The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Scientific research among people facing serious illness or surgery suggests that prayer increases the likelihood of success. While some such studies could be explained away as psycho-somatic phenomena, there are studies in which the prayer of others improved a patient’s odds of recovery. Logically, a God who is almighty and all-knowing, and who loves the people he created, would answer prayer. God isn’t impressed by these studies, so why would we be convinced of anything new because of them?
The reason to believe that prayer makes a difference is that the Bible says it does. Praying in Jesus’ name is what Christians do. Jesus has made us God’s children by taking away the sin that alienates people from God. For Jesus’ sake we can come to God with the confidence of children who know their Father loves them. Christians believe and know God’s love because it was demonstrated in the life of Jesus and in the horrible death he suffered to atone for our wrongs. Jesus, as God in human flesh, was the answer to prayers, miraculously. Prayer made a difference in the life of every wounded sinner Jesus healed.
The apostle James uses an example from Old Testament history to encourage bold prayer. He writes: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain.” (James 5:16-18)
Not every religious request is a prayer, of course. Faith in Jesus and trust in God’s promises are a pre-requisite of prayer. Christians add “If God wills it” to their petitions because they want God to over-rule requests that would not be in their best interest or to give them something better than what they asked for. That, of course, is what any loving father would do.
When his disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he began the Lord’s Prayer with: “Our Father in heaven.” That’s the whole story. God is our dear Father for Jesus’ sake, so he loves to answer prayer. Prayer makes a difference.
Dear God, lead us to come to you in prayer, trusting that you love us and know what is best. Amen.
In Preparation for Worship: