more. Driving to the gym. Taking a shower. Folding laundry. I was just always praying. Praying for my kids, my husband, my family, and anyone else who came to mind.
And, now, it just is so baffling to me that people have to be reminded to pray. I know with confidence that when I pray, God is listening and my prayers can move mountains. I have seen them move mountains.
One night I was sitting in church and our pastor started sharing the story of how God was going to destroy the Israelites when they had made a golden calf and Moses stepped in and prayed for them:
“ ‘I have seen these people,’ the LORD said to Moses, ‘and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.’ But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. ‘LORD,’ he said, ‘why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?’…Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” (Exodus 32:9-11, 14 NIV)
God already knew what was going to happen. Did Moses’ prayer change God’s mind? No. God simply put it on Moses’ heart to pray on behalf of his people. Moses’ prayer didn’t move God’s hand.
You can imagine how much my world was shattered as I sat there listening to this story, thinking, “God knows everything. Why should I even bother with praying?”
And, little old me who had spent 3 decades of her life in fervent prayer found herself, for the first time ever, silent.
God Knows What’s Going to Happen So Why Even Pray?
About a month before this night at church, I saw a license plate with “James 5:16” written on it. I quickly looked it up in my bible (as I was driving out of a parking lot), out of curiosity. “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed”. I went on my way but awhile later when I pulled into my driveway, I just couldn’t get James 5:16 out of my head so I opened my bible back up to the passage, only to discover that in my haste, I had missed the last half of the verse, “…The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
For reasons unknown to me at the time, I started weeping when I read that. Through the next couple of weeks, I couldn’t stop repeating that verse. Everywhere I went, everything I did, it played on my repeat in my head, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” I had no clue why it was stuck in my head.
I posted it to my Instagram with the caption: “Do you ever get scripture stuck in your head? This verse has been on repeat in my head for almost 2 weeks now. I have no idea why but I do know from past experience that I will probably get to find out. Sometimes God gives me an exacting, encouraging word right for that moment. Other times, He gives it to me for a moment that is weeks away. Sometimes, it’s for a moment that takes years for Him to work everything out perfectly for”.
I went on about a week after that night in church really struggling to pray. Every time I would start to pray, doubt would creep in as I thought, “Is God putting this on my mind to pray for? Is it my own desire” Then I would go down all these rabbit trails until I came to the same conclusion: Why even pray? God sees and knows everything anyway. My prayers won’t change anything.
Then, the following Wednesday night at church, I was mindlessly flipping through my bible when it landed open on James 5:16. Again, I started crying. I cried out in my head, “THIS!!! This is why God gave me that verse!”
I realized in that moment that God gave me James 5:16 to combat the doubt that had started to creep in. My fervent prayers are effective and they availeth much. In other translations, the Greek word for “availeth much” is translated as “powerful, has great power in its effect”
Over the next few days, God took great care to show me other aspects of prayer, to restore my faith.
Our Prayers Fight
It was that same Wednesday night at church that we read the story in Daniel 10. Daniel had been praying and fasting for 21 days when, “Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. And he said to me, ‘O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.’ While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling” (Daniel 10:10-11)
Then, it goes onto say, “Then he said to me, Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.” (Daniel 10:12-13)
Most bible commentators agree that the one whom Daniel saw was none other than an Old Testament appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. He goes on after this verse to give Daniel a huge prophecy.
What would have happened if Daniel stopped praying after only a few days? He would not have gotten that prophecy. It was his fervent prayer that helped battle the prince of the kingdom of Persia (a demonic spirit, fallen angel. Many believe that angels have a hierarchy and rankings. Even fallen angels. So this fallen angel was the prince of the region known as Persia). “…I have come because of your words”. Whether or not this was an appearance of Jesus or an angel, they came because of Daniel’s prayers. They were dispatched immediately but they were held back by this demonic being and it was because of Daniel’s prayers and fasting that Michael came in and was able to overcome the prince of Persia so that Jesus or the angel could come to Daniel and give him the prophecy.
How God Called Me In to Battle with Prayer
I remember the first time I realized how powerful my prayers actually were. It was also the first time I really felt God use me to help His people.
For weeks, when I would sit in my chair for my morning quiet time with God, I would feel this heavy weight on me. A burden for my friend that would only lift when I prayed for her. I would look at her house and would feel a thick sludge of blackness around it. I felt this urgency to pray for her all the time. God would even wake me up in the middle of the night to pray over her family.
Then, one morning this friend asked me if I could watch her child. I almost said no. It was only 6am and I had plans for the day and blah blah blah. But, I felt compelled to just cancel everything I had going on that day so I could help her. Then, when she came to pick up her child, she asked me if I would go have coffee with her.
I was so nervous. I knew there was a reason that she wanted to have coffee with me and that chances were high it was because of this oppression I felt for her. I was nervous that I wouldn’t have the right words to say.
And, I was right. She shared with me some stuff that was going on in her family and I got to help her. There was a huge spiritual battle going on in her family and God, for whatever reason, called me up as a warrior.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18)
Nothing is more powerful than prayer. That’s why I created these prayer cards so I can fill them out and give them to people. When they’re feeling discouraged, they can pull out that prayer card and be encouraged by the knowledge that someone is praying for them!
We’re Just People Yet Our Prayers Are Powerful
“Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” (James 5:17-18)
God could have just made it not rain on the earth, yet He brought on a drought and then He brought plentiful rain all through the request of a man, a human being just like us. Did God lack the power to bring it on Himself and He just needed the help of Elijah? No.
He put it in Elijah’s heart to pray for that. I believe God used Elijah in this way to show us how powerful our fervent prayers can be.
God wants to use you too. You’re a human being, just like Elijah. Your prayers are just as effective and powerful as his. Is there something you’ve been praying for that seems impossible? Don’t give up!
Don’t Give Up
Growing up in a Christian school, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read or recited the Lord’s Prayer. A few weeks ago, we read the one in Luke in our homeschool and I was drawn to the verses that follow it:
“And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs” (Luke 11:5-8)
In this story, we see that the man got what he needed because of his persistence. He must have been quite the bother, waking up the entire household at midnight. But, he was not afraid to boldly ask his neighbor for what he so desperately needed. Not only did he wake up the entire household in the middle of the night, he continued to do so until his neighbor finally gave him what he needed.
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for [e]bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:9-13)
Keep on asking and keep on seeking. Be persistent in your prayers. Fervently pray.
God isn’t going to cave in and give you what you’re asking for because you won’t stop nagging Him. He is waiting for your heart to be changed. Waiting for those little mumblings you absent-mindedly pray out to Him to become request that you boldly come before Him with.
We Aren’t Praying Into Thin Air
I think many of us struggle with praying because we’re trying to talk to someone who we can’t see, who is far, far away in heaven. But, if you could be unblinded for a moment to what God has hidden from our eyes for now, then you would see how powerful your prayers actually are. Jesus is right there in front of you, listening intently to every word you whisper.
If we go back to that story in Daniel, at the beginning of the chapter we see:
“I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it…”(Daniel 10:5-7a)
Again, most commentators believe this is an Old Testament appearance of Jesus. No one who was with Daniel could see Jesus. It was as if the veil was lowered for just a moment so that Daniel could see. Jesus is always there but we lack the spiritual perception to see. In a few stories like this one throughout the bible, men are given the spiritual perception, the eyes to see, what’s there all the time.
What would happen if you were praying and suddenly you saw Jesus standing before you? How differently would you pray? Would you, then, understand the power of your prayers? He is standing before you right now. Your prayers go directly to His ears.
What If I Don’t Know What to Pray For?
Many times I have felt the urge to pray for someone but I have no idea what to ask God for on behalf of that person. We don’t have to know because God does. It’s called praying in the spirit. Many times, I have sat in the dark quiet crying out to God. I don’t sit there and think for a while what I am going to say. I don’t think during my prayers what to say. I don’t have to wrack my brain while I am praying, trying to figure out the perfect words to say. The Holy Spirit just puts the words on my lips. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26)
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