1 Timothy 2:1-2: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

Prayer changes the world, and prayer also changes us. That’s the power of prayer in a nutshell.

We have an advocate in heaven who prays for us night and day. His name is Jesus. His prayers move mountains and work in conjunction with the Holy Spirit who is spread out all over the world. The Holy Spirit is on the move globally and challenges us to pray. Our prayers are like a breath of fresh air sweeping across our countries. We’d be suffocating without prayers, I’m sure.

Paul urges Timothy in his letter to pray specifically for kings and authorities. Men and women in authority need a lot of prayer because they affect a lot of people. I think it’s hard to pray for authorities because most of us aren’t related to them. We all probably find it easier to pray for people we know, or at least for people we empathize with. A powerful person quickly becomes an abstract for us. We see the person primarily in their functions, and that’s what they become in our minds – the CEO of a company, the police officer, the king of England, the president of the United States – but this abstract person really only exists on paper. That’s like painting a picture and claiming the painting is reality. Paintings are just two-dimensional. Reality on the other hand contains a third dimension, depth. To pray effectively, we need to take this extra step in our hearts and minds, go past a person’s title and status and see a vulnerable human being.

God knows everybody from the inside out. He can help us relate to a person better. And wouldn’t you know it? All of a sudden we pray with empathy. That’s how prayer changes us.

Prayer changes the world because God listens to prayer, especially selfless prayer. An active prayer life looks as different as our respective DNA codes. I am writing this as a precaution, because some of us are haunted by certain stereotypes triggered by such words as “prayer warrior” or “prayer closet”. Nobody prays the same, and we shouldn’t. That’s as if all love affairs were the same, and they aren’t. Prayer first and foremost is our communication with God. How that looks like depends largely on our personality. So don’t try to be a copycat mimicking what we think a prayer warrior would do. Be yourself. Just don’t give up on God or people. That’s what prayer is all about.

2 Chronicles 7:14: “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

There is a communication flow going on between Heaven and Earth, and we’re in that flow as we pray. Intercession is part of it, but I would venture to say that intercession is not the essential part of that communication flow.  Comparatively speaking, if our only communication in a marriage relationship was to issue a To-Do-List to our spouse every day, love would probably go out the window after a while.

Don’t you hate those fruitless conversations which after a while turn into mere monologues? One person does the talking, the other person’s job is to listen. Maybe occasionally the listener is asked for some feedback, but mostly this person is expected to be the sounding board.

Thankfully, God is no sounding board. The communication flow between Heaven and Earth goes both ways: God speaks to us, and we listen; we speak to God, and He listens. While it is certainly OK to vent to Him and spill all our beans, prayer is a two-way-conversation. God wants to impress His wisdom, and we need an open mind to receive His directions.

Dishonesty presents a major obstacle to our communication flow with God. We can lie to our neighbor, we can lie to ourselves, but lying to God does not work. Actually, lying never works – and hiding from God does not work either. Adam and Eve were prime examples. And why would we want to hide? Why would we be afraid of Him? There is absolutely no question about God’s merciful attitude. Unlike people, God is not quick to condemn and His patience is astounding. He forgives and forgets and gives us a fighting chance as we go through our daily battles. And as we do, we just keep the prayers coming. This will positively affect our lives and the world around us.

We can pray anywhere, anytime. Let’s not give up on praying!

Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”

A prayer is just a beginning. A prayer opens up a whole new world. And the best of it is: we might pray for some very specific things and hope for certain outcomes, while God has infinitely more in mind. As God responds to prayer He puts more into His answer than we could expect, and more than we could have imagined. In the scope of things, we’re asking for an ice cream cone, and in the end we’re getting an entire ice cream truck – not to overindulge in ice cream but because we might have a passion for ice cream, and now we’re in the business of selling it.

I know this is an arbitrary example, but fact of the matter is, compared to God who created us, we don’t know ourselves very well.  So, when it comes to life decisions or life changes then praying comes in really handy.

At the end of the day, when God answers prayer, all we can do is sit down and thank Him. Prayers and answers to prayer both honor Him. Prayer gives honor to God because we trust Him enough to submit our issues and problems into His care. Answers to prayer honor Him because the way God comes through for His children speaks volumes about His generous character.

Answers to prayer are scattered all over the Bible, here are just a couple of examples:

Genesis 25:21: “Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant (with twins no less).”

Rebekah’s twins were named Jacob and Esau. Sibling rivalry led to Jacob’s departure from home when he was still very young. Without the protection of his father’s tribe he felt extremely vulnerable. So Jacob fell on his knees and submitted this request to the only One who could help him now. In Genesis 28:20-22 we read:

“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

Jacob’s prayer consisted of three emergency items:

  1. Protection
  2. Food to eat
  3. Clothes to wear

God’s answer went far beyond Jacob’s initial request when He granted him:

  • Protection
  • Food to eat
  • Clothes to wear
  • Wives
  • Children
  • Livestock, which in modern terms could mean a thriving business

Jacob left home with just the clothes on his back and not a penny to his name and came back a Patriarch of a new tribe, a tribe God created to bring hope into the world. Ultimately, God’s Son Jesus would be born into Jacob’s tribe. Jesus is the ultimate answer to all prayers spoken for the sake of freedom and redemption – and nobody could have expected this kind of answer. Who would have thought or even come up with an idea such as this: God slipping into the role of a human to free us?

These are God-sized answers to human-sized prayers. Glory to God for His incredible heart to feel our pain and His incredible mind to come up with mind-blowing solutions!

  “There’s a long black cloud comin’ on down

I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door” (Bob Dylan)