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Two Kinds of...

Good / Bad

by Dennis Pollock

Your attitude toward prayer will determine your prayer life: how much you pray, how often you pray, and the degree of fervency with which you pray. People who pray a lot understand some things and believe some things that those who rarely pray do not. One word that summarizes what prayer is supposed to accomplish is the word intervention. The idea behind prayer is that the person doing the praying is seeking God to intervene in some situation, some aspect of their life.

Much of life follows a certain natural progression. If we are astute and observant we can often perceive where and how a matter will conclude long before its actual conclusion. And some progressions are so obvious and so invariable that you can make predictions even without being the least bit astute and not especially observant. For example, when I look at a seven-year-old boy, I know that he will not always look the way he does now. He will get taller and larger and will lose his boyish looks. As he moves into old age, he will likely lose his shape a bit (or a lot), he will get wrinkles, his nose and ears will get larger and so forth. We know this is so, because it happens to everybody. We may not be able to project exactly what he will look like at twenty-five or seventy-five, but we have a basic idea about some of the changes he will experience.

Sometimes the natural course of life is a positive thing. Throughout my adolescence I had a close friend named Tom. We were nearly inseparable. We played all kinds of games together, and spent much of our free time together. After college I lost touch with Tom and we didn’t see each other for around forty years. Not long ago I managed to locate him through Facebook, and it turned out that we lived about forty-five minutes apart. We got together for breakfast and caught up on our forty missing years. Tom went into the business world and did very well. At the age of sixty-two he was able to retire comfortably. That Tom had a successful career was not a surprise to me. As a youth, he was smart, nice-looking, personable, and a hard worker. I would have been shocked had I found out that he had been anything but successful. Hard working, sharp, likable people normally do very well in life, and my friend was no exception.

Negative Outcomes

Sometimes it is fairly easy to predict negative outcomes. When two egotistical, selfish, independent people get married, it is not much of a stretch to predict that there will be serious problems in that marriage, and that the marriage is probably doomed from the start. And when they begin to fight and fuss and get upset with each other, they are simply following the natural order for ego-driven people. They are doing what any rational person who knows them well could have predicted. Failed marriages in such cases should shock no one. This is exactly what happens in so many of the marriages of the Hollywood superstars who make millions of dollars and possess highly inflated egos. In many cases it should not surprise us when they file for divorce. It would be far more amazing should they live happily together until they celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

Sometimes we see situations in our own lives which fill us with dread. We recognize that, given the way things began and the way things are moving currently, the outlook is terrible. This could be related to health, as when one has a malignant tumor which is growing rapidly, despite all the doctor’s efforts to wipe it out. It might be a marriage in which disagreements and quarrels are becoming more the norm than the exception. It might be a job situation, where our boss seems to dislike us, and show his disfavor in more and more explicit ways. We observe the way things are going, and know that, barring some sort of almost miraculous change, the future is dismal.

For the Christian, these kinds of situations call for prayer. Prayer is an invitation, a petition, even a desperate cry to the One who holds our lives in His hands to “break through” the present circumstances and change the course of our lives. We are doing all we know to do, but things are getting worse instead of better. In the Gospels, we read of just such a person – the famous “woman with the issue of blood.” This lady lived in a constant state of menstrual bleeding. She had been to many doctors, spent all her money on them, but rather than improving she grew worse. It didn’t require a lot of intelligence to figure out that the end of all this could not be good.

Then something amazing happened. She heard about Jesus. Good things always seem to begin that way! She made her way to Jesus, fighting through the hordes of people who surrounded Him, and touched the edge of His robe. She was instantly healed. The course of natural consequences was arrested by divine intervention, and rather than becoming progressively weaker until finally the affliction took her life, she was suddenly cured. What would you call this? We could surely call it a miracle, or to use the more Biblical phrase, a sign and a wonder. But another word which perfectly describes the event would be grace. Through faith in Jesus and acting upon that faith, this lady experienced God’s grace which changed the natural and expected progression of her affliction. The end that nearly everyone would have predicted did not occur.

The Throne of Grace

And it is this petition for grace which is behind and essentially makes up the prayer of petition. The Bible tells us: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).  When we pray and petition our compassionate Heavenly Father in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, we are declaring that we need intervention; that is, we need God to break into our circumstances and change something or do something or stop something over which we have no control. If we could have done it ourselves, we would have done it. But it is beyond us, and we know that if the natural course of life occurs, we are in serious trouble. And so we pray.

There is a need to truly believe, and there is a need to persevere and endure delays and setbacks, but if we will persist and do not allow our faith to be stolen, we find that God loves to answer our prayers. He does not intervene on our behalf grudgingly, but rather joyfully. He takes pleasure to draw us into a life of praying and receiving, of meeting with seemingly immoveable obstacles, only to find that through prayer and faith they move. Mountains of difficulties dissolve before our eyes, and huge, ugly giants that threaten us, our families, and our ministries fall down dead at our feet.

I have titled this study: “Two Kinds of…” Let me explain what I mean. For years now I have thought about the differences between people who regularly pray and those who rarely or never pray. It is not that you can never achieve any type of success if you do not pray. The truth is, many of the most successful men of our current generation and past generations are not or were not men or prayer. A lack of prayer does not mean you can never achieve anything, nor does a lot of prayer guarantee that you will succeed at a world class level. But what prayer does do is enlist the assistance of God. And what it guarantees is that when it is present, God will do things and change things in ways that would never have occurred if there had been no prayer. Regardless of your natural level of skill, your natural abilities and confidence, every one of us will at times meet challenges that are beyond our ability to overcome. We will need grace. We will need to pray.

Those Who Do and Those Who Don’t

Never Stop PrayingAgain, in this area there are two kinds of people, those who regularly go to God with their needs in prayer, and those who do not. I have to admit, after having spent over forty years calling on God for needs large and small, it is hard for me to even imagine what life would be like without this privilege. But there are millions if not billions who live that way. When problems arise, they put on their problem-solver hats and do everything they can think of to fix them. But they never once talk to God about it. No prayer, no standing on the promises of Scripture, no looking to God for breakthroughs – just human effort and the hope that this will be enough. Sometimes it is; sometimes it is not.

Not only are there two kinds of people, the praying and the prayerless – there are two kinds of nearly every situation, challenge, event, activity, and relationship. Let’s consider the family vacation. Some vacations are prayed over before the car is started and that first mile is traveled. But many families take their vacations without ever thinking to pray over it at all. There are two kinds of marriages: those where husband and wife pray over their relationship, their difficulties, and their challenges, and those where no prayer ever rises up to that wonderful throne of grace.

Raising children is a particularly grievous area concerning this issue of prayer. Imagine a child who goes from birth to his graduation from high school, and has never once had either of his parents offer up a prayer on his behalf. What a difference between the child whose parents pray consistently for him or her. How blessed is the child with praying parents! How wonderful to get to heaven and discover all sorts of amazing blessings and the avoidance of tragedies that were the result of your mom or your dad, or both praying for you. How blessed, how incredibly blessed is the prayed-over child, the prayed-over church, the prayed over marriage, the prayed over ministry, the prayed-over career, the prayed over decision, the prayed-over project, the prayed-over mission, the prayed-over nation.

Why Prayer?

Why is prayer so amazingly effective and fruitful? First and foremost, when it is done correctly, prayer is an expression of faith. People give serious attention to prayer because they expect it to bring results. And God likes that. To pray, to call out to God, and give Him no rest until He establishes the situation in our favor, is to declare that we put our trust in God. The Bible tells us, “In all your ways acknowledge (God) and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6). Somehow, in the simple act of acknowledging God and our need for God in specific situations, we invite and receive divine direction and assistance.

In that acknowledgment, there is faith. We stop what we are doing, we pause our busy lives to pray, because we believe that in doing so, blessings and positive divine intervention will result. Our Creator is very big on faith, so big that He made it the entryway into His family. We are born again when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in the efficacy of His death on the cross for our sins and of His resurrection from the dead.

Secondly, prayer is an expression of humility, another attribute which God greatly values. As long as we trust in ourselves, in our own problem-solving abilities, in our own talent for “taking care of business,” we will not pray. But when we recognize just how weak and helpless and limited we are, and just how quickly all that we hold dear could be taken away from us, we will pray. And with such prayer, when it is offered in the name of His Son Jesus, God is well pleased. Interventions and breakthroughs become an integral part of our lives. Again and again we find that the natural course of life is somehow altered and changed, in our favor. Bad outcomes that should come our way strangely don’t, and great things that we had no business ever expecting somehow fall down on our heads.

What in the world is going on? God is doing what He loves to do. He is intervening on behalf of those who boldly come to His beautiful “throne of grace.” Marriage interventions, health interventions, career interventions, ministry interventions, and all sorts of other interventions come our way, not because we are clever, not because we have learned how to brainstorm better than anyone else, not because our IQ is higher than anyone else’s, but because God is a God who hears and answers prayer.


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