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02 April 2019

Power through prayer.

Power’s a byproduct, not the goal—contrary to some Christians’ wishes.

Humans covet power. So I fully expect by titling this article “Power through prayer,” I’m gonna get a few readers who think, “I’d like some power, and this fella claims I can get it through prayer; let’s see whether there’s anything I can use.” (More accurately, “Let’s see whether he tells me something I care to do.” If it takes too much effort, or takes us too far out of our comfort zones, people prefer alternative routes. True of medicine, politics, Christianity, and of course our prayers.)

Generally there are three types of Christians who wanna know about gaining power through prayer.

  1. “PRAYER WARRIORS.” These’d be the folks who think prayer is how we do spiritual warfare. Not resisting temptation, like the scriptures describe; they believe spiritual warfare consists of praying against all the evil in the world. They want everything they pray against to be vanquished.
  2. SIGN-SEEKERS. These Christians wanna see miracles. They wanna do miracles. They want the Holy Spirit to empower them to do every mighty act they can think of: Sick people get instantly cured, axheads float, sundials go backwards, fillings turn to gold, fire falls from the sky. Anything which demonstrates God’s really among us and endorses them.
  3. POWER SEEKERS. These people want temporal power. They wanna be in charge of a church, ministry, or nonprofit. Or they want to be financially successful—have a nice house, own a nice car, pay off their mortgage, take all the vacations missions trips they always wanted to…. Or they want political power. Whatever gives them the ability to direct their lives the way they wish.

So all these folks wanna be “strong in the Lord, and the power of his might,” Ep 6.10 KJV whether they’re thinking of God’s armor or not. They want their prayers regularly answered with yes. Their wishes are… well, not God’s commands, for they’d never put it that way. But essentially yeah: They want God to do as they ask.

The problem? These people covet power. Not God. God’s a means to an end, not the Beginning and the End. Learning how to have power through prayer, basically means learning to manipulate God, and have our way with the Almighty. It’s the exact opposite of how our relationship with God is meant to work.

And those who seek powerful prayers, have to watch out lest we share this motivation. Because it’s absolutely the wrong motivation. We follow him. Never the other way round.

Books about power through prayer.

Christians have written piles of books on this subject. I haven’t read very many of them. ’Cause they tend to reach one of two conclusions:

  • You wanna bend God over a barrel? Do these things, and he’ll owe you. He’ll be in your karmic debt. He’ll have to give you what you ask.
  • Stop pursuing power. Pursue God.

The messed-up thing is I’ve found books which appear to be about pursuing God instead of power… but they’re not really. Inbetween all the bits about how we’re to surrender and submit and seek God first, y’get the sense that we’re to go through the motions of surrender and submission, and once we’ve sufficiently impressed God with all that, we can turn right around and ask God for stuff… ’cause he owes us. Yep, we weren’t following God for the sake of following God; it’s still about gaining favor, then using that favor to get stuff. We humans can be mighty weaselly when we wanna be.

A lot of the books justify their greed by claiming God wants to grant us power. He wants us to be happy, right? So like an overindulgent parent, someone who gives his kids no consequences for their actions with no thought to how this’ll ruin their character, God’s supposedly offering to spoil us rotten. Just give him a reason. Any reason, like our pathetic acts of worship, will do for him. He’s just that starved for love.

So while they’ll claim we need to pray and seek God, and power is only a byproduct… their books are all about getting some of that sweet, sweet byproduct.

Y’notice I don’t consider those books to be good advice at all. Sad to say, plenty of Christians will read the books of good advice—the ones which tell us to humble ourselves and follow God—and scour them looking for loopholes which might get ’em the power they covet.

I swiped the title of this article from Edward McKendree Bounds. He was a Methodist preacher in the late 1800s who was big on prayer: He wrote two books on the subject, and his fans compiled his sermons into several more books. They’re in the public domain now, so you can find ’em free on the internet, or buy them cheap. Bounds used to do regular prayer marathons at his church, and insisted if our churches wanna develop mighty Christians, we gotta be praying Christians. The non-praying kind might get mighty, but that’s entirely in their own power. Not God’s.

What was Bounds’s secret to power through prayer? Same as I already outlined: Stop seeking power and seek God. Go ahead and read his books. He’s basically saying everything I am, but with a lot more words.

But Bounds’s books are super popular among Christians because, like I said, they’re pursuing the byproduct.

God gives grace to the humble. And power.

Taking with God is the one spiritual discipline we can’t afford to skip. We can practice all the others, and it might impress plenty of other Christians with how good we look. But when we don’t pray, every other discipline turns into hypocrisy. If we don’t interact with God as we go, it’s all dead religion. If we don’t do it for him and with him, we’ve no clue what he thinks of our actions—and y’know, since he’s not part of those actions, he can’t be pleased. He wants a relationship with his kids! The point of prayer to legitimately get closer to God, not to look and feel more devout. Don’t skip prayer!

And when we pray, we interact with God. We listen to him. We discover his will, and do it. We follow the Holy Spirit’s lead. When we put time into our relationship with our Father, and make him first priority, that’s the sort of attitude he cares to work with… and that’s the place where he’s ready and willing to grant us power.

But if we’re hoping to butter him up till we reach that point in our relationship, and power is the real motive for all the time we’re putting in: Not only does God easily see through all of that, but he calls us on it pretty early in the relationship. Hypocrisy annoys him more than most things. He’s gonna work on that, and try to get it out of us. Ulterior motives and secret plans are kinda impossible in a relationship with an all-knowing Father.

So when we seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first and foremost, we get all the other stuff. Mt 6.33 When we don’t, we won’t.

So you want power through prayer? Start praying. Make it a priority in your Christian life. Not the last thing you do after you’ve done all the other stuff. Not the invocation at the beginning and end of a ministry: God should be here throughout. Not the afterthought, just so our ministry has God somewhere in the program: God should be here throughout. Not just a few nice-sounding words to remind everybody we’re doing this for Jesus: God should be here throughout. You get the idea, or do I have to repeat it a fourth time?

We read in the Old Testament how king after king flubbed their relationships with the LORD, and only called upon him when they wanted stuff. Peace from their enemies, usually. Sometimes riches. But they didn’t follow King David’s example and pray with any regularity—and you might recall David blew it big-time even so. Hopefully we won’t repeat David’s mistakes; far less so the mistakes of his irreligious descendants. And in God’s church, the very last thing we need to see are leaders and servants with similar character flaws, exacerbated by the fact they never speak to their Lord with any consistency.

So if we wanna serve God with power, if we wanna be successful as God’s kingdom defines success, we gotta pray. Ain’t no shortcut for quality time with God. Be intentional about it. Mark off some time for him every day. Listen to his voice. But don’t be passive about it: Ask questions. Get confirmation. Do as he tells you. Share what he tells you. Act in faith.

Pursue that relationship, and the power will come on its own.