Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. (James 5:13-18, NIV)
How many times have you said, or heard someone else say, “All I can do is pray”? I know I have said those words, not intending to demean the value of prayer. However, when I hear those words now, having recognized the effectiveness of prayer, I find myself wanting to shout, “Don’t say it like that!” It sounds like we think prayer is just some insignificant thing that doesn’t mean much, but we’ll do it because there isn’t anything else we can do. It is as if prayer is our last resort.
If prayer is not important, why did Jesus’ disciples ask him to teach them to pray? Why did he take the time to teach them? (Luke 11:1) If it doesn’t make a difference, why did Jesus not tell them to forget about praying and go do something else to make better use of the time? Why did Jesus tell his disciples that some demons come out of people only after prayer and fasting? (Mark 9:29)
If prayer is insignificant, why did Jesus find it necessary to go out alone early in the morning to pray? (Mark 1:35) Why did he pray before he fed the five thousand (Luke 9:16), after a long day of ministry (Matthew 14:23), or when he faced the most humiliating and excruciatingly painful death invented by man? (Matthew 26:36-44) Why did Jesus pray on the Cross? (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; Luke 23:34, Luke 23:46) Why did he pray for his disciples? (John 17:6-19) Why is he, right now, interceding for us? (Romans 8:34)
No, prayer is not some meaningless, insignificant little task we perform when there is nothing else we can do. On the contrary, prayer is our number one offensive and defensive weapon against the evil in this world, including disease, crime, and destruction. It is the means by which we communicate with our Father, our Creator.
What did James, Jesus’ brother, say? If you are suffering, pray. If you are sick, have the elders pray for you. Why? He answered that in James 5:16: The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (NIV)
The next time we find ourselves about to say, “All I can do is pray,” let’s not say it with an attitude of helplessness. There may not be anything we can do physically to improve a situation, but God, a spirit being, chooses to interact with this present physical world. He
chooses to work through people to heal those who can’t walk, talk, or hear, or who have other illnesses. He chooses to work through people to change the course of our lives.
You may actually be the answer to someone’s prayer, if you allow God to work through you. When you get that feeling that you should call or visit a friend, it may be that your friend asked God for help with a problem, and you are the one God chose to have help your friend. In such a case, remember that when you pray for your friend, you are petitioning your loving Father. Nothing is impossible with God. Whether your friend needs healing, a job, money, improved relationships, or something else, whatever it is, you may not have the material resources to help your friend, but you have something far better. You have the power of prayer.
Don’t tell your friend, “I’m sorry, but all I can do is pray for you.” Instead, thank God that he has given you the privilege of coming to him in prayer, interceding for your friend, knowing that God is sovereign. He may not answer your prayer in the way you ask, but he will listen, and he will answer.
If you ask me right now how you can help me, I will tell you that the best thing you can do for me is to pray. Pray that God will continue to give me his peace, that he will strengthen my faith in him, that he will help me always to give thanks in all circumstances. Pray that God will continue to hold me in his hands and give me what I need for this day. Pray that he will grant me whatever physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual healing I need at this time. Pray that God will continue to give me his sustaining grace as I go through difficulties in life, and that as I do so, others will see his glory. Most importantly, pray that God will work out his will in my life, whatever that involves, whatever it requires of me.
Through prayer, the mouths of lions were stopped, sick people were made well, Jonah was saved from the belly of a fish, the Israelites won battles, the rains were stopped for three years, and Peter was released from prison. Never underestimate the power of prayer. Prayer is our means of communication with the King of the Universe, without whom we can do nothing.
O God, my Father, thank you. Thank you for giving me the privilege of coming to you and laying my needs and desires at your throne. Help me never to take this privilege for granted or to underestimate its power. I know that you know what I need and what I want before I ask you for anything.
Father, take my desires and replace them with yours. I don’t know what the future holds for me on this earth, but you do. I willingly lay aside my wants, my desires for a great life here. Grant me, instead, the life that you designed for me before the world began. Give me the desire always to do what you want me to do.
Father, I have asked you many times to mold me into the person you want me to be. I ask you, once again, to do that. I don’t care about anything else in this world. Help me! Help me to be who you want me to be.
I know you will be with me always and because of that, I can stand firm through the storms of this life. Thank you, God. Please don’t let me fail you. Give me the courage to live the life you want me to live.
I can do all things only through Jesus Christ, in whose holy name I pray. Amen.
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