Does prayer do any good? James answers quickly, The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16) A visiting farmer stopped at a city restaurant to eat lunch. When he was served his food he bowed his head and gave thanks to the Lord. Some rather uncouth guys sitting at a nearby table noticed the farmer’s prayer and shouted, “Hey, pops, back where you come from does everybody PRAY before they eat?” Their laughter was silenced when the unmoved farmer answered, “Everybody but the pigs.”
The Sixteenth Chapter of John moves us from the Upper Room to the Garden in the Seventeenth Chapter. The whole Seventeenth Chapter is Jesus’ prayer in the Garden. The Sixteenth Chapter is preparing the disciples for what is to come in the garden. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
There are four (4) types of prayer. Personal Prayer. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane in John 17. In the Gethsemane prayer, Jesus prays for Himself. “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. There is great pain for himself, in that prayer. There is nothing wrong with praying for our own personal needs. Luke writes: LUKE 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” There is nothing selfish or unacceptable about praying for ourselves. If our Father in Heaven doesn’t want to do it or knows its not in our best interest, God won’t do it. That is why God sometimes says “NO” to our prayers. The board of deacons was being briefed on techniques for making church calls. One newly elected member was obviously timid about her responsibilities. The pastor hoped to encourage her by stressing the power of prayer. “You’ll find it helpful, before you make the call, to spend a few moments talking to God about it,” he said. When the deacons met later to report, the timid one waylaid the pastor and said enthusiastically, “Oh, thank you for what you said about prayer. I tried it when I went out on my call, and it works.” “I’m glad to hear that,” beamed the pastor. “Tell us what happened.” “Well, I prayed the people wouldn’t be home, and they weren’t.” God hears every prayer. It is personal by the very nature that it is between you and God. …when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Intercessory Prayer. Beginning at the 6th verse of John 17, Jesus changes to intercessory prayer. He prays for the Disciples and than He prays for all believers. Intercessory prayer is prayer on behalf of someone else. In the Church we use intercessory prayer to pray for the needs of each other. The “Prayer List” invites us to know the needs of others and then we pray for their needs. The Holy Spirit gives intercessory prayer on our behalf. Intercessory prayer is the greatest gift of love that we can give to another person. It is sacrificial and selfless. Intercessory prayer is not to be a public spectral but to be prayed from our closets. ROM 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. A park ranger at Yellowstone National Park tells the story of a ranger leading a group of hikers to a fire lookout. The ranger was so intent on telling the hikers about the flowers and animals that he considered the messages on his two-way radio distracting, so he switched it off. Nearing the tower, the ranger was met by a nearly breathless lookout, who asked why he hadn’t responded to the messages on his radio. A grizzly bear had been seen stalking the group and the authorities were trying to warn them of the danger. How important it is that we never turn off God’s saving communication! What to love someone that is unlovable? What to forgive in someone that is unforgivable? Pray for them, for their good!
Community Prayer. Community prayer takes place in the mist of the Church. MAT 18:20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Community prayer has great power. MAT 16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” God pays special attention to the Church. MAT 18:19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”
Travailing Prayer. Travailing prayer is a prayer lifted up in the middle of sorrow or pain. It is the prayer of the bereaved. It is the prayer of the terminally ill. It is the prayer of the persecuted. As Jesus was dying on the cross, He prayed, LUKE 23:34 “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” I believe that God has a very sensitive heart for this prayer. Answering our prayers! It is remarkable to think that God has given us a partnership with him in directing the course of human events. It is extraordinary to realize that our prayer can change events and circumstances in the world around us. But what is just as remarkable is that when we pray, “we” change. More often than not we become the answer to our own prayers as we open up ourselves to God in prayer. A few weeks after Vickie was diagnosed with cancer the Lord gave me Lamentations 3:19: I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
Does prayer do any good? In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, `This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. I will add fifteen years to your life. (2 Kings 20)
Does it do any good to pray? Ask Hezekiah!