Does prayer make any difference? Absolutely! And prayer makes a difference because the living God, the Holy Spirit, lives inside the one praying.
Further, when God's people get together and pray as a community, amazing things happen!
I'm sure you've seen plenty of those before-and-after photos advertising the latest weight-loss and fitness program. The Bible gives us a pretty neat before-and-after picture of the early church. Before the Holy Spirit empowered the church at Pentecost, the apostles are waiting, hiding and hoping. And they were praying.
Then Pentecost occurred. The fire fell. The Spirit empowered. And things began to happen. Thousands were saved and added to the church. Miracles occurred. Healing took place. The impact was so tangible the church leaders start getting in trouble for bringing attention to the crime of the unfair crucifixion of Jesus. Peter and John healed a crippled man at one of the temple gates and it landed them in jail where they took a beating and were sternly warned not to speak anymore in the name of Jesus.
Upon their release, instead of cowering away in fear, the Bible says this:
"On being released, they went to their own people and reported what the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they lifted their voices in unity to God and prayed, 'Lord, You are God, who has made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, and who by the mouth of Your servant David said: "Why did the nations rage, and the people devise vain things? The kings of the earth came, and the rulers were assembled together against the Lord and against His Christ." Indeed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were assembled together against Your holy Son Jesus whom You have anointed, to do what Your hand and Your counsel had foreordained to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats and grant that Your servants may speak Your word with great boldness, by stretching out Your hand to heal and that signs and wonders may be performed in the name of Your holy Son Jesus'" (Acts 4:23-30, MEV).
So they ran back to the church and instead of figuring out a way to hide in the shadows, they prayed—for boldness. Did it work? The Bible continues:
"When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. All the believers were of one heart and one soul, and no one said that what he possessed was his own. But to them all things were in common. With great power the apostles testified to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on them all. There was no one among them who lacked, for all those who were owners of land or houses sold them, and brought the income from what was sold, and placed it at the apostles' feet. And it was distributed to each according to his need" (Acts 4:31-35).
Note that key phrase, "When they had prayed."
And six things happen. I believe these same six things happen when God's people pray in concert together before God. When we cry out for boldness, for courage, for empowerment. When we refuse to cower in fear but instead courageously carry the gospel to our culture, the following things happen:
- People get filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 31).
- The Word gets preached with boldness (v. 31).
- The church remains unified on mission together (v. 32).
- The world hears about the hope of the resurrection (v. 33).
- God's blessing and favor are upon His people (v. 33).
- The community is changed by infectious generosity (v. 34).
So before we pray Spirit-filled prayers, we wait. We wonder. We remain in a holding pattern. We might want great things to happen. We may dream of all that could occur. But it's after we pray Spirit-filled prayers that God gets involved and begins to work in miraculous ways.
When we're sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to guide our petitions to the Father, God delightfully responds with amazing answers.
To put it simply—no prayer, no power. And the reverse is true as well—more prayer, more power.
This is God's economy. He has chosen to do certain things in response to prayer. Movements gain momentum and miracles occur when we follow God's prescribed method of really getting things done. I'm a big believer in having healthy systems and well-planned strategies. I love order and organization. But all of our planning is just wishful thinking without the breath of God infusing us with His power.
Brandon Cox has been a pastor since he was 19 and has served churches, large and small, including serving as a pastor at Saddleback Church. Currently, he is planting a purpose-driven church in northwest Arkansas. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.
For the original article, visit pastors.com.
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