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What Does Prayer Change?

Posted: 3/15/19 at 4:00pm. Column by Ed Jordan.

There have been many books written that allude to prayer changing things.

That being the case, questions immediately arise regarding what things does prayer change, and what things does prayer not change?

Is prayer like a magic wand that releases its magic? Or are the changes from prayer more complex than that?

Let’s briefly address a couple of things that prayer does not always change and then a few things that prayer can change.

Is prayer like a magic wand that releases its magic? Or are the changes from prayer more complex than that?

Does prayer change God?

First, I must throw in a disclaimer. God is sovereign and not locked into what a columnist or pastor says God can do or cannot do. God can do whatever he wills to do.

However, God’s immutable nature does not change. He is reliably stable, the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8, Malachi 3:6 (NABS) “For I, the LORD, do not change…”). God is perfect, moral correctness, and “holy”—totally different from we humans. He is all wise and all powerful. God is bigger than any concept we can formulate about him. So prayer does not cause God to change his nature. God remains constant in character.

Does prayer influence God’s decisions? Frequently. For example, a person may have a very bad behavior pattern, perhaps abusive and irresponsible. Suppose this person is lonely and prays for God to send him a mate. Does God answer that prayer?

It is likely that God will answer the request with “No. I will not entrust you with a beautiful person to abuse and destroy. However, if you will surrender your life to me and cooperate in the changes you need to make, then we can revisit the subject.”

God loves for us to pray, to bring our concerns or questions to him, and to ask for guidance or solutions. He wants us to share our lives with him, seek his will for our lives, and just spend time with him. Prayer is a gift God gives to each of us, to connect us with him.

The Gospels are filled with accounts of Jesus answering prayers. No, they didn’t necessarily fall on their knees, close their eyes, and “pray.” 

Sometimes they merely made eye contact with Jesus as did the man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-17). Jesus initiated the contact, and asked the man “Do you wish to get well? (vs. 6). The man had been disabled for 38 years. When Jesus asked if he wanted to be made whole, the man assumed the prayer’s answer was for Jesus to put him in the whirlpool before anyone beat him there. Jesus merely told him to arise, take up his pallet, and walk. He arose and was totally healed.

Does prayer change circumstances? Sometimes it does. But circumstances have a way of repeating themselves, so similar circumstances are likely to occur again.

What God really changes in prayer is the person who is doing the praying. Prayer changes us, if it is effective prayer. We enter into the presence of perfect, majestic God, and we are instantly aware of our inadequacies, sins, and areas that need to change.  

Often we are praying because what we are doing is not working—not helping. We turn to God for help. God wraps His arms around us and lets us pour out our pain and hurt.

Often our tears flow like rain. God comforts us, and then he begins to show us what is causing the pain. He offers to remove it from us. If we agree (which is the root meaning of the word “confess”) with God’s analysis, and put our broken life into His hands, God lovingly disinfects our wounds, helps restore us to his original design, and instructs us about how to not get in that mess again.

He shows us how to change the things in our lives that are causing dysfunction, hurt, or pain. He promises to be available anytime we ask. He gives advice, renews us, affirms us, and then encourages us to get up and get back into life.

Often the problems in our lives stem from our rebellion against God’s purpose for our lives. Many of our fears and conflicts flow from bad attitudes that we have, which then encourage us to be involved in destructive behavior and destructive relationships.

Through regularly meeting with God, and having the Great Physician examine us, many potential problems will be prevented.

 When you pray, consider praying Job 34:32 (ESV): ‘Dear God, “teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity (crookedness), I will do it no more.”

Ask God: What activities, attitudes, or attributes are crooked in my life and need to be straightened out?

Pray regularly; it will change you.

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.