One of our dear friends shared Conrad Mbewe’s Facebook post (quote in above picture) and wrote the following . . . “I believe God, by His Spirit and Grace ordains our prayers! And I find that encouraging when He allows “painful trials” in this life. May we prayerfully, “barrage” Heaven along with many others who love Aaron-Linda Sturgill.”
I absolutely love when people communicate to us that they are praying for us. A great deal of encouragement comes in knowing that so many care for us and are petitioning God on our behalf.
With that said, I often struggle at moments like this as I consider the purpose and effectiveness of prayer. Some questions that go through my mind . . . What if we didn’t have people praying for us? Would God be less prone to care for Linda if I was the only one praying for her? Is the number of people praying correspond to the weight God gives to that concern?
All of a sudden my mind wanders to the somewhat isolated and persecuted believer in other parts of the world, who may die for the cause of Christ. They are virtually unknown and likely don’t have hundreds of people praying for them – at least not specifically by name. Is God’s care for them less? Does that believer’s prayer find its way to God with as much consideration and care as ours?
In the context of these questions, the passage from James comes to my mind.
James 5:16 (ESV) 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.
There are a few simple principles that can be drawn from this passage.
(1) Prayer actually does change things. I realize some of my dear seminary grad and pastor friends all of a sudden want to get into a debate over God’s sovereignty and it’s implications on prayer . . . and we get into an argument over how the middle foreknowledge view of God can answer all our questions about prayer. Let’s not go there . . . let’s just simply accept the fact that prayer changes things. Exactly how that works, I’m not sure. Did God in His sovereignty not only know when I would pray but as well direct in my life in such a way as to lead me to those prayers? I’m not sure, and for all practical purposes . . . this afternoon I don’t really need to understand that.
(2) The prayer of righteous people changes things. This promise is not extended to just anyone; it is extended to only those who are characterized by righteousness. Since this isn’t a message (you’re probably beginning to disagree with me on that) or a seminary paper, I don’t feel the need to thoroughly argue my point here . . . suffice it to say . . . For prayer to be effective, you must not only be covered by the righteousness of Christ through salvation, you must also be striving towards practical righteousness in your life.
(3) This promise is made in reference to an individual not a group of people. It is this point that finds particular relevance to my questions today. The prayer of a righteous individual changes much, therefore an individual believers’ prayers find as much hearing with God as do thousands of believers on behalf of one.
What then is the value of having so many people praying for you? If the effectiveness of your prayer to God is not increased by more people praying, why share your needs with anyone at all? Of course we ought to pray for one another because Scripture commands it, but why might scripture command it?
Consider . . . God desires more people to be involved with intercessory prayer, not because he wouldn’t listen otherwise, but because He is more glorified as he answers.
Specifically in the case of Linda, if Linda and I were the only one’s praying for her health, we would as well be the only ones praising God as he cared for her. On the other hand, as more and more people pray for Linda, more and more people will be directed to praise God as He sovereignly cares for her. While the potential effectiveness of our combined prayers may not increase, the increased praise of God for answered prayers most certainly increases.
Since it is our goal to glorify God and draw others into experiencing God’s glory, then we want as many people praying for us as possible. Since we have every confidence that whatever God chooses is good, we move forward with every expectation of praising Him along with all of you.