Cruise the internet a while and you’ll find a whole tribe of skeptics mocking prayer. As one site put it, “prayer and anything like it is a waste of time and energy…. I don’t really see prayer ever being a constructive activity except for maybe someone who is using it as a crutch.”
Do you think they’re right? Prayer looks so weak and harmless to most people. It seems like only a last, desperate resort for people who’ve run out of options.
I remember hearing of a contentious church committee trying to make a crucial decision. Out of frustration, one attendee blurted out, “Maybe we should just pray about it…”
Another in the meeting chimed, “Has it come to that!?”
Prayer seems weak. Maybe that’s why most people (including many Christians) see prayer as a last resort, a self-inflicted optimism that can’t possibly have any real influence on this chaotic cosmos.
But sometimes prayer will surprise you. It’ll trick you into thinking it’s weak, only to amaze you by its jaw-dropping power…
- When the Assyrians invaded the territory of ancient Jerusalem, they sent King Hezekiah a threatening letter saying: “Or are you going to tell me, ‘We rely on God’? (2 Kings 18:22 MSG). Prayer seemed weak to the Assyrian army but when Hezekiah prayed, “that that very night an angel of God came and massacred a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians. When the people of Jerusalem got up next morning, there it was – a whole camp of corpses!” (2 Kings 19:35 MSG.) The world’s most dreaded superpower went home in disgrace because of a “weak” thing called prayer.
- And then there was King Jehoshaphat. Three barbaric armies marched up to destroy his weak little kingdom. No onlookers would’ve bet against the Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites. They looked invincible and Jehoshaphat had retreated into his prayer time… along with his people. But when the post-prayer dust settled, Jehoshaphat’s army hadn’t even drawn a sword and the attackers wound up destroying themselves (2 Chronicles 20).
- Even Jesus resorted to this weak-looking power during his darkest time. While Judas was busy betraying his Rabbi and Peter lay sleeping while gripping his sword, Jesus prayed in Gethsemane. Satan must’ve thought Jesus had lost his way when he resorted to mere praying in the face of arrest, torture, crucifixion and hell itself. But the demonic world was ignorant of how prayer was about to shake the universe. Jesus “offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death (or out of death), and he was heard…” (Hebrews 5:7). Amazingly, the resurrection of Jesus sprang out of this weak thing called prayer.
“But God chose the foolish things of the world shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27 NIV.)
Have you ever been surprised by the power of prayer? Share it with us…