Prayer is one of my biggest battles. My flesh often fights against a spiritual desire to pray. And I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because my prayers make a difference.
I recently spoke with two individuals going through tremendous difficulty. And they convinced me of something. Both of them are much older than me. More experienced in this thing called life. And here I am, a young preacher, learning to grapple with empathy.
How am I supposed to speak into that level of pain? I mean, I don’t know what it’s like to be in their shoes. But I’m called to be present in their situations.
With little to say, I responded with the same four words to both people. I said, “We’re praying for you.” And I meant it. Both times.
It was their response to my four words that left me surprised. Each person responded with heartfelt gratitude. Both of them alluded to the heavy value they place on prayer. Both of them appeared to see prayer as their greatest hope. And in both of their responses, I saw each one plead, “I’m counting on your prayers.”
They left this young man amazed. Neither of them seemed to expect a better response to their heartache. Instead, they recognized the incredible power of prayer.
I’ve prayed my entire life. As a child, I prayed the classic “God is great, God is good” prayer. As a student in a Christian school, I prayed a Latin prayer. As a student in a Christian college, I prayed a Hebrew prayer. And I still pray. Each and every day. But not nearly enough. Or, at least not intentional enough.
The Bible says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16 ESV).
I’m convinced that someone, somewhere is counting on your prayers. Why? Because they make a difference. That’s my message. God wants you to pray like someone is counting on your prayers. But allow me to expand on this thought for a moment.
Jesus shares a story with His disciples. “And he said to them, ‘Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him”; and he will answer from within, “Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything”’” (Luke 11:5-7 ESV).
In this story, the guy in bed represents God. The guy beating on the door represents me and you. And the guy waiting for bread represents the people we’re praying for.
While people are counting on our prayers, the full burden doesn’t rest on us. In Luke 11, the only one able to provide the answer is the one behind the closed door. We can “knock” all we want, but the one behind the door still chooses whether to answer or not. And remember, the one behind the door represents God. But your knocking—your praying—does make a difference.
Jesus continues, “‘I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened’” (v. 8-10 ESV).
Someone, somewhere is counting on your prayers. Not because the ultimate answer depends on you. After all, God is the giver of every good and perfect gift (see James 1:17). But as disciples of Jesus, we have a part to play. We have a God who listens to our prayers.
With that being said, pray like someone is counting on your prayers. They hold more power than you think. They make a bigger difference than you think. Then, trust the Giver of good gifts to answer according to His will.