From time to time, I see on Facebook people requesting prayer. I understand and appreciate the sincerity of the requester and those responding that they are praying, but whenever I see people respond that they are praying, I cannot help but wonder about the confidence level they have in what they are praying concerning the situation.
Prayer today, as it is typically taught in most churches and practiced by many, just doesn’t work. Having a 50/50 chance of praying correctly about something, like a surgery, is not having true confidence. Within this typical approach to prayer, there are two types of responses to what actually occurs in the given situation. First, if the outcome is what is actually prayed (hoped) for (a person’s personal desired outcome to the situation), then the response is, “God answers prayer.” Second, if the outcome is the opposite of what is actually prayed (hoped) for, then the response is, “God answered no.”
The problem with this approach to prayer is that it is, for all intents and purposes, not much different than a young child in the store with a parent begging that parent to buy him/her some candy. Biblically, it is not much different than what the 450 prophets of Ba’al did on Mt. Carmel when they went up against the prophet Elijah. (1 Kings 18) All morning and throughout the afternoon, all the way up to the time of the evening sacrifce, those 450 prophets prayed, begged Ba’al to consume the bull that had been laid upon the altar. Nothing happened; their prayer was not answered. Just like what typically happens now, they could have said, “Well, Ba’al answered, ‘No,'” when the outcome was different than what they were praying.
Elijah had no problem with confidence with what he was going to pray. He knew what God wanted to do to prove Himself as the true God. And so, in contrast to the prophets of Ba’al, he prayed it once and the fire of God rained down and consumed not only the sacrifice, but also the altar and the water that had poured on it. The people who witnessed this had no problem believing in the power of God.
Unfortunately, talking about the power of prayer or saying, “Prayer works,” in connection with the typical model to prayer is a joke. It may sound harsh, but it truly is. Where’s the power when, because of not being confident of the outcome God wants, a person prays hedging his/her bets by being prepared with the first or second response depending upon what happens? There is no true power.
Jesus said in Matthew 21:22, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, BELIEVING, you will receive.” Was Jesus lying? Because in today’s typical model of prayer, people are taught to receive a “No” answer from God. How does being taught to expect a “No” answer jive with Jesus’ words? (BTW, that’s a rhetorical question.)
Believing and confidence have a direct and strong connection with actually receiving from God. James the Apostle, in the first chapter of his epistle says that a person who asks God for wisdom must “ask in faith, doubting nothing, for he who doubts is like the surge of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed about. For that man must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
When is there true confidence in what is being prayed? When the prayer is characterized by what John the Apostle said in his first epistle in the fifth chapter, verses 14-15: “And this is the confidence/boldness which we have toward Him that whatever we should ask according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us whatever we should ask, we know that we have the requests which we asked from Him.”
When you know that what you are praying is what God wants to do, therein is absolute confidence. There is no need for a fall-back position of “Well, God must have said no because nothing or the opposite of what I prayed happened.” There is no need to end a request with the catch-all of “Your will be done” because, in that context, it is an additional hedging of one’s “bets.”
I realize I’m probably rattling some cages, but teaching people that when something bad happens, prayer must begin immediately, is actually teaching people to pray at some level of unbelief. I realize and appreciate that this model of prayer seems reasonable and even righteous because it is done out of concern, care, and compassion, but on a deeper level, it actually hinders the power of God to work on our behalf, for when a person prays too soon, that person usually prays in unbelief. S/he is actually praying out of the shock or trauma of the situation itself or out of panic, worry, anxiety, or concern.
Have you ever had people in the world scoff at statements like “prayer works” or “the power of prayer?” That’s because they have typically witnessed that the prayers of people are void of any real power and confidence, as evidenced by being prepared with one of the two appropriate responses depending upon the outcome.
There is a model of prayer in which the power of God is truly demonstrated. There is a model of prayer that has an extremely high level of confidence attached to it. It is based upon using prayer to pray God’s will, not as a means to find it. And according to John the Apostle, when we actually pray God’s will, there is extreme power and confidence because we know that He hears and does what we have asked.
If you want to learn more about this model of prayer, I’d encourage you to purchase this e-book, “Crafted Prayer,” written by my mentor Graham Cooke. It’s only $5. https://www.brilliantbookhouse.com/crafted-prayer-1.html