Prayer tends to be a mysterious part of our Christian life. Recently, one of my sister’s posts for a prayer request elicited a comment asking if prayers are like money. He asked, “If one prayer is good, do more prayers help you buy a miracle? What’s the need to multiple prayers? Shouldn’t one prayer suffice, or are prayers like money where the more you have the better miracle you get granted?”
Perhaps this question taps into an unknown concern we have in seeing answered prayers.
Let’s start by setting the parameters that our God cannot be compared with a genie. He is not sitting in heaven granting wishes to his favored people. We cannot simply rub a lamp and work up a formula to get the things we want. However, God does say that we can taste and see that he is good (Psalms 34:8) and he will grant us the desires of our heart (Psalms 37:4). God cares about his creation, and like a father he wants to see the best in us.
But this grand narrative of God’s love over his people gets interrupted by the great antagonist of human history. When Satan entered this world, and when we followed his deception and broke relationship with our creator, everything changed. The matter of God answering the prayers of his people has more complexities than we can easily touch on in this post.
We cannot boil prayer down to a formula of believe it and receive it, or do anything with prayer to twist God’s arm. Somehow, when we pray our heart meets God’s heart in the middle. Much of prayer is to gain the heart of God or to line our desires up with God’s desires. Prayer draws us closer to God and through the broken moments in our life, we draw God closer to us. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7). When we offer our prayers to God he first responds by sending peace into our life.
What happens, however, when the story of our life needs to be rewritten or edited? How do we deal with pain and suffering or see a miracle? Do we need to pray with more than one person? Part of praying together helps us unify our hearts together, yet there is more to it than that…
God does answer prayers but my story highlights the ongoing mystery of unanswered prayer. The countless times in which people have prayed over me in a multitude of contexts still to wait on the fulfillment of God’s healing touch. 14 years ago, I lost my sight, but still I believe in prayer to change our situation and heal my eyes. Too many times, I have prayed for others to see a miracle.
Jesus’ brother wrote this in James 5: “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
James prescribes prayer to be sprinkled within in all aspects of our life from the spaces of rejoicing to the points of sorrow. However, when we are sick, we call the elders. The elders represent the authority of the church, which is the body of Christ. They anoint the sick person with oil, which represents the presence of the Holy Spirit. When we pray together with faith we affect heaven to listen.
Somehow, we tap into God’s timing and will for our lives through prayer and our faith unlocks the barrier between his desire to act and our openness to receive a miracle. In our rational, intellectual mind, we want to know how this works. In the end, it is a mystery. I know one day God will heal me, and it never hurts to have more people praying and knocking on heaven’s door.
How you have wrestled through the question of corporate prayer?