Maybe I’m the only one who has thought this way, but I sometimes wondered why we pray. Why I needed to tell an all-knowing God, what he already knows? Especially, when combined with the idea that God is in control and that He is all-powerful. So why do I have to tell Him what He already knows, is already in control of and has the power to do something about? Why do I have to plead with Him to be merciful? Is He not by His very nature merciful?
So then I asked myself, what does the Bible tell us about prayer? First, it says that we should do it. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “Pray without ceasing.” But we’re also told there is no need for us to continually babble on like pagans who think they’ll be heard by virtue of their many words (Matthew 6:7). Second, it tells us to check our motives when we pray (James 4:3) and not to do it just to be seen by others and look spiritual (Matthew 6:5). Third, we are told to have confidence when we pray, because God will give us what we ask, when we ask according to his will (1 John 5:14). Fourth, we are told to pray for provision (Luke 11:2), healing (James 5:15), wisdom (James 1:5) and even for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). And lastly, whenever we pray we are to do it with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). But have you ever wondered why we are instructed to pray?
So, what is prayer exactly? Is it talking to God like we were told when we were children? Yes, in some ways. God is relational and prayer is part of how we interact in relationship with Him, but prayer must be more than about informing Him about situations that He obviously already knows about. Will God not move until we ask Him to? He tells us that He is a good Father who gives good gifts to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11). Also, we are told that we do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2). So, we can see that there is an expectation that we ask for what we need in prayer. But we are also told that God knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8). And, Ephesians 3:20 says that He is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, so there must be an element beyond just our asking. Sometimes we don’t even know what to ask for, but we are assured that He even understands our groaning (Romans 8:26).
Is prayer a collaboration or a partnership with God? Is prayer a way of inviting God into situations? I would agree with that idea. But we have to conclude then, that even if God has the ability to control our world that He chooses not to and waits for an invitation to move.
But is prayer only a conversation, a relationship, or a partnership?
I believe prayer has to be so much more than that. For example, in Ephesians 6:12 we’re told, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” How do we engage in this struggle? Through prayer.
There has to be a spiritual principle in prayer that entails more than pleading with God to act on behalf of a situation. I believe that principle can be found in the story of Adam and Eve. Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” God appointed man to “rule over” the earth. Some translations say “to have dominion over” the earth. God’s original design was that we would be in charge of our world. Now, we know that Adam and Eve messed up and sinned, but did they give up their dominion? Some would say the authority they had was in some measure given up to the deceiver, Satan, through their sin. Let’s follow that thought for a moment.
That brings me to another question. If Adam and Eve gave up some measure of their authority to Satan, does he still have it or was it taken away from him through Jesus’s death and resurrection? 2 Timothy 1:10 tells us that Jesus broke the power of sin and death. Revelation 1:18 says that He is the one who holds the keys to death and hell. It seems apparent that He took back the authority, but what did He do with it?
Daniel 7:27 tells of the coming of the Messiah and that his kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, but look who the dominion of the earth is given back to. It says, “Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.” Through His death and resurrection, Jesus took back the authority over this world and He gave it to us.
Matthew 16:19 says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Wow. It sure sounds like we’ve been given authority. Luke 9:1-2 says, “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Proverbs 18:21 tells us that the tongue has the power of life and death. When we pray we activate that power.
Authority, dominion, ruling over the earth. Prayer is not cajoling a reluctant God to pay attention to our world. It is not merely a conversation or part of our relationship with God. Prayer is not just a partnership. No, prayer is exercising spiritual authority. Prayer is releasing life and hope. So, let us be encouraged to exercise that authority and pray.
Written by: Sharon Letson