Summary: What does prayer change? Most of believe prayer’s most important purpose is to change circumstances... but that may not be true.
OPEN: A young boy was observed by a minister in church praying very fervently; but much to the preacher’s surprise, he was also heard to say from time to time: "Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo." So preacher approached the boy after he had apparently finished his prayer and said, "Son, I was very pleased to see you praying so devoutly, but tell me, why did you keep saying ’Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo?"
The boy replied, "Well, you see sir, I just finished taking my geography test in school, and I have been praying for the Lord to make Tokyo the Capital of France."
APPLICATION: Many people pray, wanting God to better their lives, change their circumstances. Even non-religious people will turn to prayer in times of need to appeal to a higher power for Him (or it) to intervene and change their lives.
An article on prayer in America in Newsweek (1/6/92) quoted sociologist Andrew M. Greeley as saying that more than 3/4 (78 %) of all Americans prayed at least once a week. More than 1/2 (57%) reported praying at least once a day. Indeed, Greeley found that nearly 1 in 5 of Americans who are atheists or agnostics, still prayed daily.
The #1 prayer reason people pray is to ask God to intervene in their lives.
AND IT WORKS:
The most intriguing experiment involves 60 patients at the Arthritis Treatment Center in Clearwater, Fla. Because rheumatoid arthritis has clear manifestations - including swollen joints and crippling pain - relief of these symptoms can be easily measured. The study is under the general direction of Dr. Dale Matthews, an associate of medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC Matthews is also a Presbyterian who has been praying for and with patients for years and now wants to find out if science can confirm that prayer really has healing effects.
He has divided the participants into 2 general groups. All patients will receive 4 days of healing prayer through the traditional Christian practice of laying on of hands by the Christian Healing Ministry. In addition, half the patients will receive 6 months of long distance intercessory prayer. Both groups will be examined by the same clinician before the experiment, immediately afterward and again at one, 3, 6 and 12 months. Throughout, Matthews is using strict scientific protocols and standards set by the American College of Rheumatology. by the end of this year, after an outside physician has scrutinized the data, Matthews and his team hope to show what difference, if any, prayer has made.
Already, a videotape of the early phase of the study shows that some individual patients have experienced extraordinary short term results from prayer. "There’s something weird going on here, and I love it," says one patient. At the beginning of the experiment, he had 49 tender joints. After 4 sessions with a hands on praying minister, he had only 8. Six months later, he says he has no pain at all and no need of medication. (Newsweek, March 31, 1997 p. 62)
BUT (in a way) prayer doesn’t work. At the 1st church I served, a sporadic attender was suffering from a life threatening disease & asked for the elders to come and lay hands on him. He was healed… and he NEVER CAME BACK TO CHURCH after that.
At the last congregation I served a young girl was living with her boyfriend and bore a baby that
(for a while) looked like it would die. There were many prayers, laying of hands - and the child was miraculously healed… But the family NEVER CAME TO CHURCH. Prayer changed their circumstances… but it didn’t change them.
Prayer is an awesome tool. It allows us to unleash the might power of God AND brings healing for the sick, a mending of relationships, a change in our circumstances.
GOD MAY NOT always answer our prayers WHEN we’d like, in THE WAY we’d like. BUT God does answer prayer.
However, if prayer ONLY changes our circumstances, and it doesn’t change us, IT ACCOMPLISHES LITTLE OF LASTING VALUE (repeat)
BUT PRAYER – when you pray the way ought to pray – WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE. So, how do I pray in such a way as to change me???
I. I Timothy 2:1 gives us these words: "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone"
“1st of all?" Why 1st of all? BECAUSE, our tendency is to say: “I can’t do anything else about this, so… (I’ll pray). You know what that should tell us??? When we pray that way (as a last resort) we are saying we are still in control of our lives. God is an afterthought. Thus prayer doesn’t come "first of all" for many of us. It comes last, if at all.