E.M. Bounds, the well-known writer on prayer, once said “God shapes the world by prayer. Prayers are deathless. They outlive the lives of those who uttered them.”
Fascinating. It’s exciting to think that some of the prayers I prayed that never seemed to make much difference might still be out there somewhere still working away. And that they might actually outlive me… and shape something in the future after I’m long gone.
Nice thought, but is it really true? Or just wishful thinking?
No, actually it’s a very real Biblical concept. Note these places in the Bible where prayer is considered deathless:
- “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8 NIV). In this scene, some of the heavenly beings are holding bowls full of the prayers of God’s people. Prayer exists in heaven. And prayers spoken in the past influence heaven.
- “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. 4The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. 5Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” (Revelation 8:3-5 NIV). The prayers of God’s people on earth have made it to heaven, where angels store them up and unleash them on the earth, completing the circuit and bringing powerful answers.
- “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'” (Luke 23:34 NIV). Jesus’ prayer was answered after his death, burial, resurrection and ascension. After he was in heaven, it was answered in Acts 2:36-41 when 3,000 of the people who had called for his crucifixion became believers. And that prayer is still working today.
- “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed… ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.'” (Acts 7:59-60 NIV). Stephen’s Christ-like prayer was answered after he died. One of the young men giving approval to Stephen’s death was Saul, who later found forgiveness and became the Apostle Paul.
George Muller, the great man of faith who built debt-free orphanages by simply asking God for the money, once prayed for five of his friends to become Christians. Four of them found peace in Christ during Muller’s lifetime, but one of the didn’t become a Christian until after Muller’s death. He had prayed for the man for 52 years, but the answer only came after George Muller died.
I’ve decided to keep on praying no matter what. You never know when the answer will surprise you, even after you’re in heaven.
Have you seen other cases where prayers outlived the one who prayed?