Have you ever wondered whether your prayers really accomplish much? It seems as if God responds to one prayer right away, while another one goes seemingly unanswered for years. As Christians, although we feel an obligation to pray, we tend to doubt its impact, at times. Since God is all powerful and sovereign, does He really need us to pray?
It’s due to questions like these that, prayer, the most powerful weapon at our disposal, is oftentimes the least utilized.
However, it doesn’t take much digging into God’s word to see that our prayers have a crucial impact on events both in our lives and on God’s overarching purpose for men and women throughout the earth. Here’s why: The necessity of prayer hinges on the answer to two vital questions: who has the authority and who has the plan.
Scripture teaches that although God has a plan to redeem the earth and all who call it home, He has delegated the authority over the earth and its inhabitants to us. He has transferred the responsibility for it’s care and prosperity to us as His managers– we are in charge. We first see evidence for this transfer of authority in Genesis chapter 1 where God charges Adam and Eve with the responsibility to rule over creation.
“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:27-28)
Similarly, Psalm 115 declares, “The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth He has given to mankind.” (Psalm 115:16)
This truth has profound implications. It means that everything that we read about in the news– war, poverty, violence, is our responsibility. Why is the world so screwed up? Because we have been put in charge and, quite frankly, we’ve done a lousy job! Is God all-powerful? Yes. But He has chosen to limit His sovereignty because He wants to accomplish His purposes with us and through us. I highly recommend Dutch Sheet’s foundational book, Intercessory Prayer: How God Can Use Your Prayers to Move Heaven and Earth, to those of you looking to get a deeper understanding of how God works through prayer.
God delegating authority to us as His children is quite similar to the approach we take as parents. The older our children get the more responsibility we transfer to them. Although we could do the dishes in half the time, we allow the process to be slower and messier because we want our children to gain maturity and eventually to work alongside us. Maturity and relationship are the goals.
God is loving, sovereign and all-powerful, so He could have easily snapped His fingers and put an end to Satan’s terror and the sin that battles for control in all of us. But if we look around today, we can see quite clearly that that is not what He did. God seems to be taking the slower approach in favor of developing a relationship with us and, in the process, bringing us to maturity.
So what is God’s plan? In short, it’s us. God has made a clear decision to accomplish His will on the Earth through men and women, not independent of them. Once we realize this, we find scripture to be full of such examples.
- When God desires to reveal Himself to a nation, does He do it on His own? No. He approaches Abraham. “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you.” (Genesis 12:1-2)
- When God wants to free His people from slavery in Egypt, He gives the job to Moses. “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10)
- When God plans to give Israel the Promised Land, does He snap His fingers to make it happen? No. He speaks to Joshua. “Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.” (Joshua 1:2-3)
In fact, God’s decision to do things on Earth through human beings was so complete and final that he needed to become a part of the human race in order to atone for our sins. (Sheets, Intercessory Prayer, 27) Do you get the picture? God has determined to limit His sovereignty so that He can work with and through men and women on earth to accomplish His purposes; He does not act unless we are involved and often our involvement is through prayer.
Throughout all of scripture, we see evidence for this as God encourages us to ask Him that His will may be done:
- “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)
- “May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
- “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:38)
If it is God’s will for His kingdom to come on earth and for all people to come to salvation, why do we need to we pray for it? Again, God seems to be demonstrating a spiritual principle: Even if it is His will, He will not act unless His children, to whom He given the authority, ask Him. As John Wesley once wrote “God does nothing but in answer to prayer.”
Do our prayers matter? Yes. Perhaps even more than we realize.