John Wesley once made the amazing statement: “It seems God is limited by our prayer life – that He can do nothing for humanity unless someone asks Him.” Such statement appears to overlook the fact that the Sovereign God is also omnipotent. Nevertheless, the statement holds some truth and deserves critical comment.
Believers, who strongly oppose Wesley's comments solely on the grounds of the argument of God's omnipotence clearly overlook or avoid the questions: If God is omnipotent then why does He need our prayers in order to intervene in the affairs of this world? Can't He send missionaries to the unreached nations of the world without our prayers? Can't He send revival to troubled nations unless we beseech Him?
The issue here clearly is not one about God's omnipotence but about the outworking of His will and redemptive purposes in the world. God, in His sovereign infinite grace and wisdom, has willed that people co-operate with Him in His eternal plan of salvation for the world. It is through the fulfillment of this plan of salvation that our prayers become absolutely essential.
As Christians, it is very important, therefore, that we realize that God, through the outworking of His plan for the world, has placed Himself at the disposal of His people and will not work apart from us, believers. In other words, He will do nothing redemptive in our lives, in our homes, community, city or nation unless we first pray. It is on the basis of this fact that the Scriptures declare “If My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sins and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ). It is also on the basis of this fact that the Prophet Jeremiah records these words: “Call unto Me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3).
How amazing? The great God of the universe awaits the prayers of His people in order to act. Andrew Murray expressed it this way: “He has willed that the working of His Spirit shall follow the prayers of His people.” How crucial, therefore, that the believer answers the call to prayer. In responding to the call to pray the believer seizes the opportunity to release the infinite power of Almighty God to work in the lives of individuals and situations often in ways that could never have been thought possible.
Consider for a moment the biblical examples of Abraham and Moses whose fervent prayers saved others. Abraham interceded for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. As a result of his intercession Lot and his family escaped the horrible judgment that fell upon those cities (Gen. 18 & 19). Moses stood in the gap between the sinful nation of Israel and an angry God. By his intercession, he moved God to abandon His plan to destroy a whole nation (Ex. 32: 1 – 14). How differently would the history of Israel read had Moses not interceded?
How absolutely crucial is the work of prayer in human affairs? Yet, so many Christians consider it with only passing interest. Consider the number of Christians in our churches who have made a shipwreck of the faith, those whose marriages have ended in divorce, the number of broken homes or even the terrible tragedies that continue to plague our cities. Have you considered that many of these situations could have been prevented if Christians prayed?
Prayer does make the difference in our lives, our homes, churches,