That’s the Power of Prayer

“How many times a day do you pray?”

Oh, the awkwardness of that question. It’s like when the dentist asks if you’ve been flossing. You know the answer doesn’t give you a favorable report and makes you look bad. So you give the uncomfortable side grimace and shrug, hoping that if you avoid the truth and change the subject, the whole thing will eventually be forgotten and you can shove that icky feeling under a rug for the time being.

Sure, I pray. When I’m sitting around the dinner table with my 100% Christian family or in other socially obligated situations, I can bow my head and murmur a few “faith words” as well as anyone. But when I’m alone or with religiously ambiguous people, I give God the cold shoulder. I have yet to fully realize the power of prayer.

Because first of all, nothing happens without prayer. Trying to pull something off without prayer is like attempting to direct small children without talking: a whole lot of mess happens and productivity ceases to exist. It doesn’t work. We don’t live in the Old Testament when we had to speak through a priest. We have the amazing luxury of being able to talk to our Lord and Savior directly without any fanfare, yet we don’t take advantage of this gift.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” – James 5:16b-18

And how many times do we simply thank God? Not necessarily when something good happens either. We should be praising God for His gifts no matter what, because we have the constant comfort of His love and mercy waiting for us.

“I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
    I will glorify your name forever.” – Psalm 86:12

If you are in want, ask. God hears everything and no matter how inconsequential or small it may seem, you can ask him for anything. Nothing is too big or too small for God. He knows you and He knows your wants, but He also wants to hear you, His dearly beloved child.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7

And sometimes it feels like you have nothing to say, and that’s fine! Just start talking. Unlike humans, God will never tire of hearing you talk to Him. Speak to Him as you would your best friend and Father. You are His favorite creation, and whatever happens you may trust that His love will always be extended to you without fail and that your prayer will never fall on deaf ears.

“I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.” – Psalm 17:6

Dead Faith

If you’re a Christian, you go to church. You wear modest and plain clothing. You don’t swear, and you never watch late night television. Your Bibles are on clear display in your living room, showing to everyone who may pass that they are in constant use and never get stored away. You host prayer group, volunteer at local shelters, and put a “Beam Me Up, Jesus!” bumper sticker on the back of your car. That’s what Christianity is, right? If you believe in God, you must act like a born and bred true American Christian. We all know this.

Except none of what I mentioned above means a darn thing.

Yes, I did just say that. You could be a pastor in an oppressive anti-Christian country, adopt three thousand orphans, and work at a war zone hospital for free for the rest of your life, yet it would be absolutely pointless if your heart wasn’t filled with Jesus. That’s a case of dead faith, my friend.

This kind of blows the mind. What is sold to us is that as long as you believe that God exists and Jesus died for your sins, you’re fine. Eternal get-out-of-jail-free card. But here’s another thing to further stretch your mind (unless I’m the only one finds this surprising and/or shocking, which I sincerely doubt); even demons believe. They tremble when they hear Jesus’s name because they know He has the power to send them back to hell. They fully accept that God is who He claims He is (examples of this can be found in Matthew 8:29, Mark 1:24, and Luke 8:31) and therefore the fact that you believe in God and the sacrifice of the cross means zilch.

James, bless him, addresses this. He says; “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” – James 2:26

But hold up, wait a minute, stop the presses. I dare to even use shut the front door. The whole point of Jesus coming to earth was because we can’t do good works if our souls depended on it…which they do. This message seems contradictory to everything we’ve learned thus far.

What James and I (because we’re totally best buddies) are trying to get across the board is that when you believe something, you need to fulfill it with action. Like a promise. You may promise to clean your room, but if you don’t actually clean your room, your promise no longer carries any weight. In the same way, it is not enough to merely believe God’s promises. It must be accompanied by deeds.

As John Calvin said, “It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone.” To achieve righteousness, it’s not an either/or situation. There’s no deeds OR faith. You need both.

To prove this, we have the story of Rahab. She was a harlot in Jericho, yet she was saved by performing a living faith in God when she risked her life to protect the spies. No matter who it is, if you demonstrate a breathing, fulfilled faith, you will be saved.

“You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” – James 2:22