In our small group last week, we had a great discussion about “prayer as action” – and about prayer opening the way for other types of action.
We talked about the importance of both praying and “acting” (in a more hands-on way) – not one or the other, but both together, so that all our actions are empowered through the Holy Spirit, in line with the work He is already doing.
We talked about how in some instances, a person may be called only to pray (intercede) for a situation, while others are called to “act” (hands on) in that same situation (again, remember: prayer is also an action, a very powerful action that changes things, and an act of love). Sometimes our prayers will plant a seed that others will water by their hands-on service. The example comes to mind of an intercessor being called to pray for hearts to be opened in a certain part of the world, while a missionary is called to “hands-on” action in that part of the world.
We also talked about how, when we pray for God to work in someone’s life, we need to be willing for Him to use us as an answer to that prayer – if, when, and how He chooses.
A few examples have come to mind this week, and I’d like to share them.
(1) I work with children, and I’m always praying for them – the Lord has used them to help me better understand the meaning of “pray without ceasing!”
At times He’ll put a particular child on my heart to pray for specifically. There are children I’ve prayed for a lot. As I began praying, I asked God to use me, if He chose, to answer my own prayers. For example, I prayed for the Lord to bring many Christian adults into the lives of these children, to love, help and nurture them. Then I prayed, “Lord, I’d like You to use me as one of these people.”
Soon, I felt prompted by Him to let each child know, “I’m available to help you with…” (whatever they were working on). Nothing more; just planting that seed, and then praying for God to use it to open something more. Within a few days (for one child), weeks (for another), and months (for another), He opened an opportunity for me to work more closely with each child. The fruit began to grow quickly – not because of anything I did, but because of what He did.
Had I tried to force my way into each child’s life, without praying first and asking Him to open the way, and then continuing to pray along the way, the results would’ve been ineffective at best, and at worst, disastrous.
(2) I think about God’s work in my own life over the past few years. I came through a difficult situation and needed counseling. I could’ve sought secular counseling; perhaps that would’ve been better than nothing. I thank God that instead, He led me to Christian counseling combined with prayer ministry.
Prayer ministry is not “passive prayer.”
Actually, there is no “passive prayer” – prayer is a powerful action by which we invite God to work in a situation that He, Himself, puts on our hearts. Through our prayers, He empowers us to change things in the heavenlies (spirit realm) and to act in a more earthly sense. Again, none of this is our idea; these are things He already desires and intends to do; we are simply inviting Him in, and allowing Him to use us in what He’s already doing.
My experience with prayer ministry was this: My counselor, instead of using various behavioral models to tell me what to do, used prayer … and God’s Word. She helped me see where I had believed lies about myself (“not worthy;” “always a failure;” “too small, too weak, too late;” “unlovable;” the list goes on!) She invited God to show me His truth instead. I talked about situations I struggled with. Through prayer, she asked God to show me what He wanted me to know about each situation. I talked about past events that had traumatized me. Through prayer, she asked God to show me where He was in each situation. Through this live interaction with God in prayer, I received truth and healing deep in my heart.
The change in me was immediate and incredible. I received sometimes in one hour what might have taken years in secular counseling (or might never have been resolved, or might have been deemed “impossible to fix”). And I didn’t have to learn how to manage my behavioral changes. Jesus changed me from the inside out, and the changes were done, period. Then He, Himself, surrounded me with a church family, and led me deeper into His Word; to nurture these changes and help me grow into the life He had planned for me.
If my counselor had not done everything through prayer; if she had acted out of her own flesh, and worldly theories and teachings; the results for me would have been disastrous in some situations; truly disastrous. In other situations, the results would have been less than God’s best for me.
This is an example of all 3 things we discussed about prayer:
– prayer as action – powerful, life-changing action, with Jesus right in the middle of it!
– that we might be called only to pray in a situation, while others are called to “act” in that same situation – my counselor has intercessors who pray for those receiving prayer ministry each day, without knowing who they are praying for or what the results will be.
– being used as an answer to prayer – my counselor was available to be used by God; as she prayed and He revealed truth, she helped facilitate by sharing His Word… without forcing her way into the work God was doing with me.
Prayer ministry shows the incredible things the Lord can do when we open ourselves to the power of “prayer as action.”
(3) I’ve been thinking also about our intercessory prayer team that meets every Wednesday to pray for our church and for our town, Dahlonega, GA. (If you live in the Dahlonega area, we’d love to have you come pray with us!) Last summer we began prayer walking around the town square. As we prayed for the Lord to pour out His Spirit in the town, to bless each person, bathe them in His love, draw them close to Him … we also prayed for Him to use us in whatever ways He chose to be an answer to our own prayers.
This led to us printing up “prayer cards” to leave with people and businesses we pray for on our prayer walks. The cards say, “Praying God’s blessings for you” with our church name and contact info on the back.
We didn’t just start handing out cards right away. Printing the cards led to more prayer – for the Lord to help the people and business owners recognize their need for prayer, and for each person to feel the Lord’s desire to love them and bless them. We prayed for Him to prepare the way for us to hand out the cards, and for discernment for when and where to leave a card.
Handing out the “prayer cards” is a hands-on action, where we are used to be an answer to our own prayers. But if we take this action without praying it through, if we act out of our own flesh, we take a chance that people will not receive the cards in the way the Lord intends.
After the prayer cards, in the Lord’s timing, we will ask the business owners on the square if they would like to keep a “prayer box” in their shop, to receive prayer requests from customers. For some of us on the prayer team, walking into a shop and asking a business owner to keep a “prayer box” is way out of our comfort zone! But we’ve asked the Lord to use us and prepare us, and to prepare the hearts of those who will receive this blessing of sharing with us in prayer for the people of our town.
Again, if we were to rush ahead and do this (personally, I’d love to go around town right this minute and lay hands on every single person and pray for God’s very best in their lives!), without praying in preparation, and without praying through it, well … you can imagine the results!
And with more prayer … we’ve felt led to open a very “different” kind of prayer room that is available to the community … again, bringing together prayer and other types of action, in the Lord’s timing and in His ways. The first step will be moving our Wednesday gathering, open to everyone, into the new community prayer room. Our prayer is that this prayer room will eventually be available 24/7, and become everything the Lord wants it to be, everything the community needs it to be, because He knows the needs of His people and His plans for them.
Prayer is a powerful tool God gives us! The Lord uses our prayers to make changes in our lives and in our world. We need to remember, always, that prayer, by itself, IS action. And also that prayer is often coupled with other types of action. When, where and how … that is up to the Lord. We only need to be faithful to pray; to let Him know we are available to be an answer to our own prayers; to respond to His promptings to “act” and to “pray without ceasing!”
What are your experiences with prayer in action?