Prayer is important, it makes a difference, it does things that nothing else can. However, if after spending several hours in your place of prayer you expect the world to be completely transformed as soon as you say amen, you may be disappointed. Does prayer do any good? Does spending time in prayer accomplish anything? The answer is yes, it does as much good as prayer can do. When you pray effectual, fervent prayers they make a difference.
Prayer does what prayer can do, whether it’s your prayers or my prayers. As long as we pray scripturally, in Jesus’ name, our prayers do a lot of good. Paul’s prayers for the church must have made a difference or surely he wouldn’t have spent so much time praying and talking about prayer. Jesus prayed for the disciples, they must have benefitted from those prayers or Jesus wouldn’t have wasted His time. Prayer makes a difference!
Prayer does however, have boundaries. It can’t do everything and it’s not supposed to do everything, but it does accomplish things that nothing else can. It is easy to become frustrated and disappointed when trying to get prayer to do things that it cannot do by itself. People who think that prayer can do everything, all the time, no matter what, have unrealistic expectations. When these expectations are not met they can become discouraged and some have given up on prayer altogether. Just remember, prayer does as much good as prayer can do. James said that your prayers and my prayers avail much!
The subject of prayer is almost as big as God Himself and I don’t pretend to know all there is to know about it, I’m just a beginner. So this teaching is only designed to help you in your prayer life, to point out that even prayer has boundaries and maybe save you some time or the frustration of trying to get prayer to do something that it cannot do.
For example, you cannot pray for anything under the sun. Some things are just not scriptural, some things are illegal or immoral. However, you can pray “about” anything and you can pray “always,” so in that sense prayer has no boundaries. There is also no limit to how much you can worship and praise God. We need to be aware that there are some things that only prayer can do and there are some things that prayer alone cannot do, especially when it comes to praying for other people.
Let’s look at some things that prayer CANNOT do:
1. It can’t override another person’s will.
God respects man’s free will and prayer cannot be used to control the actions of another person any more than God exerts His power to control people. There is a difference between control and influence. Our prayers certainly allow God to influence people or move on them and open their eyes, but ultimately man has the right to choose his own destiny.
2. Prayer cannot force someone to be saved.
3. Prayer cannot change every situation instantly or fix every problem regardless of what it is.
Prayer is not a magic wand that we wave to change things. Some situations are caused because natural or spiritual laws have been violated. Prayer does not always supercede natural laws, especially when it’s within a person’s ability to obey them. If someone refuses to drink liquids for days and days they will eventually die. All the prayer in the world will not save them. If someone jumps out of an airplane with no parachute they will die, with or without prayer, unless the plane is on the ground. Prayer does not allow people to do whatever they feel like doing and get away with it. There are laws that everyone has to obey or they will suffer the consequences.
4. Prayer does not change God’s will or make Him more willing to do something that is not His will.
He changes not. Prayer is partnership with God. It is releasing God to do His will in the earth. 1John 5:14-15 “…If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know He hears us whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions He that we have asked of Him.”
5. It’s a waste of time to pray for things you already have.
You already have righteousness if you’re a Christian. You don’t have to pray for it. You have victory, healing, authority… Asking God to do something He’s already done is frustrating.
6. You don’t need to ask God to do something about the enemy.
Satan is already defeated and you have authority over him. Nowhere in the new testament do we see believers praying that God would do something about the Devil. He has given authority to the church. We don’t have to pray for it we just need to exercise it. The bible says believers are to resist the devil, cast out devils, give no place to the devil…It never says pray about the enemy, that would be a waste of time.
7. Faithless prayers do not work.
James 1:7 says this about the man who prays, “Let not that man (who prays in unbelief) suppose that he shall receive anything from the Lord.”
8. Prayer does not override disobedience.
Sometimes people are praying for a financial miracle and the reason they are in trouble is because they are not doing what they’re supposed to do. If you’re in the wrong place or doing something other than what God has told you to do, that can create problems in many areas, finances included. What is needed in this situation is obedience, not just money or prayers for more money.
The truth is, God has already provided everything we need through redemption. If everyone on earth always acted on the Word of God instantly when they heard it, there would be very little need to pray for other people. We could just preach the Word and as soon as anyone heard it they would receive what God had provided. However, it’s a little more complex than that. People don’t always instantly act on the Word and they suffer through life without enjoying the blessings of God. What else can we do? Do we just wait until they wise up and realize we were right? No, we can pray. As I have studied the prayers in the new testament, it seems that they were used primarily to influence people to get them into position to receive what God had already provided or to do what God was calling them to do.
Now let’s look at some things prayer for others CAN do:
1. Prayers for others can release God’s Spirit to open the eyes of their understanding, so when they hear the Word it becomes a revelation to their spirit.
Eph 4:18 says of the unsaved, “having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” Preaching the Word alone may not impact these people because of their blindness, but prayer can be offered and God can then open their eyes in a way that He might not have been able to before prayer was made.
Paul prayed this way for Christians in Eph 1:17-18, “that God…may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, that the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know…” This prayer must have made a difference or Paul wouldn’t have taken the time to pray. If it made difference for them it will still make a difference for us today. It seems redundant to ask God to save people after all He has done to provide salvation for the world, but we can ask God to help people see the truth when they hear it. Getting people to see what God has already done for them is probably the greatest need in the world today.
2. Prayer can make wisdom available so people can walk in the will of God and be fruitful.
Paul prayed for the Colossians in Col 1:9-10 “that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work…”
3. Prayer can enable people to do “all” the will of God.
“Epaphras who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” (Col 4:12) It must be possible to only do a part of God’s will. Prayer must allow God to do more to help people who are serving Him than He could otherwise. We should pray for those among us who have assignments from God that they complete their mission for the kingdom. Some may not succeed without the prayers of the saints.
4. Prayer can cause the ministry gifts to be more effective.
If they are more effective with prayer then they can be less effective without it. Paul asked for prayer in Col 4:3-4: “Praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”
5. Prayer can deliver people from ungodly situations.
“Pray for us…that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men…” (2Thess 3:1-2)
6. Prayer can influence the leaders and rulers of nations and affect the way they govern.
Read 1 Tim 2:1.
7. Prayer can make us more sensitive to the needs of others and help us see the world through God’s eyes.
Does prayer do any good? The bible says, “The effective, fervent prayers of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16) We can become partners with God through prayer and release Him to influence people and nations. The world is a better place when you pray!
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