Why Prayer Works

At the beginning of this New Year, I thought it appropriate to share with you some wisdom from Andy Rooney (1919-2011), who had the gift of saying so much with so few words. 

  • I’ve learned…. That the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.
  • I’ve learned…. That just one person saying to me, “You’ve made my day!” makes my day.
  • I’ve learned…. That having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.
  • I’ve learned…. That being kind is more important than being right.
  • I’ve learned…. That you should never say no to a gift from a child.
  • I’ve learned…. That life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.
  • I’ve learned…. That when you’re in love, it shows. 

When you’re in love, it shows. One of the chief places our love for God shows is in our prayer lives. Imagine a married couple that never talked to each other. They never listened and conversed with each other. That would be a sing of unhealth in any relationship, including our relationship with the Lord. Our prayer lives show where our hearts are really at. 

I don’t think we pray enough. I think if we believed that prayer works, we would pray more. Jesus tells us in Luke 18:1, “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” The reason He spoke the parable was so we would always pray. Why would Jesus tell us to always pray if prayer did not work? Why would he tell us to not lose heart? He knew it was a good possibility that we may get discouraged. 

We are created to live in relationship with the Lord. Our lives are only as effective and productive as our prayer engine is. Prayer is the engine for any ministry and is the life blood of a person’s anointing and breakthrough. The speed of a person’s life is largely dependent on their prayer lives. Like a vehicle engine, there are things that make the engine of prayer sluggish. Complacency and passivity brings sluggishness because we just watch and don’t come before God. Unbelief will slow the engine of prayer every time. If we really believed that 10 minutes in prayer would do more than 10 minutes on the internet, we would pray more. Discouragement will cause a prayer life to crawl down the road because we didn’t see prayer answered how we wanted them to be, so we become discouraged.  

Jesus had a dynamic prayer life with the Father. But why did Jesus pray? He often withdrew for prayer, got up early to pray but why would he need to pray? Jesus was and is God so why did Jesus pray? I believe Jesus needed to pray. He laid down his divine privileges and picked up his humanity. As a human He needed the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit. He did miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit. In His humanity, he needed to commune and have fellowship with his father. If Jesus, when He was on this earth, needed to pray, do you think there is possibility you might need too? 

God’s church is to be so full of prayer that it’s called a house of prayer (Matthew 21:13). The community of God is to be a community of prayer. Jesus makes this declaration that firmly highlights the centrality of prayer to the Christian faith. It is a practice that is to mark the community of God, not just individuals within the community. No great thing can really come from a Christian faith devoid of prayer – prayer that by its very nature demonstrates a dependence upon God. Prayer really is the engine room of the Church.

1. Prayer is the link between the visible and the invisible world.

Prayer is the communication of the human soul with the Lord who created the soul. It is the primary way for the believer in Jesus Christ to communicate his emotions and desires with God and to fellowship with God. Prayer is the device God wired for us to be in communication with Him. We will not be able to communicate if access is not utilized. 

From the beginning, God established Adam his legal representative in history (Genesis 1:26).  God has decided not to do His activity on earth apart from man. Man was dubbed his legal representative and God wanted to work on earth but like invisible sound waves, he wanted to do it through a vehicle to take what is invisible and make them visible. Like sound waves that are all around us but unusable without a radio to capture it. We are God’s radio to bring what is invisible into this world. 

When we pray, God does one of three things. He either does something He wasn’t going to do unless we prayed or he stops something that He was going to do until we prayed or regardless what we do, He will do what He wants to do. God created us like Him so we could communicate with Him in order to exercise His will in history. 

2. Prayer is a human divine cooperative. 

1 Kings 18 we read the story of Elijah the prophet. Elijah was told by God that He was going to stop it from raining for 3 years in Israel. After the three years, God shares His plan with Elijah saying, “Go show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth” (1 Kings 18:1). After the standoff with the Baal prophets, Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain” (1 Kings 18:41). Elijah knew what God wanted to do so he prayed in accordance with His will. Elijah prayed 7 times and, “at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’ ”45And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain” (1 Kings 18:44-45).

The Lord delights in sharing His will with us to pray it into existence. In prayer, we call heaven down to interfere with the events on earth. In prayer, we distribute what we have received as God’s stewards. Are there things that God wants to do in your life but will not be released until we pray? We can actually be holding back what God wants to do because we have not connected to the doing of it. Not because we are more powerful than God but because He is waiting for a human person to do it through. If you are not positioned to do this, you may be delaying your authority and breakthrough. 

3. Establish your inner room prayer life.

A couple was feeling overwhelmed by a looming financial challenge. In desperation, they took some time late one evening…after settling their kids into bed…to pray and seek the Lord’s help. As they sat together on their living room couch, making their petitions known to God, suddenly an audible voice began to speak, “If you need help, call 911. If you need help, call 911.” They heard the voice say this about four or five times, and then it stopped. Mystified, they just looked at each other. The voice seemed to be coming from the garage, so they cautiously opened the door and flipped on the garage lights, not sure what they would find. Everything was in its place except for a small toy ambulance, belonging to their son, that lay by itself in the center of the garage floor. The husband picked up the ambulance, pushed a button next to its emergency light, and the voice began to speak, “If you need help, call 911.” As they wondered out loud how the toy had activated of its own accord, suddenly the Holy Spirit seemed to nudge the husband with these words, “If you need help, call 911…Psalm 91:1.” Going back to the Scriptures, the verse had an entirely new meaning to them and they read it together: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” 

The couple understood this incident to be God’s way of directing their hearts to a renewed commitment to that secret place relationship with Him. The inference was that God would direct their steps related to their financial needs as they gave themselves to the intimacy of abiding in the presence of the Almighty. 

Separation is needed to establish our inner room prayer life. Jesus separated Himself regularly. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16). The secret place prayer life is where we find intimacy, dependence, faith, and rest. God wants to speak to us but what is required is separation to our inner room. For David, the inner room was a field. For John the Baptist, the inner room was the desert. For Jesus, His inner room was wherever He could as He journeyed and ministered throughout Israel, regularly finding a lonely place to spend time with the Father. 

When we draw near to God, God unfolds God reveals to us the story He is unfolding on the earth and anoints us for the part we are to play in His plan. In the secret place, we renewed by the love the Father has for us. The Lord is waiting for us in the secret place. When the secret place is developed, we will never find satisfaction or experience what we were created for outside of encountering the presence of God. Everything we will ever need is found in the presence of God, for it is there we find the reason why we were created. 

Charles Spurgeon, the 19th century London preacher, learned what it was to cooperate with God and see His power transform many thousands of people over several decades.  People often travelled to his church to learn the secret of his success.  When visitors would come to Spurgeon’s church, he would take them to the basement prayer room where people were always on their knees interceding.  He called this prayer room the powerhouse of the church.  “If the engine room is out of action,” Spurgeon explains, “then the whole mill will grind to a halt.  We cannot expect blessing if we do not ask.” I encourage today to start your engines!