As we were driving down a backroad highway a few weeks ago, I saw a man standing in a parking lot, waving and smiling at people who drove by. The man had a sign that said “May I pray for you?”
It happened so quickly and we were running a little late to watch our older son play in a soccer game, so we didn’t stop, but I’ve thought about him a couple of times since then. What would make a person want to stand outside in a gravel parking lot waving at people—mostly strangers—and hoping to pray over them? The world would tell that man that he’s wasting his time. At best, he might give someone a sliver of hope that at least their problems had been heard. But Scripture teaches us something completely different about prayer:
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:13-14)
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. (Jeremiah 33:3)
And there are tons more! In fact, according to my search, the word “pray” occurs 367 times in the Bible. That’s enough for one verse a day with a few leftover.
I love that God gives us this avenue of prayer. It’s the perfect and powerful solution for a disconnected, broken world. But, unfortunately, I don’t connect to His power nearly as much as I could and should. It’s like trying to use a vacuum cleaner without plugging the cord into the outlet, then pushing the heavy vacuum over the carpet and wondering why it isn’t picking anything up.
There are times when I feel so powerless—devastating wars and school shootings and neglected children. I’m overwhelmed. With each announcement of bad news, it’s as if I’ve been folded in half, then folded in half again, over and over until I’m so small and feeble, unable to change anything. Those are the moments when God reminds me about prayer. He throws me a lifesaver just before my head goes underwater. Then He says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to Me (God)."
In the movie Shadowlands, C. S. Lewis (played by Anthony Hopkins) is anxious about the health of his beloved wife Joy. In response to a friend who remarks that God had answered his prayer. Lewis says, “I pray, because I can't help myself. I pray, because I'm helpless. I pray, because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God. It changes me.” Let prayer change you.