Would It Happen Anyway? Does Prayer Make A Difference?
A micro-church movement I follow, The KC Underground, has been recently teaching that a body of believers (the church) can only grow through deliberate intentional prayer and fasting. They express this teaching with the phrase, "We can only go so far and as fast as we can on our knees."
Does praying for people to receive Jesus as Savior, for people to join together for worship, and for the Holy Spirit to pour out gifts upon the people of the church really make a difference?
For that matter, does praying for healing, direction, and provision really make a difference?
C.S. Lewis has some thoughts that I read recently and that I share with you now:
He writes, "Some years ago I got up one morning intending to have my hair cut in preparation for a visit to London, and the first letter I opened made it clear I need not go to London. So I decided to put the haircut off too. But then there began the most unaccountable little nagging in my mind, almost a voice saying, 'Get it cut all the same. Go and get it cut.' In the end I could stand it no longer. I went. Now my barber at that time was a fellow Christian and a man of many troubles whom my brother and I had sometimes been able to help. The moment I opened his shop door he said, 'Oh, I was praying you might come today.' And, in fact, if I had come a day or so later, I should have been of no use to him.
It awed me; it awes me still. But, of course, one cannot rigorously prove a causal connection between the barber's prayers and my visit. It might be telepathy. It might be accident.
I have stood by the bedside of a woman whose thighbone was eaten through with cancer and who had thriving colonies of the disease in many other bones as well. It took three people to move her in bed. The doctors predicted a few months of life; the nurses (who often know better), a few weeks. A good man laid his hands on her and prayed. A year later the patient was walking (uphill, too, through rough woodland) and the man who took the last X-ray photos was saying, 'These bones are as solid as rock. It's miraculous.'
But once again there is no rigorous proof. Medicine, as all true doctors admit, is not an exact science. We need not invoke the supernatural to explain the falsification of its prophecies. You need not, unless you choose, believe in a causal connection between the prayers and the recovery.
The question then arises, 'What sort of evidence would prove the efficacy of prayer?' The thing we pray for may happen, but how can you ever know it was not going to happen anyway? Even if the thing were indisputably miraculous, it would not follow that the miracle had occurred because of your prayers. The answer surely is that a compulsive empirical proof such as we have in the sciences can never be attained.
Some things are proved by the unbroken uniformity of our experiences. The law of gravitation is established by the fact that, in our experience, all bodies without exception obey it. Now even if all the things that people prayed for happened, which they do not, this would not prove what Christians mean by the efficacy of prayer. For prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted." -From The World's Last Night by C.S. Lewis
I choose to believe in a causal connection between prayer and the miraculous movement of God. Prayer is making a request of God and in no way forcing God to do anything. The good news is that God encourages us to ask. God answers requests. The challenge, I think, is in responding to the little nagging that comes from God. Mr. Lewis, by responding to the little nagging in his mind, became an answer to prayer for his barber. The good man who laid his hand on the woman and prayed was, I think, responding to God's leading.
Respond to the "little naggings" of God and see what God does in you and through you. Let's do this as we gather for worship as the body of Christ and see what God does in and through the church. "We can only go so far and as fast as we can on our knees."
Praying for you and with you,
Matthew 7:7-11 (NIV)
Jesus said: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"