Prayer Changes Nothing!… Really?

“Prayer changes nothing!”

Often attributed to Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, famous author and Bible expositor, that quote puts into words what many Christians seem to think.

In decades of teaching seminars & workshops on prayer, I’ve heard it often. “Prayer really doesn’t change circumstances, it just changes us.”

The problem is… that’s wrong. It borders on heresy, denying the personal working of God in this world today.

It’s wrong for these basic reasons:

The Bible contradicts it. Even though true prayer certainly changes the person doing the praying, that isn’t the whole story. Here’s a sample of what the Bible says about answered prayer:

  • Prayer gave Isaac twin sons even though his wife was barren – Genesis 25:21.
  • Prayer kept Esau from killing Jacob and caused the two to reconcile – Genesis 32:11 & 33:4.
  • Prayer freed the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage – Exodus 2:23-25.
  • Prayer saved the nation of Israel from God’s judgment and preserved their destiny – Deuteronomy 9:18-20.
  • Prayer spared Israel again and again during the time of Judges, until they asked for a king instead – 1 Samuel 12:6-23.
  • Prayer gave King Solomon his unique wisdom – 1 Kings 3:9-12.
  • Prayer saved King Jehoshaphat & his people from invasion by three armies – 2 Chronicles 20:1-30.
  • Prayer released Peter from death row – Acts 12:5-11.
  • Prayer led to Paul’s conversion & forgiveness – Acts 7:59-60 & 9:1-6
  • Prayer brought Jesus back from the dead – Hebrews 5:7.

And that’s just a small sampling. In Dr. Herbert Lockyer’s book, All The Prayers Of The Bible, the foreword says Scripture records 650 definite prayers, of which there are 450 specific answers recorded.

Besides that, faith contradicts it.

This doctrine – that “prayer changes nothing” – directly contradicts what the Bible says about faith. It’s a doctrine that negates faith. It tries to satisfy the natural man’s aversion to God’s supernatural working.

If God doesn’t answer prayer today, then one doesn’t have to worry about why specific prayers didn’t get answered. If prayer merely changes my attitude, then I don’t expect God to work in specific ways that can be seen and measured. If He doesn’t work in ways that can be seen today, then I’m not obligated to search out His ways.

Put another way – “Don’t expect anything and you won’t get disappointed.”

So, prayer does change things. It changes everything, including people, attitudes, circumstances, illness, the weather… if God can change it, then prayer can influence it.

As the Bible puts it – “You do not have because you do not ask God.” -James 4:2 NIV

I bet most of you reading this post have experienced at least one remarkable answer to prayer. Why not share it with us in the comments?

How Did Jesus Get So Spiritual? Part 2

If I can understand how Jesus got so spiritual, maybe I can duplicate it… at least I can imitate his spiritual habits, therefore growing into something like his spirituality.

So what habits did he practice in order to grow spiritually? We found out in the last blog that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:52 NIV). So his powerful spiritual life grew out of his habits rather than coming upon him instantly.

And last time we also looked at some of these spirit-building habits:

  • study of the word
  • service to other people
  • consistent prayer

Also, some of the comments on that first blog brought out two other productive habits of Jesus’ spiritual life: he obeyed his parents and he persisted without giving up in the face of persecution.

Here are some of Jesus’ other habits that grew him spiritually:

  1. Fasting. Jesus both taught and practiced this often-neglected spiritual discipline. He fasted 40 days in the wilderness after the Spirit led him there to be tested by Satan (Luke 4:1-13). He withstood this fiery trial because of his habit of fasting and prayer. He didn’t even begin his public ministry until this trial had been won by fasting.  And he taught his disciples, “When you fast (not if) do not look somber as the hypocrites do… But when you fast (not if) put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting…” -Matthew 6:16-18 NIV (emphasis added).
  2. Worship. With Jesus, worship wasn’t reserved for formal occasions. Once when 72 of his disciples returned from ministering in the Spirit’s power, Jesus “full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and revealed them to little children.'” -Luke 10:21 NIV. And in his confrontation with Satan, Jesus said, “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'” -Matthew 4:10 NIV.
  3. Surrender. One of the highest-level spiritual habits Jesus practiced, and one of the hardest we attempt, is surrender. Amazingly, Jesus once said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only  what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” -John 5:19 NIV. If Jesus couldn’t accomplish anything without his Father, then I must learn the same sort of surrender to have any chance at growing spiritually.

Jesus also spoke about this type of surrender by saying, “Those who love the life they have now will lose it. But those who are willing to give up their life in this world will keep it. They will have eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me. My servants must be with me everywhere I am. My Father will give honor to anyone who serves me.” -John 12:25-26 ERV.

Can you think of other spiritual disciplines that Jesus practiced? Give us your insights…