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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Larsen

The Power of Prayer in Today's Out of Control World

Updated: Apr 24



Do you pray?  If yes, during what occasions do you pray?  I grew up saying prayers at the dinner table to give thanks to God for our meal.  When I was in high school, my church youth worker taught me that prayers can be nearly constant – unspoken thoughts directed to God as we go about our day … “God, help me with this, God, thank you for that, God, I praise you for this.”


Now, I often recognize the need for prayer in the lives of my friends and family.  I keep a list of current prayer requests on my phone so that when I say, “I’ll pray for you,” it’s not just lip action – I actually remember to do it. There’s little to no power in saying “I’ll pray for you” unless you follow through and do it.


But what happens when we pray? Can we expect results? Resolution to our requests? Where do our prayers go?


In the United States we are going through a terrible phase in our history where public shootings have become prevalent.  People attending a concert or a night club or even a church service face the very real possibility that they could be shot down by a rogue gunman who has entered the location. 


Arguably the most tragic of all the mass shootings we’ve seen are those that take place at a school. Children and teachers are in their classrooms, exactly where they’re required to be.  The act of education is going on but outside their doors, a gunman roams the hallways, waiting for the opportunity to terrorize and open fire, ending the treasured lives of so many innocents.


The Washington Post has reported that there have been 394 school shootings since the one that many feel started it all – Columbine High School in 1999.  Further, more than 360,000 children have experienced gun violence in school, resulting in 1676 deaths. 


And worse yet, school shootings are on the rise: the number of school shootings per year doubled from 15 to 30 in 2017, and since 2021 have reached a number in the forties per year! That’s almost one a week!


Random violence against our children is at epidemic proportions. Obviously it’s a high-priority topic for political authorities to tackle.  How to make sure guns are only in hands of people who won’t carry out these ridiculous acts of violence. How to make sure that our schools are safe for our children and educators. How to stop the growing trend of violence in this country.


Unfortunately, like so many other topics we deal with as Americans, this has become a fiercely partisan topic for the opposing political parties to argue about.  And therefore, little is getting done to reverse the trend.


Whenever a new shooting is announced on TV, the reporter usually says, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.” And I am glad because I am praying for those people too. We all should pray for God to encircle their families and provide peace and comfort to all those involved with such a horrible experience.  But as each shooting continues to happen, I’ve been seeing angry responses on social media, “We need more than prayers.  Prayers do nothing.  We need legislative changes.”


And this hurts my heart because although I agree that we need to legislatively reach the solution to this problem, we need to continue to pray about this problem.


What will prayer do?


In the Bible, there are scores of verses that tell us about the power of prayer.  It’s simply not true that “prayers do nothing.”  Prayers work, although very rarely are they an immediate correction.  Let’s take a look at some verses in the Bible that tell us believers what happens when we lift a prayer to God. 


Daniel 9:20 – 23:  While I was praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God – while I was still in prayer, (the angel) Gabriel came to me in swift flight. He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have come to give you insight and understanding.  As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed.”


Word went out among the angels of heaven when Daniel started praying, because he was highly esteemed! Gabriel even visited him on earth to ensure him that his prayers were being heard.  Wow! If we ever have concern that prayers are useless because they’re not being heard, we can seek comfort in this verse.


Let’s look further:


James 5:23 – 26: Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.


James reminds us that just as my high school youth worker taught me, prayer is for all occasions.  Don’t just go to the Lord when you are in trouble and need help. Pray on all occasions!  


That reminds me of the country artist Jelly Roll’s song, Need a Favor:


I only talk to God when I need a favor

And I only pray when I ain't got a prayer

So, who the h*** am I to expect a savior?


James (who was Jesus’s earthly brother, by the way) tells us that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective, so maybe our focus should be on becoming a righteous person so our prayers will be more powerful! 


What else can we find in the Bible about the power of prayer? 


Hebrews 7: 24-25 tells us: Because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.


What this tells me is Jesus is interceding for his followers to the heavenly father when we go to him in prayer. How does this work? Let’s do a quick process map to illustrate: 


We believe in Jesus --> we pray for the desires of our heart --> 

the Son intercedes to the Father on our behalf -->  prayers are answered.


Wow! Think about that the next time we send a prayer skyward!


For those who have slipped into the earthly belief that “prayer does nothing,”

1 John 5:14 offers this assurance:  This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.


Friends, we will see answers to our prayers.  It may not be immediate.  It may not look the way we think it will.  Wouldn’t it be nice if starting tomorrow, the issue of gun violence at our schools is completely wiped out of the nightly news?  Yes, of course it would be.  Would that be an answer to prayer? Yes!  But we need to trust in God that he will answer our prayers in his timing, in his own way and know that it will all work out for good.


The Book of Revelation tells us that in the end of days an angel will offer incense, along with all the prayers of God’s people, on the golden altar in front of God’s throne. I’m sure this powerful section of the Bible will warrant its own The Year I Read the Bible blog (or two) when I reach the end of the New Testament!  But just think of it: the end of the world which has been planned for centuries, an act that takes an entire book of the Bible to describe, incorporates the prayers of believers to make it all happen:


Revelations 8:4: The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.


Your prayers are not wasted. Your prayers are not useless or ineffective. They are important! They matter!  And don’t stop raising them up, even if you don’t see immediate response or correction.  God hears them, Jesus intercedes with God on our behalf, and the angels collect them to be offered up in the prophetic end of times.


Prayer: Father, we thank you for these biblical reminders that what we offer up to you in prayer is important, that it’s not forgotten or dismissed.  You listen and you take action and it’s all part of your plan. We thank you for giving us this important way to communicate with you. Help us to continue to strive to be a righteous person whose prayers are effective and powerful.  Amen.




 

 


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2 Comments


Guest
Apr 24

Laurie, prayer is literally talking with God. The one who is love, created love. I agree with your stand on it, not because it's your opinion, but because you are standing on the word of God.


I especially like the Daniel 9 passage you mention. Verse 23 where Gabriel says, "As soon as you began to pray, a word went out..."


In my experience, this does not mean that the word that went out = answer to prayer, the way I want it, when I want it. But it means the God of the Universe hears me. He's not mean or uncaring. He loves us so much that he gave his son Jesus to pay for our sin. I didn't…


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Laurie Larsen
Laurie Larsen
Apr 24
Replying to

Thank you for such an insightful reply. I love that image of the God of the Universe hearing us. Hallelujah!

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