I don’t know about you, but I have experienced some frustrating times in my prayer life. I’ve prayed but my circumstances didn’t change. Sometimes, exactly what I prayed not to happen would come to fruition. I admit, God has always been faithful to answer my prayers according to His will and for the good. But in the interim I’ve had to learn that there’s so much more to prayer than just getting what I asked for.
There is power in prayer. God not only answers prayer, God answers bold prayer. Prayer can change our circumstances. But until our prayers are answered according to God’s sovereign will, prayer changes us.
First, Prayer changes us by shifting our focus from our circumstances to God.
Scripture says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of Heaven and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). “All these things” is defined in the previous verses as what we eat, what we drink and what we wear. We are not to even worry about how we get the money to buy our food, clothing and shelter. God promises “all these things” just by shifting our focus to Him. God rhetorically asks, will God not much more clothe you than even the grass and flowers of the field? Good things happen when we focus our attention on God and away from our circumstances. When we pray, we are doing just that: turning to God for our needs instead of trying to figure it out for ourselves.
Second, when we first turn to God in prayer, we train ourselves to patiently wait on the Lord.
Scripture says “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14). Trusting God’s timing when we want results immediately is an exercise in patience. While we wait, we pray, tuning our ears for His answer. And while we pray we train ourselves to rest in Him rather than spinning our wheels in futility. Remember, if God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)? With the God of the universe on our side, we can afford to wait patiently on the Lord in prayer. It’s guaranteed to work out in the end for good (Romans 8:28).
Third, prayer is a winning strategy for spiritual warfare.
Prayer in the name of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit is an active step toward resisting the devil (James 4:7). One of the biggest obstacles to living a victorious life in Christ is overcoming the doubts that the enemy whispers in our ear. Lifting up prayer and supplication with thanksgiving in times of doubt and discouragement will assuredly stifle those voices (Philippians 4:7). Satan wants us to focus on what’s missing, but praying with thankfulness helps us appreciate all the ways God has already blessed us.
Fourth, prayer gives us clarity for the next step.
Take Nehemiah for example. After the Jews returned from exile in 538 B.C. to a defenseless capital city without a wall or city gate, Nehemiah felt compelled to act. What was his first step? He prayed. Unlike his fellow Jews, Nehemiah was situated in the lap of luxury in the Persian capital with resources at this disposal. In faith, however, he knew God ultimately had all the power. He knew that aligning his will with God’s was the best strategy for success. God is faithful to reveal our next step just as He did for Nehemiah, resulting in victory over seemingly insurmountable obstacles. If we want success in any endeavor, we best train ourselves to first seek God’s will in prayer.