It is easy to lose hope in prayer when we don’t feel as if our prayers matter. We wonder if they are even being heard; we wonder if we are praying correctly. We wonder if we are hindering our own prayers somehow. There could be temptations to throw up our hands and think, “Why bother?”
James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Do your prayers seem powerful and effective? In this two-part series, we will explore why our prayers are not as productive or powerful as we would like and what can be done about it.
Reason #1: We don’t think we can change God’s mind.
We may think to ourselves, “God is sovereign. He already knows the outcome, so why bother with prayer?”
However, in Joshua chapter 10, we see an extraordinary case of God listening to a man’s prayers. The Israelites were in a battle against five kings and their armies. Joshua prayed and asked God for more time to finish the battle.
God answered that prayer by making the sun stand still in the sky. The Bible does not say, “This is what God was going to do anyway, whether Joshua prayed or not.” Joshua 10:14 says, “… that was a day when the LORD listened to a man.”
Or how about Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1-6? Here we read of another account where God listened to a man and changed His pronouncement of death. The prophet Isaiah told Hezekiah to get his affairs in order, as he would soon die. Hezekiah prayed and wept and God heard his prayers and added 15 years to his life.
There is no possible way to read these accounts honestly and come away with any other conclusion than these things happened because of prayer. The reason the sun stood still and the reason years were added to King Hezekiah’s life were because of prayer.
Reason #2: We are losing hope.
When we pray for a long time without seeing results, the temptation comes to give up praying at all. We think, Why keep praying. This person seems to be slipping backward, this person is still dealing with this sickness; this area of my life is getting worse.
George Müller was a man who did not lose hope. Even on his deathbed, he was praying. George Muller lived in the 1800s as a Christian evangelist and director of five orphanages housing 10,000 children.
He is famous for how often God answered his prayers. Shortly before he died in 1898, Arthur Pierson asked him, “Have you ever had a prayer which wasn’t answered?” Mueller said, “Yes, there are two men I’ve prayed for 62 years and they still aren’t saved.” Pierson asked, “Do you still expect God to convert them?” And Mueller said, “Do you suppose God would put upon his child for 62 years the burden of two souls if He had not purposed their salvation? I shall certainly meet them in Heaven.” George Mueller died and eventually, both those men came to faith in Christ. He knew God had laid that on his heart, and so even on his deathbed after 62 years of praying, he had no doubt.
I find hope for my current prayers when I think of the journey of prayer I had for my father. I prayed for him to trust Christ for 16 heart-wrenching years. Many days it seemed there was no use praying. He would argue with me about faith in Christ, he would slip backward into bad habits, and he would seem completely uninterested. Only a few times over the 16 years did I see even a glimpse of hope. And even though it seemed so hopeless, I could not imagine living for eternity without him, so I kept praying.
I clung to Jesus’ teaching in Luke 18:1, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”
God was at work each of those 16 years in ways I could not see. God orchestrated circumstances beyond my control for my dad and my dear stepmother to both bend their knees to Christ when he was 50. To see them place their faith in Christ and be baptized is forever etched in my mind.
Don’t Give Up Praying
My father allows me to tell his story if I promise to always tell people not to give up hope and to keep praying for those in their family who need Christ. He has said, “Lori, while you are not the one who actually led me to Christ, I thank you for always praying and not giving up.”
Be encouraged! Your prayers matter and God hears them! Our loving Heavenly Father is working in ways we cannot see, so don’t give up. I love thinking of my prayers like oil greasing the hinges of an old rusty door. In my mind I see my prayers oiling those rusty hinges over and over until the day the door swings open and God’s answer rushes in!
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