Does God hear us when we pray? Do our prayers really matter? If God is sovereign, if He is in control of all things, if He has a plan and knows all of the details before they happen, then do our prayers really matter? The answer to that is, "YES!" But how can that be?
This morning I received a call from my brother and fellow-pastor in Pakistan. Because of all that is going on there they have had no electricity for some time. He always shares several prayer requests when he calls me and today he asked me to pray specifically that the electricity would be turned back on by the government because people were not able to go to work or do anything. So I prayed. About 30 seconds after I hung up, the phone rang. It was my brother in Pakistan. He was laughing, overjoyed, and there was shouting in the background. He shared that after we had prayed and said goodbye, the electricity went on!! The people around him were weeping, overjoyed at God's answer to our prayer.
OK, did my prayer make the electricity go on in Pakistan? Understand, the electricity was not off because something was not working, but because it was turned off by the government. Did my prayer make a difference? Notice, I didn't ask if I made the electricity go on, but rather, did my prayer make the electricity go on ... is prayer really that powerful? The answer to that question is in God's Word. One of the texts I used on Sunday was Deuteronomy 4:1-8. In verse 7, Moses asks, "What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to Him?" He was talking about Israel, God's chosen people. God had made a covenant with them and had promised to hear them when they prayed. What we need to understand, to believe, is that the same God has made a covenant with us through the "Seed of Abraham," JESUS!
Jesus told His disciples to "ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7). In Luke 18 Jesus tells the parable of the persistent widow who kept crying out to the judge for justice and he finally heard her and gave her what she wanted. Luke writes in verse 1: "Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." We are not the nation of Israel, but God says that through faith in Jesus Christ we are "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God" (I Peter 2:9). As God heard His people in the past when they prayed, so God hears US when we pray. There are countless exhortations to pray throughout the letters to the churches in the New Testament.
So did the electricity really go on in Pakistan because I prayed? Weren't there other people praying, too? How can ONE prayer make a difference? You and I keep trying to figure out God - and failing. God says, "PRAY!" And He promises to answer, in His time and in His way and for His glory. Sometimes it will SEEM as though God didn't hear or didn't answer. But God tells us in His Word that when we come to Him humbly seeking Him and giving thanks, He hears us. He ALWAYS hears us. And He tells us that our prayers matter, that they make a difference, that they move Him. How can that be if He already knows the details of the future before they happen? Our prayers make a difference because they are actually PART of God's plan!!! It is the very Spirit of God that moves us to pray at the express time that we pray for the specific thing for which we pray. God is at work in us, in our prayers and in our world in ways beyond what we can understand. It is not for us to understand, it is for us to pray, to seek Him, to acknowledge His goodness and faithfulness ... and to ASK!!
I love I John 5:13-15: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we KNOW that He hears us - whatever we ask - we KNOW that we have what we asked of Him." God tells us to ask and to give thanks for His love and faithfulness, to draw near to Him, believing His promises to be with us, to strengthen us, to help us in our times of need. We have a faithful High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God, who prays with us and for us. The Father hears us when we pray, so pray earnestly, pray humbly, pray often and pray persistently and specifically and see what God will do. He may even move a government official in Pakistan to turn on the electricity. That wasn't ME - it was God!! It's always God ... but when He moves you to pray, pray believing and you may be surprised at what God will do!!