Prayer is a wonderful expression of our relationship with God. It is a demonstration of God’s grace and power.
That God listens to our requests is a marvellous testimony to His graciousness and kindness. He is concerned about our welfare in everything we do. He even knows our weakness, laziness and pride so well that he commands us to pray.
Prayer relies upon God’s sovereign control over the entire world. By asking his help in everything we are expressing our confidence in his power. He is in charge of large matters like governments that rule the world, and of tiny details like the fall of the sparrow. So as we pray we are expressing our confidence in his sovereign power over everything.
This confidence in God—both in his grace and his power—can have two quite different outcomes in prayer. It teaches us contentment and encourages us to expect change.
Because he is sovereign we learn contentment in prayer. We articulate our dependence upon him, when we ask for his help. But knowing that he is in control and that we have handed a matter over to him, we then accept the outcome of his decisions. We know that he is gracious. We know that whatever he decides is for our best. So by praying to God about any issue, we can leave the outcome in His loving and capable hands. This gives us a profound sense of security and contentment.
Yet if we only learn contentment in prayer we are not being true to the Bible’s teaching. For in response to prayer God changes things in this world. Prayer is not just to help the person who prays to learn acceptance of their lot in life. Prayer is the invitation of God to make our requests known to him, so that in His power and grace He will give us those things that are for our benefit. “You do not have” wrote James “because you do not ask.” Because of God’s grace and power, He can change anything he wishes in response to His peoples’ request.
Helen and I are very thankful to you for your prayerful support in our recent ministry in the United Kingdom. In many ways God blessed us through your prayerful requests on our behalf. He sustained us in better health than we have had in previous trips even though this was as strenuous a journey as we have undertaken. By last reckoning I preached 60 times in a 45-day period, giving 39 different addresses in 11 different cities. All of this material was written as we travelled through the fog of jet lag and the disturbed sleep of changing beds. Yet ill health did not hamper any of our commitments.
More importantly we saw repeatedly the changes in people through the ministry of God’s word. Ministers at the Gospel Partnership conferences repeatedly told of us fresh vision and encouragement that they received. Young graduates told of being saved at the last Cambridge Mission I spoke at in 2004. This time we not only saw students coming to repentance and faith but also others who did not want to come returning night after night to hear more of the Gospel. Drawn willingly as if against their will. We pray that they will come to saving faith—for remember how Herod heard John the Baptist gladly but remained unrepentant.
One of the exciting characteristics of our friends in Britain is their confident prayerfulness. Everywhere we travelled Christians were prayerfully calling upon God to bring change. The loud “amen” at the end of prayers expressed the corporate agreement about the matters of prayer. The students at Cambridge gave themselves to pray as they sought God’s favour to rest upon their fellow students.
As we come to a busy time of the year for the Cathedral ministry, with Easter followed by Anzac day and our own Cathedral Mission with a team from Moore College, let us continue in prayer for the preaching of the gospel in our city. God is more powerful than the forces of apathy and evil in our city. God is gracious and “does not desire the death of a sinner but that he would turn and live”. So let us maintain prayerfulness in all the busyness of life.