One of the central components to our Reviving Love series is prayer. We are asking God to move in our lives, in our church, and in our city. And while we certainly want to emphasize corporate prayer and coming before the Lord as a community of faith, we cannot overlook the need for God to revive our own personal prayer lives. For that to happen, there are several barriers we have to overcome. There are logistical barriers such as time and place. There are also practical barriers. How long should we pray? What do we pray for? Then there are the theological barriers, questions that tend to creep into our minds as we seek a sustained and vibrant prayer life. Keep reading for some of the questions we often wrestle with and some suggestions for how you might respond to them when they arise.
1) If God is all knowing and all powerful, why should I pray?
In other words, what is the point of praying if God already knows the outcome of everything and has the power to bring it to pass? Isn’t prayer a pointless exercise? Actually, no. Jesus used this very truth to establish the basis of our prayers. He said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). He then goes on to tell us how to pray to our Father and what to ask of Him. For Jesus, the reason we should pray is precisely because God already knows all things and has all the power in the universe to answer those needs. This reality should cause us to reframe the question altogether. We should now ask: If God is all knowing and all powerful, how can I ever justify not praying? He alone knows my needs more than I do, and He alone has the power to move in my life, regardless of my circumstances. This should radically reshape how we view prayer and cause us to pray more, not less.
2) Does prayer change God’s will?
This question is somewhat similar to the first. At first glance, it might appear that if God truly answers prayers (which He does), then His will changes depending on our prayers. Furthermore, there are passages in the Bible where we see God changing His mind or not doing what He intended to do. What do we make of this? We must start with two biblical truths. First, God does not change (Malachi 3:6). He does not grow or improve. He does not falter in His promises, and nothing diminishes His perfect character. Second, we are commanded to pray, which means that prayer is central to aligning ourselves with all that God intends for us. We must hold these two truths together and never pit them against one another. Prayer then, is one of the means by which God accomplishes His will and purposes for His people.
Put simply, there are some things that God intends to bring into your life through prayer. If you do not pray, those things will not come into your life. If we don’t ask, we won’t have (James 4:2). However, if we ask in faith, God promises to answer our prayers. He does not clinch His fist and withhold good things from us. So, is this God changing His will? No. This is God making good on His promises the way He did in the passages where He changes His mind. In the case of Jonah, He promised to bring destruction on the city of Nineveh, unless they repented. They repented and God did not destroy them. He is a patient, promise-fulfilling God! We can pray with confidence and we can trust our God to accomplish all He intends for our lives, for His church, and for the world.
3) How long should I pray for something when God is not answering my request?
God does not play games with us or simply withhold things from us to punish us. He does however, at least from a human standpoint, delay in bringing about certain things in our lives. We ask for a job and it takes much longer than we expected. We beg God for a child and we wait months and even years for Him to open the womb. These are frequent experiences of God’s children and ones where we must endure in faith. So how long should we pray for something if God is not answering in the time we think? The answer really depends on the request. If we are praying for a lost person, we pray for God to save them until their last breath in this life. If we are praying for a job, we pray until God opens a door. In short, we pray until there are good reasons not to pray for a particular issue. God might change the situation, or God might change us and how we pray. The goal of prayer is not merely to get things from God, but to commune with our Father. At the same time, God desires persistence and faith in prayer (Luke 18:1–8). Therefore, we keep going to Him and keep trusting that He will answer.