James 5: 16b (ESV)
16 …The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
THIS VERSE IS REAL.
You’re probably going, “Of course it is, Allison. Everyone knows that our prayers are powerful.” I thought I knew that too. I’ve taught on this topic. I love prayer. But guys, IT’S SO REAL. I’m only just beginning to see how powerful prayer is.
I think it’s easy to develop a skewed view of prayer because of how we pray. I’ve prayed for others, for things, for an event to come to pass, for this or that to work out, yada yada yada. Praying for other things is a mixed bag. Sometimes we see immediate answers. Sometimes we don’t. So we go, “I’m sure God is at work somehow. No biggie.” and we move on, and don’t realize that, actually, our confidence in prayer is getting slooooowly dimmer. At least mine was.
During this season, I turned prayer on myself for possibly the first time. Not for me. On me. I stopped praying to get things and started praying for God to change my heart so I had to give. And since no one’s free will or other circumstances could get in the way, since my asking was my invitation for God to work, I got to see how transformative prayer can actually be. The change in my heart is unmistakeable.
If you’ve been reading along with me, you know that I came here on a quest for compassion. Well, it was certainly at least one of my main goals. And I went after it. I joined the Compassion Ablaze track, I threw myself into community wholeheartedly, I looked for opportunities to give, and I started praying. I prayed for compassion in my heart. Prayed for God to show me what compassion looks like. Prayed to see people the way He sees them. Once I knew who my Paraguay team was, I started praying for my heart to be knit to theirs. I asked God to show me who they were and what He thought about them. I asked Him to highlight the good in them for me. I prayed for love to grow in my heart. I asked for unity and trust to develop within the team. I prayed HARD. I pray for at least an hour daily and many of those hours have been directed at my relationship with my team. And guys it works.
EVERYONE in our school knows that the Paraguay team has been far and away the most united. The bonds grew quickly and they grew strong. There was and is so much love in that team. And I LOVE each of them so much. God showed me His heart for them. I still look at them and overwhelmed by how He made them sometimes. They’re so beautiful and quirky and fun and delightful to me. They’re just people. Just regular people. I mean, amazing people, but all the same I’m pretty sure that three-months-ago me would be irritated by them a lot. Would be kind of wishing a couple better friends had ended up on the team. Would have been discontent. Because that’s kind of just who I was. But when I fought against that tendency in prayer…phew! God gave me so much grace to love them. He gave me compassion.
It wasn’t always natural for me. Before Allison was critical, irritable, and frequently discontent with the people around me. And several times throughout the quarter, the devil tried to bring that out against someone on my team. Each time, I determined to take it to God in prayer. Each time, He was faithful to bring back my love for that person even stronger than before by the time I was done praying. This is one of my new favorite tools. If someone is making me cranky, I go to God. I tell Him I’m sorry for being resentful, irritated, unloving, whatever. I thank Him for forgiving me and I forgive the person whatever they did to me (because sometimes there’s actually a reason for my crankiness, let’s be honest). And then I pray for that person until I start loving them again. I pray for God to bless their lives. I thank Him for all their good qualities. I pray the opposite of whatever lies I was believing about them. I look at whatever situation turned me against them from their perspective, put myself in their shoes, and try to pray for God to help them resolve whatever put them in a situation to be unloving toward me.
You cannot pray for someone consistently and not love them.
Today in class, our speaker said, “What you pray for, you fall in love with.” I believe that with my whole heart. I’ve seen it work over and over and over. Even people groups! We’ve been praying for Muslims during my time here. It just so happened that we were here for 30 days of prayer for Muslims during Ramadan this year. And I just have a heart for them now. So many times during the prayer sets God would move my heart as we prayed for different nations, different hurts they’re going through. It’s simply impossible to pray for something from your heart and not have your heart moved toward it.
I have so much confidence in prayer now. I have a very personal testimony that it has worked in my life, so I KNOW God hears and I KNOW He answers. So my confidence is growing in prayer for other things. We have intercession times at least twice a week for 2 hours here, and I believe our prayers are DOING something. God loves to work. He loves doing things for His kids. It’s who He is. He loves us. BUT He’s limited Himself, and can only work as we ask.
Matthew 21: 22 (ESV)
22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.
John 16: 24, 25 (ESV)
23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
1 John 5: 14, 15 (ESV)
14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
Our receiving is tied to our asking. So pray often. God’s waiting for our prayers so He can start acting! There are people out there who can’t or won’t pray for themselves, and God is waiting for you to ask on their behalf. There are situations that just need a lot of shifting, and a lot of prayer is required to get the job done. God wants to work in your life, He’s just waiting for you to ask for His help. His Word tells us to ask and keep asking, so don’t give up! I truly, from the bottom of my heart, believe that something shifts every single time we pray. Pray it up!