I also led a study of the book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference by Philip Yancey. In that study we tackled the questions:
- If God knows everything why pray?
- Why do answers seem inconsistent and unpredictable?
- How can I make prayer more satisfying?
There are a couple of things that run throughout those studies others as well as my sermons. One is that in prayer the Holy Spirit often causes us to act. Since God uses people to answer prayer our actions often are the answer. For example we pray for a friend that is going through a difficult time and God puts it on our heart to provide a meal or money for them and their family. When you pray for a promotion and the Holy Spirit moves you to do something different or special. I wrote a post, that I’ll publish in the next few days, titled “A Gut Check Can Be A Good Thing”. That gut check is from the Holy Spirit.
The other common thread that runs through the studies and sermons is that prayer causes us to see things from God’s perspective and not ours. In prayer we realize how small we are and how big God is. How short our time of existence compared to eternity.
Psalm 90:2 (NLT) Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God.
2 Peter 3:8 (NLT) But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.
Psalm 39:4 (NLT) “LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is.
I’ve learned that prayer isn’t to change circumstances but prayer is to change us. If prayer changes us we can accomplish our purpose which is to become like Jesus and if we become like Him we will glorify God.
Romans 8:28-30 GNB We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son, so that the Son would be the eldest brother in a large family. And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them.
Psalms 63:3 HCSB My lips will glorify You because Your faithful love is better than life.
John 9:3 GNB Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents' sins. He is blind so that God's power might be seen at work in him.
Sometimes the purpose of prayer is to get us out of circumstances, but more often than not, the purpose of prayer is to get us through them. I’m certainly not suggesting we shouldn’t pray deliverance prayers, but there are times we need to pray prevailing prayers. We need to ask God to give us the grace to sustain, the strength to stand firm, and the willpower to keep on keeping on.
There is a big difference between praying away and praying through.
We’re often so anxious to get out of difficult, painful, or challenging situations that we fail to grow through them. We’re so fixated on getting out of them that we don’t get anything out of them. We fail to learn the lessons God is trying to teach us or cultivate the character God is trying to grow in us. We’re so focused on God changing our circumstances that we never allow God to change us! So instead of ten or twenty years of experience, we have one year of experience repeated ten or twenty times.
Sometimes we need to pray “get me out” prayers. But sometimes we need to pray “get me through” prayers. And we need the discernment to know when to pray what.
The Purpose of Prayer: Glorify God
If we’re being completely honest, most of our prayers have as their chief objective our own personal comfort rather than God’s glory. We want to pray away every problem, but those shortsighted prayers would short-circuit God’s perfect plan. There are seasons and situations when we need to simply pray through.
Can our prayers change our circumstances? Absolutely! But when our circumstances don’t change, it’s often an indication that God is trying to change us. The primary purpose of prayer is not to change circumstances; the primary purpose of prayer is to change us! But either way, the chief objective remains the same: to glorify God in any and every situation.
Excerpted with permission from "Draw the Circle" by Mark Batterson, copyright Zondervan.