“In the name of Jesus, who Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” (Acts 19:13)
We have been discussing a couple of principles of prayer. One, that God is not moved by need but by faith. And two, to pray the will of God we need to pray the word of God.
People have often said that prayer is talking to God. Others say prayer is listening to God. These are only two components of a vast picture scripture paints about what prayer truly is.
Recently I read a prominent author’s description of prayer, who can also be heard on Cleveland's The Fish , give a similar definition to the one above. Someone asked him if prayer changes things and he said no, everything is foreordained. They then asked why pray. He answered, because God loves to hear your voice. This is a sad commentary on what many people believe prayer to be, and an answer as to why they don’t experience more miraculous moments in their lives.
The idea that prayer is only about talking things out with God until we feel peace about what he already plans to do is simply not supported by scripture, yet is the very teaching many ministers give (i.e. prayer doesn’t change God it changes us). The Gospel of Luke gives one of the clearest examples that will dispel these common clichés.
In the familiar story Jesus and the disciples are crossing a lake in a small boat. He goes to sleep, and then a violent storm hits. They woke him up and yelled, “We are going to drown!” They were in a panic and scared for their very lives. In minimalist style Luke simply tells us, “He got up, rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided and was calm” (Luke 8).
It is what happened next that is so telling. He looked at the disciples and asked, “Where is your faith?” In other words, why did you wake me up and not speak to the storm yourself and tell it to be still?
Perhaps a prayer by T. L. Osborn will help clarify. One day he was leading a crusade in Java, a country that is 95% Moslem. One hundred students were with him. He told the Muslim audience God would do miracles that night to make Himself known. The one hundred students were extremely frightened by this statement because if it didn’t happen they thought the crowd would become even more hostile.
A deaf madarris (Arabic for teacher of Islam) stepped up to the platform. As T. L. shares, “I looked at him and said, In the name of Jesus Christ whom God has raised from the dead according to the scriptures, Jesus who is the Son of the Living God, I adjure the deaf spirit to leave your ear and I command your ear to hear now, so that all here may know that the Bible is true, that Jesus is the Son of God, that His blood was shed for the remission of our sins, and that He is risen from the dead to be the Savior of the world. When I finished you could hear a pin drop. Total silence. I whispered in his ear and he jumped. He then began to repeat what I whispered. He was weeping, the crowd started clapping.”
Take this to heart, God doesn’t want you to pray so he can hear your voice; he wants you to pray so you can move mountains.