Sunday, November 20, 2005

Prayer Works

My youngest son, Paul, just had surgery Saturday. We have a large church full of faithful prayer warriors as well as extended friends and family who are praying Christians. We aren't shy about asking people to intercede in prayer on our behalf. Needless to say, many people were praying for him, for us, for the surgeon...

Paul was born with an extreme case of urinary reflux. The scale for rating severity of reflux is from 1 to 5 with 5 being the worst. Reflux in each ureter is categorized separately. Paul was rated to have a 5 in his left side and a 4 in his right side. After a couple of years of treatment and testing, scarring was noticed and a bilateral ureter resection and re-implantation was prescribed. Immediately before the surgery, the doctor indicated that the level of his condition made him an exceptional case, but that the procedure had a 95% chance of correcting the problem. He predicted the surgery to last two hours or more. After a little more than an hour he came out and indicated that the surgery not only went well, it went extremely well and that he wished all the surgeries he did of this sort went this well. He also bumped his prediction of success up to 99%.

Prayer works!

But this statement opens up a couple of questions. Could great results happen without anyone praying? I believe so. Could bad results happen with many people praying? Sure. Why, then, do I presume that when I have much prayer and great results that the praying caused the great results? Actually, I don't. Bowing my head or knees, laying prostrate on the floor, folding my hands, standing with my hands up or crossed behind my back or in front of me... combining any physical position you can imagine as being associated with prayer and causing my brain cells to fire off in an odd way doesn't cause anything (except sore knees or cramped muscles after extended periods). Only God causes the end result.

Prayer then, is not me acting in my own power affecting my own ends for my own purposes. Prayer should never glorify the one praying. Prayer should only glorify God because prayer is the self-abasement of the one praying in acknowledgement of the power of God. If the God to whom one prays is not the God who created everything (i.e. a false god), then the prayer is effective only in blinding the one praying to the only God who really has the power to do anything because it causes him to further warm to the idea that the false god to whom he prays is the true god. Therefore, whether great results happen or poor results happen, I will glorify God. This is why I say that prayer works. I give God the glory and offer thanks for what He does no matter what happens. In so doing, my prayer continues.

What if we pray to a false god and give the false god glory no matter what happens? What is the difference between doing this and praying to the true God of creation? The primary difference is simply that in one we pray to a false God and in the other we pray to the true God. How can we know the difference? The misunderstanding in all this is thinking that prayer should have in itself an apologetic for the true God, meaning that we have reason in the prayer itself to know anything about God. Prayer is not apologetical. Prayer is the result of an apologetic. Effective prayer begins with knowledge of God; it doesn't necessarily result in knowledge of God. We do not begin prayer to a false god and end up praying to the true God at the end. If anything changes, we begin by acknowledging the God (or god) to whom we pray and end up more strongly conformed to Him. This is why corporate prayer is good. If we follow the prayers of one who is spiritually mature, we can receive a measure of spiritual maturity in the words with which he addresses God.

So what do we make of intercessory prayer? As far as that goes, why pray for anything? If the purpose of prayer is the spiritual formation of the one praying, then what good is it to pray for tangible results? However, even Jesus asked the Father for tangible results. The answer is that when we pray to the true God, He has the power to actually affect things, whether He changes our hearts to motivate us to create the results we desire or He does it Himself. The Arminian would say that God reacts to our praying. That places the onus of the results on the one praying. Therefore, should we not receive some glory for having worked on behalf of the results? The Calvinist would acknowledge that not only has God has ordained the results, but even our praying was ordained. Therefore, God should receive all the glory.

Therefore, God uses intercessory prayer to glorify Himself through the testimony of His church. What would God do if none pray? Would the results be different? For example, if no one were to have prayed for my son's surgery, would we have had bad results? A more extreme example: what if a man of God meets one possessed by a demon and calls on the privileged power of God to cast the demon out. He does so through prayer. If he had not done this, would God have removed the demon without the effective prayer? God created the world not only at the beginning of time, but He also created the world through the end of time. That means He created every event in between. To say "what if" begs the question that other events are possible than what God has created or ordained. The fact is, people prayed and we had great results. This was a fact before it even happened. And God is faithful to have made it happen this way. As for the demonic possession, if God wants to cast a demon out, he will send a man of God to do the work and give His power to make it happen, because this is consistent to demonstrate the glory of God.

No matter what happens, God is faithful and He will be glorified. This is the purpose of prayer. God should be thanked and glorified for whatever results He provides. If the results had been horribly different - if my son had gone to sleep in pre-op and died on the operating table never to awaken in this world again - I would stand today comforted by a heavenly Father who once lost His Son and I would glorify Him in the midst of tremendous sorrow.

To God be the glory.


Anonymous Mark Pemberton said...

Oh how I concur. There are numerous Scripture references regarding prayer and God's promise to hear our prayers. Such as Matt 21:22. Here's a link to the Assurance of Answered Prayer by Charles Stanley. It's part of a study, but the point is made clearly.

On a side note, I do want to mention that the Holy Spirit faithfully intercedes for us. Rom 8:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don't know what (or how) to pray for. We lift our prayers with a sincere heart and the Holy Spirt interprets our prayer and intercedes with God for us. That is, according to His will, not ours.
There's Power in Prayer!

Tue Nov 22, 01:32:00 PM GMT-5  

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