Maybe this has happened to you. The Lord lays someone on your heart, and you’re like, where did they come from? But the Lord persists, so you call them up and they tell you they had just asked God to send someone to help them. Think about it…by being obedient, you have become an instrument in God’s hand to answer that person’s prayer. That’s because there’s nothing as sweet as hearing someone say, “I prayed for you today.” So when God brings someone to mind, pray with gratitude and gladness for them…but follow it up with a phone call in order that you may encourage and uplift their spirit with the simple words, “I remembered you in my prayers today.”
As Jesus was making His way near Jericho, He came upon a blind man sitting near the road. When the man heard that it was Jesus approaching he started yelling, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stopped and very bluntly asked the blind man, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Now obviously, Jesus knew the man was blind, so why did He ask him a question like that? He was asking the man to verbalize his heart’s desire… and his fervent hopes. He was also asking him to be explicit not general. The Lord wants us to pray specific prayers…for He wants to hear our heart’s desires. I remember well when we were looking for a new home in Idaho…my prayers were very general, “Lord, help us find a new home.” But it was during one of my generalized prayers that the Holy Spirit stopped me and asked what I wanted in that home. I started listing my heart’s desires one by one…large kitchen, fireplace, walk-in closet, jetted tub, a large space for a garden, and East facing windows to watch the sunrise. And He gave them all to me in a perfect home!
Your prayer life…is it good, bad, or non-existent? What about the quality and quantity of your time spent in prayer? We all would admit that our prayer life could be better. For most of our prayers are quick apathetic words thrown at God, lacking energy and even the confidence that they’ll even be answered. So how can we change our weak and impotent prayers into the prayers spoken about in this verse? James tells us that as Believers our prayers are capable of producing great results, and through God, He is able to accomplish incredible feats because of our prayers. So think of it this way…our prayers start God (and all of creation He has at His disposal) moving. Our simple prayers trigger God’s all powerful and magnificent response… opening the way for Him to do miraculous things on our behalf. That puts a completely different spin on our prayers, right? For if we could only take hold of and comprehend just how powerful and effective our prayers were…we could change the world for Christ.
Jesus taught by example. And over the course of His ministry here on earth, He modeled for the disciples not only the power of prayer…but the necessity for constancy, and steadfastness in the process. Prayer wasn’t an after thought for Jesus…it was the main thought. Nor was it the last thing He did after everything else had failed, it was the very first thing. So after Jesus had ascended into heaven and the disciples were alone and scared, they relied on the discipline of prayer Jesus had shown them to face the uncertain world ahead. The early Church was devoted to prayer…the Church of today should be as devoted.
Are your prayers more of a formula of repetitious words from memory…often without paying attention to what you’re actually saying? Have they become just a fixed routine of the same prayers repeated over and over again? Congratulations, you have the gift of religious gab! But this isn’t how the Lord wants you to communicate with Him. It isn’t the quantity or intensity of your prayers that He desires. Rather, it’s the heart-felt, getting real before the Lord, quality He wants.
In this very well-known and often quoted Scripture, we like to gloss over the first part and instead focus on the end…the promised things God will do for us. But in doing so, we miss two small but very important words contained in this verse. The first, is how this Scripture starts, “If My people…” “If” puts the burden and responsibility squarely on our shoulders to follow through with the conditions God has placed here…namely, for us to have a radical change of heart, mind, and spirit. It is only at that time and after that is completed, (marked by the second important word, “then”) that God will forgive and heal the land. You could call these prerequisites…things God requires of us beforehand…not because He’s a mean tyrant, but because He’s a good and just God.
Praying shouldn’t be a publicity stunt for the cameras while seeking 15 minutes of fame. For it’s our personal, intimate conversation with God…and He takes prayer very seriously…and so should we. As a Believer, I’ve seen the power of prayer and witnessed how intercessory prayer can literally change the atmosphere. But we tend to think of prayer as some sweet little poem we recite at the dinner table before meals and not the authoritative commands we can speak under the power of Jesus’ blood. To paraphrase I John 4:4, Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world. And if we could but grasp a glimpse of just how powerful our prayers are…this world would be shaken, and all the evil in it. May I then be so bold as to encourage you to prayer walk around your town…around your schools…around the area you live in. For we are all asking ourselves the same question, “What can I do in the face of all this evil in the world?” The answer is prayer…bold, impassioned prayer.
When the Lord brings to mind a person…what do you do? You may say to yourself, “I haven’t touched base with that person in a long time, I wonder how they’re doing…and leave it at that. But have you ever thought that there’s a reason the Lord laid on your heart that individual? God wants you to do two things. The first is to pray, thanking God for them and asking for His Will to be done in their life. But secondly, He wants you to contact them. We are to love one another, and your encouragement may be the very thing they need that day.
Any outreach you do must be built and maintained on/by prayer. But for some, their concept of prayer is to only take a certain posture, using certain words. Or for others, their concept of prayer is to beg and plead before an intimidating and menacing judge. Prayer should be as natural as breathing. It’s a continuous running conversation with a close friend and confidant. So maybe instead of using the term prayer – you could use the word talk. Talking to God is a much more non-threatening idea. You’re conversing and consulting with your friend not some ominous power out in the cosmos. Having an ongoing conversation with God during the day will enable you to focus on what’s eternally important while quelling the world’s incessant chatter that’s filling your head.