Prayer Changes Things

Does Prayer Change Things?
R.C. Sproul

  • By prayer, Esau’s heart was changed toward Jacob, so that they met in a friendly, rather than hostile, manner (Gen. 32).
  • By the prayer of Moses, God brought the plagues upon Egypt and then removed them again (Ex. 7-11).
  • By prayer, Joshua made the sun stand still (Josh. 10).
  • By prayer, when Samson was ready to perish with thirst, God brought water out of a hollow place for his sustenance (Judg. 15).
  • By prayer, the strength of Samson was restored. He pulled down the temple of Dagon on the Philistines, so that those whom he killed as he died were more than all he had killed in his life (Judg. 16).
  • By prayer, Elijah held back the rains for three and a half years. Then by prayer, he caused it to rain again (1 Kings 17-18).
  • By the prayer of Hezekiah, God sent an angel and killed in one night 185,000 men in Sennacherib’s army (2 Kings 19).
  • By the prayer of Asa, God confounded the army of Zerah (2 Chron. 14).
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Asking for Strength to Rebel

Does Prayer Change Things?
R.C. Sproul

…if we see iniquity in our lives and harbor it in our hearts when we pray, we are asking God for the strength we need to curse Him. We are petitioning God for more strength to disobey Him further. Just as [someone is] not about to lend his gun to those who would kill him, God is not about to honor our requests made out of sinful hearts.

Remember to Whom You Are Speaking

Does Prayer Change Things?
R.C. Sproul

Several recent books would have us believe that all we have to do is follow certain steps and God will give us whatever we ask. The authors say, in effect, “Follow this procedure or use these specific words and know for certain that God will give in to your requests.” That’s not prayer; that’s magic. That’s not faith but superstition. These are gimmicks intended to manipulate the sovereign God. But the one who prays like this forgets the One to whom he is speaking.

A Sense of God

Under the Unpredictable Plant
Eugene Peterson

Our culture presents us with forms of prayer that are mostly self-expression – pouring ourselves out before God or lifting our gratitude to God as we feel the need and have the occasion.  Such prayer is dominated by a sense of self.  But prayer, mature prayer, is dominated by a sense of God.  Prayer rescues us from a preoccupation with ourselves and pulls us into adoration of and pilgrimage to God.

Come and Have Breakfast

John 21:9-14

[9] When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. [10] Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” [11] So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. [12] Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. [13] Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. [14] This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

In our passage, we see the incredible invitation Jesus extends to His disciples, “Come and have breakfast.”  It is a simple and incomprehensible request.

In verse 9, we read that Jesus already has fish and bread ready.  He was waiting for His disciples to return from their failed fishing trip.  Remember, Jesus is the Savior of the World and He has just risen from the dead, yet He is waiting to have breakfast with His disciples.

I remember the day my nephew was born.  I was actually supposed to have lunch with one of my church members.  When I heard the news, I did not hesitate.  I cancelled my lunch plans.  Days earlier, the Son of God conquered the devil, sin, and death.  He transformed all of human history.  And here He waits to have breakfast with His people.  It is important to Him.

In verse 10, Jesus asks them to bring some fish they had just caught.  Remember, the disciples caught nothing.  Any fish they had are the result of Jesus’s miracle.  If you invited me over for dinner and I walk in, take something out of your fridge, and hand it to you, you will not be impressed.  When we eat with Jesus, we bring nothing to the table.  But Jesus does not mind.  He wants to have breakfast with His disciples.

In verse 11, we see Peter’s nervous energy.  When he saw Jesus, he jumped out of the boat and swam to shore.  The other disciples who stayed in the boat arrive at the shore at more or less the same time.  When Jesus asks for a few fish for the meal, Peter brings 153 of them.  Peter had abandoned Jesus in His darkest moment.  He is filled with joy that Jesus has risen from the dead, yet at the same time, he is not sure how Jesus feels about him.

You may be a fairly nice person, but I know I have wronged many people over the course of my life.  I regret many things I have said and done.  At times I have wondered whether it is even possible to make up for these things, and this is with man.  What can we do when we betray God?  How can we pay Him back?  What are we going to do to make things right with Him, after all we’ve done?

Peter knows there’s nothing he can do.  And then in verse 12, Jesus says, “Come and have breakfast.”  In His invitation, Jesus is saying there is forgiveness for traitors and hypocrites.  There is grace for cowards and sinners.  There is no other god like this.

In the second half of verse 12, the disciples do not dare to ask who it is that they eat with.  They are tempted to ask, but they don’t.  They do not know this strange man cooking breakfast for them, but at the same time they do know.  Jesus must have looked different.  He is in His resurrection body.  His glory is shining.  For thirty years, Jesus had been hiding His majesty.  He appeared to be an ordinary carpenter.  Now, the disciples get a glimpse of the Word who was in beginning with God and who was God Himself.  The almighty, eternal Word invites them to breakfast.

Morning by morning, day by day, the Risen Son of God invites you to simply be with him, to share a meal with Him through reading His Word and praying.  Many times we say, “No.”  But He does not grow weary in extending the invitation.  When we hesitate, He gently asks, “Why do you wait?  For what do you delay?  My cross has made a way for you to be with Me.  Come and have breakfast with Me.”

A Ragamuffin Prayer

The Ragamuffin Gospel
Brennan Manning

Lord Jesus, we are silly sheep who have dared to stand before You and try to bribe You with our preposterous portfolios.  Suddenly we have come to our senses.  We are sorry and ask You to forgive us.  Give us the grace to admit we are ragamuffins, to embrace our brokenness, to celebrate Your mercy when we are at our weakest, to rely on Your mercy no matter what we may do.  Dear Jesus, gift us to stop grandstanding and trying to get attention, to do the truth quietly without display, to let the dishonesties in our lives fade away, to accept our limitations, to cling to the gospel of grace, and to delight in Your love.  Amen.

Teach Us to Pray

Does Prayer Change Things?
R. C. Sproul

[1] Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

– Luke 11:1

I have always been amazed that the disciples didn’t ask Jesus how to walk on water, how to still the tempest, or how to do any of His other miracles. They did, however, ask Jesus to teach them about prayer. Note that they did not ask Jesus to teach them how to pray; instead they begged, “Teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

Be Slow to Pray

Working the Angles
Eugene Peterson

The Greeks were experts on understanding existence from a human point of view; the Hebrews were experts in setting human existence in response to God.  Whereas the Greeks had a story for every occasion, the Hebrews had a prayer for every occasion.  For [Christians], the Greek stories are useful, but the Hebrew prayers are essential.  Prayer means that we deal first with God and then with the world.  Or, that we experience the world first not as a problem to be solved but as a reality in which God is acting.

We want life on our conditions, not on God’s conditions.  Praying puts us at risk of getting involved in God’s conditions.  Be slow to pray.  Praying most often doesn’t get us what we want but what God wants, something quite at variance with what we conceive to be in our best interests.  And when we realize what is going on, it is often too late to go back.  Be slow to pray.

A Psalm of Praise

Under the Unpredictable Plant
Eugene Peterson

[7] When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the LORD,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
[8] Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
[9] But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the LORD!”

– Jonah 2:7-9

The commonest form of prayer in the Psalms is the lament.  It is what we would expect, since it is our commonest condition.  We are in trouble a lot, so we pray in the lament form a lot.  A graduate of the Psalms School of Prayer would know this form best of all, by sheer force of repetition.

Jonah in the belly of the fish was in the worst trouble imaginable.  We naturally expect him to pray a lament.  What we get, though, is its opposite, a psalm of praise, in the standard thanksgiving form.

Circumstances dictated “lament.”  But prayer, while influenced by circumstances, is not determined by them.  Jonah, creative in his praying, chose to pray in the form “praise.”