What difference does prayer make? Scripture testifies that prayer touches and influences three places. Prayer affects heaven and earth and us.
Prayer affects heaven:
Heaven acts because we ask. By that I do not mean to suggest that prayer changes God’s mind or modifies His mood. Rather we ask because The Father has ordained prayer to be the means by which He acts. He has chosen to respond to prayer. We ask because we can – because Christ has opened the way, drawn us near, and has become the “yes” to every promise of God (Heb. 4:16, 2 Cor. 1:20).
Prayer affects earth:
We pray so that heaven’s realities will prevail upon the circumstances on earth. In prayer I partner with God, in Christ’s name, calling for His Kingdom to prevail on earth as it is in heaven. In prayer we contend against evil, injustice, oppression, lack, suffering and all that is contrary to Heaven on Earth (Matthew 6:10). In prayer we wrestle against rulers and authorities and powers and spiritual forces in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12). We do so from Christ’s victory (Eph. 1:20-23), with joy and boldness and gratitude. Jesus has the receipt for the planet. He’s given us the keys (Matt. 16:18-19). We pray accordingly. We keep praying until the purposes of God prevail.
Prayer affects us:
Prayer touches me – influences me. It should anyway. Prayer should affect what and how I feel, my attitudes, my affections, and even my behavior. When I come to my Father and ask Him to bless or heal or help a friend or neighbor, if my heart is in it, then my heart should begin to feel toward that friend like God’s heart does. If I am interceding for my church, my city, or my in-laws, then it follows that I should begin to share in God’s heart toward them as well. In prayer, I should begin to feel how my father feels, and become as committed to the outcome as He is (Matt 9:36-38).
It is in this arena, how prayer affect us, that I offer some further thoughts. I get very weary of hearing people cajole believers to “cry out to God” – as though our volume and intensity will somehow sway God into hearing and responding. Further, I feel uncomfortable hearing people default to praying in beggarly groans. Heaven is not moved by our fervor, but by our faith in Christ.
However, it is possible that “crying out to God” affects me, awakens me, and stirs me. It is also possible, even probable, that Holy Spirit will move deeply upon us in prayer and as we feel what he feels we may weep (or laugh, or dance, or feel angry). I deeply desire His Spirit to fill and form my feelings, attitudes and behaviors.
What is important is that we let, even expect, feelings be a response to the Spirit’s partnership in prayer, and not assume them a prerequisite to effective prayer. James does NOT say that the emotionally worked up prayer is powerful (James 5:16), but the prayer of the righteous is powerful as it is working. It is the righteousness of Christ that makes prayer powerful. Pray with confidence in the full force of the finished work.
Prayer matters. It makes a difference. It affects heaven. It influences earth. It changes us. I bet that if you let yourself believe this, believe it deeply, it might have a significant effect on your prayer life. Your prayer will make a difference.