Does prayer make any difference? Absolutely! And prayer makes a difference because the living God, the Holy Spirit, lives inside the one praying. Further, when God’s people get together and pray as a community, amazing things happen!
I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of those before-and-after photos advertising the latest weight loss and fitness program. The Bible gives us a pretty neat before-and-after picture of the early church. Before the Holy Spirit empowered the church at Pentecost, the apostles are waiting, hiding, and hoping. And they’re praying.
Then Pentecost occurs. The fire falls. The Spirit empowers. And things begin to happen. Thousands are saved and added to the church. Miracles occur. Healing takes place. The impact is so tangible that the church leaders start getting in trouble for bringing attention to the crime of the unfair crucifixion of Jesus. Peter and John heal a crippled man at one of the Temple gates and it lands them in jail where they take a beating and are sternly warned not to speak any more in the name of Jesus.
Upon their release, instead of cowering away in fear, the Bible says this…
As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said. When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them – you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying, ‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the LORD and against his Messiah.’ “In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, your holy servant, whom you anointed. But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will. And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
Acts 4:23-35 NLT
So they ran back to the church and instead of figuring out a way to hide in the shadows, they pray. For boldness. Does it work? The Bible continues…
After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness. All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.
Note that key phrase. After this prayer…
And six things happen. I believe these same six things happen when God’s people pray in concert together before God. When we cry out for boldness, for courage, for empowerment… When we refuse to cower in fear but instead courageously carry the gospel to our culture…
- People get filled with the Holy Spirit. (v. 31)
- The Word gets preached with boldness. (v. 31)
- The church remains unified on mission together. (v. 32)
- The world hears about the hope of the resurrection. (v. 33)
- God’s blessing and favor is upon his people. (v. 33)
- The community is changed by infectious generosity. (v. 34)
So, before we pray Spirit-filled prayers, we wait. We wonder. We remain in a holding pattern. We might want great things to happen. We may dream of all that could occur. But it’s after we pray Spirit-filled prayers that God gets involved and begins to work in miraculous ways.
When we’re sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit and allow him to guide our petitions to the Father, God delightfully responds with amazing answers.
To put it simply… no prayer, no power. And the reverse is true as well… more prayer, more power.
This is God’s economy. He has chosen to do certain things in response to prayer. Movements gain momentum and miracles occur when we follow God’s prescribed method of really getting things done. I’m a big believer in having healthy systems and well-planned strategies. I love order and organization. But all of our planning is just wishful thinking without the breath of God infusing us with his power.