Intercessory prayer: Is this a good way to spend valuable time?
by Greg Feulner · Apr 20, 2022
Jesus said love for God and love for others are the two greatest commandments. Our prayers reflect how real that is for us in our own hearts. If that sounds discouraging, look at it another way: Our prayers are an opportunity for us to grow in that love for God that Christ calls us to and in our love for our neighbors.
The back cover of the book Does Prayer Change Things? by R.C. Sproul pointedly asks, “Is prayer a good way to spend valuable time?”
That’s a very good question, and the answer is instructive. One’s response reveals the difference between a Christ-centered view of reality and a worldly view of reality. How you and I understand this makes all the difference in our prayer and in how we view God and everything that happens in our lives.
We live in a culture that thinks in materialistic terms and in terms of controlling one’s own destiny. We are strong, independent. There is no room for God.
From the flesh’s perspective, you and I gain very little from prayer. We sit there alone, eyes closed, hands folded, “doing nothing” it would seem. Prayer goes against every habit throughout the day: Do you want to eat? Make yourself a meal. Is the room messy? Clean it. Do you need to email someone? Write the email and send it.
But in prayer, rather than exercising control, we surrender our control. Prayer is our acknowledgment of our humanness, of our total dependency on the Giver of life. In prayer, we come before the throne empty-handed, seeking Him Who created the world by the power of His Word, Who sustains all things in Himself (Acts 17:28, Colossians 1:17). What value is there in prayer? Much in every way! Through Elijah’s prayers, the widow’s son was raised from the dead (1 Kings 17:20-24). Through that one man’s prayers, God brought a drought on Israel that lasted years. And through prayer, God made it rain again (James 5:17-18). The prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much (James 5:16).
It is God who works His will in the world through our prayers and not the other way around.
This is not to say, of course, that we can control the weather by mere will. It is God who works His will in the world through our prayers and not the other way around. Our finite minds cannot possibly comprehend the end of all things and, as creatures, we must always submit our desires to His perfect, eternal will. The Son of God petitioned the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane before He was to suffer on the cross. Three times the Incarnate Son of God pleaded with the Father to remove the weight of this burden from Him. Nevertheless, He submitted His immediate desires to the Father’s eternal will for the salvation of us all (Matthew 26:38-44).
Intercessory prayer starts with a right perspective of God and of our role in the world. One may see more from a mountaintop than in a valley. In an infinitely greater way (in a perfect way), God sees more than we do.
Surely from Job’s perspective, the violence done to him may have seemed to lack any real meaning or purpose, but God displayed His glory through Job, and He has blessed innumerable readers of the Bible through Job’s trials.
Joseph may well have prayed a hundred times to return home from slavery and from unjust imprisonment in Egypt. But God had other plans, and through Joseph’s suffering, and in God’s infinite wisdom, the people of Israel were saved from famine. Through man’s wicked intent, God brought about the salvation of the sons of Jacob through whom came the Messiah, the Savior of the world (Genesis 50:20).
We are acting foolishly when we suppose we know better than God.
Greg Feulner is Assistant Editor of the Samaritan Ministries newsletter.