Recently, I wrote a letter to a brother and was talking about the subject of prayer. Everyone is familiar with what we call prayer in some fashion. What prompted my letter to this friend was consideration of all the emails I seem to get every week in my inbox from various Christian newsletters, preachers, church advertisements, etc. that are always talking about “the Power of Prayer.” I heard this term mentioned week after week while I was a faithful attending church boy… You can probably think of a few examples of your own, like: You gotta believe in the power of prayer… Isn’t prayer just so powerful? We really need to pray more because prayer has power… Prayer moves the hand of God… If we don’t pray for revival, it will never come… Let’s all attend the all-night prayer meeting… Hey, did you hear about that church that has prayer meetings and worship 24 hours a day? That’s powerful! The list of examples goes on for almost ever!
Since my personal exodus from organized churchianity, I’ve discovered there are a lot of terminologies I can’t stand to use anymore. One of them is this age-old phrase (and the concept attached to it), “The Power of Prayer.” The reason I struggle with this phraseology is because it makes prayer sound like something “spooky-spiritual”; as though it were some kind of powerful magic force or incantation. It speaks nothing of the quality of relationship, which I believe is the key manifestation of prayer.
Let me just state this ever so plainly… Prayer is simply communication with our Heavenly Father. That’s it.
God is not moved by eloquent speech, or by how many Scripture verses we throw into a prayer. He’s not moved if we bow our heads, fold our hands, or squeeze our eyes shut extra tight. It doesn’t matter if we kneel or stand or pray while standing on a mountain top. Prayer, in and of itself is NOTHING! Organized religion has made it out to be almost an entity of its own; invested with supernatural power just by engaging in the activity. Sigh… The real force that gives prayer its effectiveness is our relationship with the Father. When we simply and sincerely seek Him and talk to Him just as a man talks with his friend, this is the essence of prayer.
I grow so weary of all the fuss over prayer meetings and those who think we have to utter long and regular incantations to try and manipulate God’s hand to action. A thousand times NO. What God desires is simple, genuine communication with Him. I think of the way I communicate with my wife; She not only recognizes my voice, but she knows my mannerisms and can often tell what I’m thinking just by the look on my face. I believe God is even more sensitive to these things. Throughout the day, many times, I have a song in my heart that has no words, but all the emotion and expression is there toward the Lord and I know this is a form of prayer and worship to Him. Sometimes things strike me a certain way and I feel the same connection with my Heavenly Father as when I look at my wife and she hears a heartful without me even uttering a phrase. This is relationship! I really think this is part of what the Scripture means when it talks about praying without ceasing… It’s not the number of “prayers” we utter and it’s not even the prayers themselves that have any power at all… The Scripture is talking about RELATIONSHIP with our Father. It should be more dynamic and living than any friend or spouse and it should flow naturally.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV) – Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
When God simply becomes the subject of an activity we compartmentalize as part of our daily routine or (for those who do the church thing) by attending a service once or twice a week, then this (I believe) is NOT the essence of what prayer means! God became utterly ill of Israel’s speech when their lives did not back anything up. They honored Him with their lips but their heart was far from Him. The same is true for many today. Even something good like prayer has been made a doctrine out of! It was NEVER meant to be a doctrine. But religion has turned something so beautiful and sincere as relationship with the Creator into a ritual that is expected to be performed almost mindlessly at every meal, at the beginning of every church service and function, add infinity. This is NOT what our Heavenly Father had in mind for us!
Isaiah 29:13 (NLT) – And so the Lord says, “These people say they are Mine. They honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. And their worship of Me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.”
Matthew 15:7-9 (ISV) – “You hypocrites! How well did Isaiah prophesy of you when he said, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is empty, because they teach human rules as doctrines.'”
I think of this issue when I look at these groups who boast about all night prayer meetings or 24 hour prayer and worship, as if they will be heard for their many words and the fact that they may be uttering speech to the air in the name of prayer. Prayer is life itself, walking in daily and constant communion with the Father. It’s not simply something you schedule to perform on queue or that you get spiritual brownie points for doing on a regular basis. Only when RELATIONSHIP is transpiring can there be any value to the other mannerisms we tag along with it that simply become expressions of worship, like bowing our heads, kneeling, or conveying our hearts with beautiful words. If these do not all flow from love and utter sincerity of heart along with a daily connection with our Heavenly Father, then it’s not really prayer of any significance and just going through religious motions won’t accomplish anything!
Matthew 6:7-8 (NLT) – “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him!”
It would sure seem, by the Lord Jesus’ own words that “prayer” isn’t all that important… at least not like we’ve been taught in church world. Since our Father knows what we will ask before we even ask. God rewards what is done in secret. Again, when we’re talking about prayer, I don’t even think Jesus is trying to prescribe a formula for praying; as in, “Step one, go into your closet and shut the door… Step two, whisper so that no one hears you… Step three, always start with Our Father which art in Heaven…” No, I think the clear point is – HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER! This isn’t about putting on a religious performance for anyone – EVEN HIM. It’s about being 100% transparent in your relationship with Him. THIS will amount to effective prayer because God wants relationship with us.
So, there’s my three cents on the matter. That just always comes to mind when I hear people talk about the so-called “power of prayer”. I think we err if we make too much of it and not enough of the simple yet powerful essence of relationship.