“Huddle around men!” As the pre-mission briefing concluded, my Sergeant called the platoon together. “Sir, you want to pray for us?” As I led the platoon in prayer, thirty heads bowed, including an atheist, Wiccan, Mormon, and several agnostics. Without fail, before every mission that my platoon went on in Afghanistan, we would pray together. Guys who didn’t believe in God, guys who didn’t want anything to do with God, and guys who ignored God in their everyday life back in the states gladly participated.
When I was deployed to Afghanistan, I was always amazed at the willingness of soldiers to participate in prayer, especially when they had such a negative view of God and prayer when we were stateside. It gave me such an insight into the “last resort” view much of our culture has of prayer. For many, it takes the realization that circumstances are truly outside of our control before we consider prayer a viable option.
This past weekend, Ben Snyder began a series called Thoughts and Prayers to address many of the misconceptions of prayer our culture has. Ben looked at the example of Jesus this past weekend to remind us that prayer is not a last resort, but it is something we are called to enter into continually as we follow Christ.
The dictionary defines prayer as “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God.” Prayer could also be defined as a verbal way through which we know God.
Unfortunately, even as Christians, we often don’t pray, or stop praying, because we come to think our prayer is ineffective. If we feel like prayer isn’t working, we’ll usually stop and point a finger at a few different things: we’ll either blame God for not listening, being too busy, or not caring; or we’ll blame ourselves, thinking we didn’t ask correctly or we don’t deserve the answer; we might even blame our request, maybe we didn’t use the right words, correct tone of voice, or physical posture.
This past weekend, we encountered Jesus’ reminder to us in Matthew 7 of the effectiveness of prayer.
7 Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
What an amazing passage! I am an imperfect father, yet I love my children more than I can put into words, and I want good things for them. I cannot even wrap my mind around the immensity of what God my father has in store for me based on what I want for my own children. As Ben unpacked the passage, he revealed how Jesus is teaching his followers that prayer becomes more effective when we are mindful and aware of three things: who we are talking with, who we are in relation to him (God), and what we are asking in his name. Throughout the rest of the week, we will be diving in and unpacking each of these areas and how they bring effectiveness to our prayers.
As we become more mindful of the above three areas this week, we need to remember that prayer was never a last resort for Jesus. Jesus understood and taught the effectiveness of prayer. Let’s take the opportunity during this series to align our view of prayer with the one Jesus taught and give him the opportunity to reveal to us the effectiveness of our prayers.
Have you ever given up praying for something because you thought your prayer was ineffective? If so, what did you give up praying for?
How does Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 7 change your view of prayer?
Begin memorizing the series’ memory verse: “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16b).
Identify & begin praying each day for a specific thing, issue, person, circumstance, request, etc.
Dear Lord, help me to see the effectiveness of my prayers. I can so easily miss the ways you are working all around me. Open my eyes to see your hand at work over these next couple weeks. Let my view of prayer be shaped by you and not by the world I live in. Thank you for listening and answering. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
This post was written by Alex Woody. Alex is the Director of Students at the West Toledo Campus of CedarCreek Church. He has an amazing wife and two joy-filled daughters who can regularly be found filling the West Toledo lobby with laughter and smiles.
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