Posts Tagged ‘what difference does prayer make?’

When I came upon this meme, I immediately saw two inferences: (1) only people who our culture considers “weak” go to church and, (2) church (or any kind of faith, for that matter) cannot help us get through life’s challenges.

From my perspective, these broad generalizations entirely miss the point of faith.

Most importantly, when hard times smack you in the face, do you want to face them alone? As my pastor friend Ross Carkner points out, “church isn’t a place that you go to, but a people you do life with. And life isn’t an individual sport; it’s often a war and we do battle together.”

Ross’s point is significant because unlike, say, a wine-tasting group or a book club, church deals with the most important matters of life. And because of that, churches are uniquely equipped to help you deal with disappointments and bad news.

Are people of faith weak and incapable of standing tall when setbacks strike like a hurricane? Some folks might think so, but those of us who follow Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God) know that He’s the one who makes us strong.

We are strengthened through His sacrificial death (to make up for all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do) and His resurrection. We are made capable of forgiving even the most heinous crimes because through Jesus, we are totally forgiven.

That might make us seem weak to some, but there’s no point in living life angry and bitter. Before deciding to follow Jesus, that’s what I was like and it made me unpleasant to be around.

When Jesus followers encounter hard times, we absolutely want to fall to our knees and start praying. I know many critics of faith believe prayer is an eye-rolling waste of time, but for us, it:

  • connects us to Jesus
  • helps us to discern how He wants us to respond to the challenges before us
  • gives us the willpower to stand tall

Just as important as these points, connecting to Jesus helps us to understand that life isn’t just about our needs, our hopes and our struggles. It’s about seeing – and responding to – the pain and suffering around us.

Because of our faith in Jesus, we become God’s ambassadors in a world that even the most optimistic person will admit isn’t doing very well. Out of that has come Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision, Compassion Canada, Christian Blind Mission, International Justice Mission and many other charities that are helping people in crisis to get back on their feet and stand tall.

So let me end by making a suggestion that ties directly into the meme: if you have young kids, take them to church, even if you don’t fully understand what’s going on and even if you’re not sure what you believe. When you take that step, you keep the door of faith open for your children to explore. If you’re a person open to spirituality, I believe that would be important to you.

Agree? Disagree? Post your response below and let’s have a conversation. 🙂

Read Full Post »

praying-hands-rt-hiPrayer is a big part of my life and I can easily construct and speak a tour-de-force that will tickle your ears and touch your emotions.

But do my prayers, and the prayers of everyone else, make any difference? For me, the answer is this simple: it depends.

Am I praying to obtain something? Is it something I need or something I want – and do I really know the difference?

Am I trying to change God or me?

Am I praying for someone? If yes, am I framing my prayer with the presumption I know what’s best for this person?

How am I approaching prayer? Am I desperate? Sad? Angry? Going through the motions?

Do I subconsciously think God is grading my effort – and His response (or lack thereof) depends on how I do?

When you consider just these questions, it’s no surprise that, in his wonderful book Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference?, Philip Yancey, writes “We who barely comprehend ourselves are approaching a God we cannot possibly comprehend. No wonder some Christians through the centuries have felt more comfortable praying to saints or relying on intermediaries.”

So why pray? For serious followers of Jesus of Nazareth (who many people believe is the Son of God), one answer is easy and simple: because prayer was a foundation of Jesus’s life. In the four original-source biographies of His life, more than a dozen prayers by Jesus are recorded. And if you read those prayers, you’ll quickly realize Jesus prayed like it made a huge difference.

Here’s another good reason: when we pray, we open ourselves up to hearing or sensing what God wants to tell us. The website allaboutprayer.org puts it this way:  “Prayer not only establishes a relationship with God, it is vital to maintaining our relationship with him.”

A relationship developed in prayer can have immense ramifications. According to the late author and Jesus follower Henri Noewen, “One of the discoveries we make in prayer is the closer we come to God, the closer we come to all our brothers and sisters in the human family.”

Of course, this can be scary because the potential is there to shake us out of our placid, comfortable lives. As Philip Yancey put it in another of his books, “Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.” And once we see that reality, we may never be the same.

In fact, if our praying is sincere, we can be transformed into more generous, loving and forgiving people who have a truer picture of who God is and what He wants to accomplish in this world.

And that means we can be more like Jesus.

Does this make sense? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Read Full Post »