Prayers make a difference
The first time we can read about people praying to God in the Bible (rather than having a conversation with him in person) is in Gen 4:26:
Gen. 4:26 And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.
Reformed Christians might pray just as much as other Christians, but the question is why they make this effort considering that they also believe that we are not able to thwart God’s predestined plans no matter what we do (as per Calvinism). They might reply that they pray because God tells them to do so, but what would be the difference if they did not? If all things pan out exactly as God wants, surely we can afford to be extremely relaxed when it comes to praying?
See the verses below. If we are able to cause the preferred season thanks to our prayers, then maybe we are able to influence people to have an open heart for the gospel as well? (Meaning; people are not predestined to be saved or damned from the foundation of the world.) Apparently God has not yet decided which season of the year the flight in question will take place, because Jesus asks us to pray about it. This is evidence that all things are not written in stone, and that we can affect things with our prayers. If we have an active prayer life, we will be stronger spiritually and will be better equipped to escape (and/or endure) hardship which will come to pass in the future:
Matt. 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:—20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day
Luke 21:34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
We can pray that we will not enter into temptation, and we will become stronger spiritually if we pray. This is something that we are supposed to do, rather than placing the responsibility on God. Combining prayers with fasting is a good advice, which can also be done alone. However, Paul tells married couples to be united again so that Satan will not be able to tempt them. Again, this is something we are expected to do in order to affect our mind-set and the future.
Matt. 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
1 Cor. 7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
We can pray that God will send workers for the great harvest, which means that we can influence both people and God with our prayers:
Matt. 9:37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
Speaking in tongues is something we should be eager to do (and do not let anyone tell you something else), but it is even better to be able to interpret the tongues. Speaking in tongues is one spiritual gift, and interpreting tongues is another separate one. The best combination is to have both gifts, because then we are able to edify even more people than just ourselves. We can pray about it!:
1 Cor. 14:13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
When we pray, it helps if we believe that God can hear our prayers and that we are able to achieve what we pray and strive for (even if other elements are also involved). Our own faith can affect the outcome, and God will hear the prayer of the righteous. If we live in unrepentant sin, however, it is not certain that God will hear our prayers:
Mark. 11:24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
1 Tim. 2:8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
Mark. 5:33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
Prov. 15:29 The Lord is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.
Prov. 28:9 He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination .
Dan. 9:4 And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;
When Jesus became man in flesh, he prayed/communicated with his Father God just like we pray to God. Also Jesus can affect things thanks to prayer/communication, which of course is obvious since the whole world was created thanks to the divine words “Let there be light”:
Luke 6:12 And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.13 And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles
Jesus shows through a parable, that we can definitely affect God with our prayers. Even someone who does not fear God might very well adhere to constant pleadings. This does not mean that God will not listen to us the first time but requires constant pleadings before he does, but the point is that even a bad person might eventually give in for constant crying and pleadings, so would not our Father in heaven even more pay attention to his children’s urgent prayers?:
Luke 18:1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
Jesus taught us how to pray, and he gave us an example. We can pray for the outcome of things, we can give thanks for what we already have (regular food), etc. We can also pray that his will shall be done, which indicates that it is not certain that the best option for all mankind or individuals will always take place. Praying is therefore important tool. Notice the moral sense: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
Luke 11:1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.3 Give us day by day our daily bread.4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.5 And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;6 For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?7 And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.8 I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
Paul constantly prayed for others, and wanted to be prayed for himself. This is because he knew that prayers can influence things for the better:
Rom. 1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers
2 Cor. 13:7 Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates.
Rom. 15:30 Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;31 That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;32 That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.
Phil. 1:18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
2 Cor. 1:11 Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.
2 Thess. 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
Col. 4:2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;3 Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:— 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
2 Cor. 8:4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
1 Thess. 3:10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
2 Thess. 1:11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:
2 Tim. 4:16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.
Philemon 1:22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.
We can pray that people will receive the Holy Ghost:
Acts 8:14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
As believers we can pray that people can get healed. All people will not get healed all the time and live forever (Lazarus, who came back to life thanks to Jesus, eventually died), but if you for instance check the mission by TLR and Torben Søndergaard, Christians indeed have been given the power to heal in the name of Jesus:
Acts 28:8 And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.
Ja. 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.
You cannot expect to fall in a miraculous trance or see visions, unless you spend time in prayer (like Peter, John, Daniel, etc):
Acts 22:17 And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance
The prayers from righteous believers can be seen together with the smoke of incense before God:
Rev. 8:3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.5 And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.
1 Pet. 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
God heard the prayers of Zacharia:
Luke 1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.—13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
Cornelius was a righteous God-fearing man, and before he received the holy Ghost, God heard his prayers and saw his works:
Acts 10:30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.
God heard the prayers of Hezekiah and saw his tears. He gave him support and added 15 more years to his life time:
2 King. 20:5 Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord.6 And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.
We can learn a lot from the book of Jonah when it comes to prayer. Even the pagan mariners understood that it was a good idea to pray to God during times of trouble, and the they and Jonah alike understood that this particular problem occurred due to Jonah’s resistance to God. God has prepared a big fish to swallow up Jonah, but God also heard Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the fish and helped him out. The king of Nineveh also understood the power of prayers, fasting and the importance of a sincere repentance. The attitude of the inhabitants of Nineveh made God change his mind, and he decided to not do what he had previously said he would:
Jonah 1:6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.7 And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.8 Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?9 And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him. Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.11 Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.14 Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee.15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows.17 Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah 2:1 Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly,2 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
Jonah 3:6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
Below an important secret is revealed. We are able to take on the full armour of God – praying included – and this will make our spirits stronger. Notice also that Daniel through fasting and prayers received a special revelation, and how the angel explained to him that although his prayers were heard the first day, the prince of Persia (among the rulers of the darkness of this world …) withstood him for some time. This means that we should not give up since we are not wrestling against flesh and blood but against invisible powers:
Eph. 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel
Dan. 10:2 In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks.3 I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.—11 And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling.12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.14 Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days