“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?
Besides the fact that I’m a Christian because people were praying for me; besides the fact that I’m doing what I’m doing because I asked God if He could make it happen in a seemingly impossible way; and besides the fact that a dr. said we may not ever have children and we prayed and got pregnant the first month we tried (and now have 2 that are just 15 months apart)…
Here’s one just because He loves us:
During our first pregnancy (that was supposed to be near impossible), it came time for us to have our 20 week ultrasound. At that ultrasound, we would find out if our baby was healthy or had defects, but we were more excited about getting to know the gender. We had names picked out for a boy or a girl, and were growing tired of just calling my wife’s bump “baby” and wanted it to be more personal by calling it by name.
The night before the ultrasound there was a big snow storm and we got a call that our appointment had been cancelled. My wife sat in the car and cried. I told her we’d pray and ask God to let us somehow still have the appointment. I asked Him specifically for what we wanted, and told Him that it wasn’t just for our own lust, but that it would be an encouragement to us and that we would give Him the glory in our lives, and also outwardly as we told people about how He answers His children.
We showed up at the ultrasound office at 2:00 p.m., our scheduled appointment time. The door was unlocked. We pushed it open and didn’t see a single soul in the waiting area. Looking to our left, we saw a lady sitting behind the check-in desk.
“Ma’am, can we still keep our appointment even though we got a call that it was cancelled?”
“You certainly may. Fill out this paper, and since no one else is here, we’ll take you right back.”
It was a girl. Her name is Katriel, which is Hebrew for “God is my crown.”
Great comment, Rance!
Thanks for the reminder that God answers just because of His love and kindness.
I was diagnosed with adrenocortical carcinoma (also known as adrenal cancer), a slow-growing, rare and “incurable” cancer that presents virtually no symptoms until it’s usually too far gone. Radical surgery to remove the tumor, along with my left kidney, adrenal gland, spleen, a section of my pancreas and a section of my colon, along with removing an artery from my leg to rebuild the artery to my small intestine was most assuredly an answer to the many prayers sent up on my behalf by the saints.
This is especially true since the surgeon admitted to me after surgery that he gave serious consideration to closing me up on the operating table and telling me he was sorry after seeing how prevalent the tumor was. But, instead he decided to call in a vascular surgeon and they both hung in there for over nine hours until they “got it all.”
However, there were spots in the center of my lungs along with a swollen lymph node behind my lungs that were assumed to be metastasis, and in inoperable locations, which meant the kiss of death for me because adrenal cancer research showed no statistics to support that it responded to chemo or radiation to temporarily shrinking tumors in operable locations. So, I was sent to MD Anderson for consultation, but no follow-up treatments were offered.
Where could I go but to the Lord? I began studying scriptures on prayer and healing, and read Joyce Meyer’s book, “The Battle Belongs To The Lord”, which taught me to “worship and wait.” I can’t tell you the number of nights I fell asleep just saying over and over again, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.” I didn’t know what else to say. I had begged and pleaded until I was drained. So, I simply worshipped and waited for months.
After one particular lung procedure, my doctors sent me home to wait for the results. A doctor called and told me it was indeed metastasis. I broke down, overwhelmed with disappointment because I was so confident that God was going to heal me. But even then, the Holy Spirit prompted me to go to my knees and ask for His strength to glorify Him in whatever lay ahead. I did. Then, I called my sister to tell her the news. She paused, then said, “Well, God took away the tumor. We’ll just pray and He’ll take this away, too.”
Twenty minutes later, a nurse practioner at MD Anderson called again to give me the results of the lung procedure. I told her a doctor had already called and told me it was metastasis. She stumbled and apologized and said that wasn’t what her report said. She promised to get with the team of doctors quickly and call me back. She did, and when she called back she promised me all the doctors agreed there was “no evidence of any cancer cells anywhere.” When I called my sister back she said, “See, I told you if we would just pray, God would take that away, too! And He did!” Later, the chief of the Endocrine Department at MD Anderson said my recovery had been “remarkable.” That was five years ago.
Last month, I ended up in the emergency room with severe abdominal pain and nausea. Tests and scans revealed a non-cancerous ovarian cyst was the cause, and in the process they found a lemon-sized cancerous tumor attached to my abdominal lining — a recurrence of the adrenal cancer. Because it presents no symptoms, I would have never known it was there had God not caused the ovarian cyst pain that drove me to ER. Within the last five years, Dr. Hammer at the University of Michigan Healthcare Center has devoted his career and an entire Adrenal Cancer Clinic to the research and treatment of adrenal cancer. Now, statistics are beginning to show to promise in a particular radiation and chemo protocol preventing recurrence. So, now I’m awaiting surgery and a treatment plan from the nation’s leading authority on this rare, so-called “incurable” cancer. And who knows. Maybe Dr. Hammer will learn something from my tumor that will help another patient.
God doesn’t promise us an easy ride, but He did promise that whatever we ask for and believe we have already received, will be given to us. (Matthew 21:22, Mark 11:24) I am most assuredly not thrilled about getting cancer or about the upcoming treatments which may last years. (In Job 2:10 Job told his wife, “Shall we accept good from God, but not trouble?”) But, I will be eternally grateful for God teaching me that when Isaiah prophesied that by Christ’s wounds we would be healed (Isaiah 53:5) He meant it literally. The same power in the faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God that healed believers in biblical times is very much available to us today. While I’m very optimistic that God will take this cancer out of me again, I also more fully appreciate the concept of craving His will first for my life. If I can better glorify Him in dying than living, then so be it. Since I have Heaven to look forward to, I figure it’s win-win!
I also want to mention that a couple of weeks before this last trip to ER, I had a dream where a group of people were walking into the most beautiful sunrise while chanting, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” I kept thinking about that precious Albert Lemmons teaching at last year’s prayer workshop how one way the Holy Spirit communicates with us can be in our dreams. I didn’t get it then, but now I realize that even though God allowed my health to be taken away, He blessed me by not allowing my new little home-based business to suffer. After reporting to my clients that I had cancer, not one of them wanted to cancel their contracts, but instead showed the most generous concern for my well-being and flexibility in the hours I can give them through my recovery. Being able to rely on that income has taken such stress off me as I’m self-supporting and have a huge insurance deductible. Praise God!
Keith, your annual prayer workshops and your book, Why God Waits For You To Pray, have been so incredibly helpful in my understanding better His generosity if we just surrender to His mighty power. What a Savior!!!
Thanks for letting me share.
Mary, what an amazing ride you’ve had. And how powerful to watch the Lord work in your healing. I’m convinced that our healing from physical disease (not just salvation from sin) is included in Christ’s atonement for us (Isaiah 53:1-6 & Matthew 8:14-17).
Keep believing & we’ll all keep praying for you. Thanks so much for sharing your story!
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I prayed for a classmate and the next day he showed me his hands which were completely clean. The previous day they were marked by warts.
Glory to God.