The Transformational Power of Prayer
Have you ever wrestled over whether prayer is important? Praying is something few Christians feel successful at. I am convinced that we don’t pray because we aren’t convinced prayer really matters. But the fact is that we are simply wrong.
There is a story from the tenth chapter in the book of Daniel where Daniel fasts and prays for 21 days. During this time an angel comes from Heaven to answer Daniel’s prayer. As the angel is traveling, he encounters a demon who tries to block him like an NFL lineman from hell. Eventually, God sends another angel to break the demonic defense and the angel makes it through. So, what does this have to do with prayer?
By praying, Daniel was actually caught up in supernatural warfare. The angel tells Daniel, “I have come because of your words.” Daniel’s words in prayer mattered so much that it caused a spiritual battle in heaven?! Then, he prayed for 21 days, and at last the prayer was effective and the answer arrived. Daniel's prayer was part of the battle and the breakthrough. What does this wild story mean for us today? It means that when believers pray, it matters.
3 Reasons Prayer matters.
1. Prayer changes us.
In another prayer (chapter 9), Daniel was praying, fasting, confessing sin, and ultimately: changing. Prayer changes us. We all want to live changed-lives. Very few of us want to work for it. But God has sovereignly designed the Christian’s growth to be one they must strive for (Philippians 2:12-13). Few things are as effective at changing us as prayer. Why?
Prayer is the acknowledgment of our dependency upon someone greater than ourselves (Daniel 9:3-5). Prayer begins at the end of ourselves. Prayer is saying “God, I need you” in a world that says “I need no one”. It’s saying “God you’re the boss” in a world that says “I’m a boss.”
As we grow in prayer, we grow in greater dependence upon God. While this is an assault on our autonomy, it is the way of the kingdom of Jesus (Matthew 20:16). If we want to truly change, we must realize that we will change in direct proportion to our effort in prayer. Prayer is God's tool to shape believers into the shape of Jesus. A key measure of God’s work in your life is the amount of time you spend praying.
So how is it going?
2. Prayers pushes people toward breakthrough.
When we pray we’re engaging in the battle. Daniel’s prayer for God’s people launched him into a spiritual battlefield (Daniel 10:12-14). That’s true of us as well. As we pray for others than ourselves, we engage in a conflict beyond ourselves; the conflict between light and darkness. Yes, in part, the purpose of prayer is for us, but it also takes us farther than us. As God's moves in our lives, he moves us into the work of God for others. Prayer is one such work.
We should be praying for others to experience breakthrough: freedom from addiction, freedom from depression, greater depth in following Jesus, growth as a parent, the list could go on. There are even times that Jesus said that our prayer is actually the only vehicle by which some people will ever experience healing and breakthrough (Mark 9:14-29).
Have you ever caught yourself wondering why someone is still struggling in a certain area? What if Jesus were to tell you that it is because you have not prayed? Biblically, it is possible. We must enter the battle and push others toward breakthrough in prayer.
Some of us need to get off our behinds, get on our knees, and get in the battle.
3. Prayer could transform our city.
This statement should send chills down your spine. The Church's mission is to advance God's Kingdom in every city on earth (Acts 1:8). The mission demands prayer. Prayer is God's means to shove back darkness in our city and flood its streets with light (Ephesians 6:18-20). You can't win cities without prayer.
Daniel Prayed to see the city of God restored (Daniel 9:18). Rise City Church exists to saturate our city, Gresham, with the Gospel of King Jesus. But without prayer we will fail. Prayer is an utterly essential instrument in advancing the Gospel.
One preacher said it well, “Praying men and women are a necessity in carrying out God’s plan to save men and women.” The book of Acts verifies this truth. As you follow its pages, nearly every movement of God in the cities of Rome was initiated by prayer (Acts 3:1, 4:23-31, 6:1-4, 10:1-43, 13:2, 16:13-40).
BUT, you're tasking, "Won't God sovereignly get his will done without our prayers?" No. The two are not in conflict. God sovereignly chooses to get kingdom work done through people who pray. (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)
If God answered all the prayers you asked of Him this week, would our city be any different? Pray for our city. Pray for Gresham. Allow the Holy Spirit to turn our city upside-down in the same way Daniel did, Jesus did, and even the early Church did: by praying. (Daniel 9:18, Luke 5:16, Acts 17:6-7)