Prayer: The Key to Change
August 22, 2016
August 22, 2016
If you look around the world today, you know that change is desperately needed. From natural disasters to rampant amorality, so many things on this earth need a touch of the Holy Spirit.
It’s easy to watch all that goes on and wonder if your prayers can effect change in the earth. Well, I’m here to tell you that your prayers can and will if two things happen: you have a consistent personal prayer life and if you participate in corporate prayer.
When you and other believers join together to pray, something powerful is released in this earth. In fact, corporate prayer accesses a power source greater than your faith, the same power source that changed the world on the day of Pentecost. It is the corporate anointing.
What Causes Buildings to Shake?
Let me show you an example of the power available through the corporate anointing. In Acts chapter 4, Peter and John had been arrested by the Sanhedrin, held in custody, and threatened not to preach anymore in the name of Jesus.
Watch what happened in verse 23:
And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. (KJV)
Among the thousands who had been saved at that point in time, Peter and John had a specific company of believers they returned to—a place where they belonged. This is the first reference to what is later defined as the local church.
What did Peter and John do when they were united with their own company? They all lifted up their voices to God in one accord and prayed. You can read their prayer in Acts 4:24–30. The result is seen in verse 31:
And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. (KJV)
Such great power was released that the building they were in literally shook. (Can you imagine what the response would be today if that happened to us? It would shake up more than a few people!) Then they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.
Now these are the people who had been initially baptized in the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. They were filled again here. Why? For the same reason that Paul exhorts us to “be being filled” in Ephesians 5:18—being filled with the Holy Spirit isn’t a one-time thing. It’s something that needs to happen on a continual basis. As we see in this story, one of the ways filling occurs is when we’re with our own company and the corporate anointing is there.
Verses 32–35 continue:
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. (KJV)
Part of this passage is clearly related to money—”neither was there any among them that lacked”—but I think we can apply a broader understanding to it and say that one of the things the corporate anointing will do is address human need in any arena. If you’re a contributor to the corporate anointing, you’re entitled to expect that there won’t be any lack in your life. You won’t lack love, peace, joy, healing, finances, nothing.
An understanding we must have regarding faith is that our faith exerts power and influence in our own personal lives only. You and I can’t use our faith to manipulate somebody else’s life experience, even though it might be in his or her benefit. God respects your free moral agency and mine. He won’t allow us to manipulate anyone else through our faith or vice versa. We can join our faith in agreement with somebody and turn up the power, but we can’t believe for them.
However, the corporate anointing reaches beyond the matters of your personal life. It does address them—”neither was there any among them that lacked”—but it also addresses need in other people’s lives. If you examine the next three chapters of Acts (chapters 5–7), you’ll see this is the case. For example, “And believers were the more added to the Lord; multitudes both of men and women” (Acts 5:14). The church began to exert great influence on the community, and multitudes were added to the church daily.
All of the plans that churches put in place to exert greater influence on their communities pale in comparison to what the corporate anointing will do. We want the body of Christ to increase, right? Well, the corporate anointing is intended to reach beyond our lives into the community and bring others into church because that’s where their lives get affected by the power and the Word of God.
Prayer Accesses the Power
Do you see the awesome power available through the corporate anointing? One of the ways we appropriate this power is through corporate prayer.
Contrary to what you might think, the first step toward being a part of corporate prayer isn’t signing up for a prayer group at your church. This is part of it, but your best contribution to corporate prayer will always be borne out of your personal, private prayer life.
Mac, everyone knows Christians need to pray. You’re right. Probably every Christian you meet would agree that prayer is important, but you’d be surprised at how many Christians know that prayer is a good thing yet consider it optional for their personal lives.
You have nothing meaningful to contribute in corporate prayer if you never make a personal connection with God at home. I guarantee you, if you don’t have a private prayer life, you’re not going to like praying with other people in a group setting. It’s going to feel awkward, and you’ll find yourself thinking, These people are weird.
I know this is true because for a long period in my life, I didn’t have a private prayer life. I would delegate much of our family’s prayer life to my wife, since she liked to pray. When I thought something needed to be prayed about, I went to Lynne and said, “You need to pray about this.” It never hit home that prayer was a necessary part of the exercise of my Christianity.
Prayer is as fundamental to our pursuit of Christianity as faith. Years ago, I didn’t have any trouble with faith. I enjoyed reading the Bible. I enjoyed seeing new things in the Word and growing as a man of faith. I just didn’t get the prayer part. In case you’ve ever had thoughts like this or maybe you still have them, let me be very clear—prayer is not optional. You must have a personal prayer life so not only you can benefit, but the body of Christ can benefit from your connection with the Lord as well.
Make the Connection
For many people in the body of Christ, the lack of a personal prayer life is the reason why things aren’t working in their lives. They view Christianity as nothing more than adherence to a value system. They think, I want my kids to come up right so we’re going to go to church every week. That’s what Christianity is to them.
Other people, especially those who are too intellectually sophisticated for their own good, consider prayer to be a little flaky. I used to be like that. I’d go to a prayer group, but I would think, I don’t really want to be here.
Well, your walk with God begins with a foundation of prayer being laid in your private devotional life.
The Bible tells us that we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). Whatever you receive from God, you will have at one time or another successfully petitioned Him for it. This doesn’t mean you can say at any old point in your day, “Lord, I ask you for a few extra bucks. I ask You for a little favour in this job interview. I need a little help. How about bailing me out here?”
If you want to speak to somebody using the telephone, you have to connect with them first and then you can speak to them. It’s no different with prayer. You can’t just spout out something and expect a response. No, you make a connection with Him and then you present your petition. This is what a private devotional life is all about—establishing your connection with God. Then, instead of going first to your boss, lawyer, or doctor for advice, you go to Him. Prayer has to become something you put a premium on.
From Work to Worship
Let me caution you about one thing. Nowhere in the Word does it say that prayer is fun or that every time you pray, you’re going to get goose bumps or have an awesome out-of-body experience.
People have this idea, but that’s not the case.
Prayer is really a form of self-sacrifice. It is you saying to yourself, “This is what the Bible requires. Therefore, I’m going to do it, even if it falls in the category of gutting it out.” Prayer can be hard, at times. Sometimes it’s dry and doesn’t feel like you’re being productive.
God said to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). He didn’t say to pray when you feel the goose bumps. He didn’t say to pray when you have a vision of Jesus. He said to pray without ceasing. Prayer isn’t a matter of convincing God to do something you need Him to do. Prayer is the key to bringing change in your life. This is what changes you so God can meet you. If He met you in your unregenerate state, you’d be burned up to a cinder from the glory of God!
If you participate in a prayer group every day, a lot of times it might seem as though nothing is happening, but if you are persistent in coming, you’ll begin to see changes occur in you. You’ll notice you have a little more compassion than usual. You’ll be a little more tolerant. You’ll have more fervor about the presence of God.
Faith and Prayer
Let’s go back to this element of faith. As I stated earlier, faith is for yourself, not for other people, and it absolutely needs to be a major element behind your prayer. You can’t expect change to happen if your prayers are merely words spoken in a monotone voice devoid of your heart and mind being engaged. You have to believe that what you are seeking God about will bring the fruit the Word says it will bring. Otherwise, you’re just making noise.
Mark 11:22–23 tells us how to have faith; “Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.”
As you can imagine, you can’t just say anything you want. You must speak in alignment with the Word and will of God. Your faith will remove whatever mountain of impossibility that stands between you and the will of God.
Healing is the will of God. Sickness is a mountain that stands between people and the will of God. It keeps you off the missions field. It keeps you stuck in bed not feeling well. Financial insufficiency is a mountain that will keep you from giving to the work of God and abounding to every good work. These are mountains that need to be eliminated from your life.
However, faith can’t be segregated from the context of prayer. In the very next verse, Jesus tells us how to have faith in God.
Therefore I say unto you Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. (Mark 11:24)
Faith and prayer are woven together throughout the Word. Prayer is an integral part of faith. Faith is an integral part of prayer. You cannot separate the two. As you increase your time spent in a personal relationship with the Lord, remember that your faith impacts your prayer. Be sure your faith is aligned with the prayers you pray, and then watch God work to do His will in your life.
Individual prayer is necessary to our growth in God; corporate prayer is necessary to bring change to the world around us. If you believe the Bible, then you’re going to have to start giving prayer—both corporate and individual prayer—the place that it’s intended to have.