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06 February 2018

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 people who read it thinking, “Well I would like some power, and this fella claims I can get it through prayer; let’s see whether he has anything I could use.” (More accurately, “Let’s see whether he tells me something I’m willing to do.” If it takes too much effort, or takes us too far out of our comfort zones, people prefer alternative routes. True of prayer too.)

There are three types of Christians who wanna know about getting power through prayer. Most of them are the Christians who wanna be “strong in the Lord, and the power of his might.” Ep 6.10 KJV These are the Christians who like to imagine themselves “prayer warriors,” who wanna be able to pray for anything and everything, and have their prayers regularly answered with yes. If prayer gets ’em what they want every single time, that’s mighty power. That’s what they want: Their wishes are… well, not God’s commands, for they’d never put it that way. But essentially yeah: God does as they want.

The second group wants supernatural power. They wanna see miracles. They wanna do miracles. Same as the Christians who want God to do as they want, they want the Holy Spirit to empower them to do every mighty act they can think of. They wanna be able to touch sick people and instantly cure them. Or part seas, make axheads float, make sundials go backward, turn fillings into gold, and even call down fire. Anything that demonstrates God’s really among us. (Or, more selfishly, anything that demonstrates God endorses us. Which miracles don’t actually do; note Samson. But since people aren’t really aware of this, they’re hoping to milk this misbelief for a while.)

And the third group wants temporal power. They might want to be in charge of a church, or a ministry, or a nonprofit. They might want political gain, for all the issues they care about God cares about, to become law. They might want to do really well financially—have a nice house, own a nice car, pay off their mortgage, take all the vacations they want missions trips God wants. And they’re figuring prayer might be the key to this: Do a little praying, earn a few karmic points with God for the time they put in, and he’ll pay them back with victories over their environment.

Is there power to be gained through prayer? Of course there is. Otherwise Christians wouldn’t write piles of books on the subject.

So what’s the secret? Um… it’s hardly a secret.

Basically when we pray, we’re talking with God. We’re interacting with him. We’re listening to him. We’re seeking his will. We’re following the Holy Spirit’s lead. We’re developing a closer relationship with him. You put time into that, and make that relationship with God your first priority, you get God’s power. You seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first and foremost, you get all the other stuff. Mt 6.33 You don’t, you won’t.

What, you thought there was a special prayer shortcut? Nope. Ain’t no shortcuts to quality time with God. Either we make him a priority and grow closer to him, or we don’t and won’t.

The problem for those who covet power? They covet power. Not God. God’s a means to an end, not the Beginning and the End. God’s how you hope to get the power; thing is God wants you to get him. And working at cross purposes isn’t gonna get us where we want, nor where he wants.

Books on power through prayer.

I mentioned Christians have written piles of books on the subject. For we have. Most of us have reached the very same conclusions I stated above: Pray, seek God, and get power as a byproduct. Of course there are exceptions—authors who likewise covet power, and think they’ve found a gimmick which reaches around God and grabs the power.

Not that they’d ever brazenly put it that way. Most of the time they just claim God wants to grant us this power. He wants us to be happy, so like a parent who overindulges their child with no thought to future consequences, he’s offering to spoil us rotten. Or he wants to entice people to follow him by showing off how he splurges on his existing kids. Or somehow he’s in our karmic debt because we did some token acts of worship which he promised to reward big-time. They’ve scoured the bible for evidence or loopholes, figure they’ve found a few, and present it for our approval—which they’ll get. Hey, many of us already have wealth, and we were looking for any justification to keep it, instead of having to follow the sorry path of the rich young ruler. Mk 10.17-27

I swiped the title for this piece 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. Go ahead and read his books. He’s basically saying everything I am, but with a lot more words.

Prayer is the one spiritual discipline we can’t skip. We can practice all the others, and impress plenty of other Christians with how good we look, but when we don’t pray, all the other disciplines turn into superficial, hypocritical piety. If we’re not interacting with God as we go, it’s all dead religion. If we aren’t doing it with him, as well as for him, we have no clue whether he’s pleased with our actions—and y’know, if we aren’t doing any of these actions with him, he’s not pleased. He wants a relationship with his kids! The point is to legitimately get closer to God, not to look and feel more devout. Prayer’s at the core of these things. Can’t skip prayer!

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?

Positions of power, and prayer.

If we wanna become mature Christians, or move any degree into Christian leadership, we’d better darned well be praying Christians.

After all, if a Christian doesn’t have regular conversations with God—worse, if they’re estranged from their Father, trying their darnedest to avoid having conversations with him, adopting theology which justifies having as little contact with God as possible, and replacing him with out-of-context scriptures which do as they want, not as he wants—we’re gonna have a rough time. Plenty enough Christians faking the fruit of the Spirit without us putting them in charge of people!

And yet it happens all the time: Christians with sucky prayer lives, who are nonetheless decent public speakers, or who are otherwise friendly people… so we give ’em a pass on prayer. (Sometimes because, honestly, we’re no better at prayer; who are we to judge?) But it’s like a vain newsreader who won’t wear his glasses on camera, yet still has to read the teleprompter: He might fake it as best he can, and if he gets his job done at all, it certainly won’t be done well. Is that what we want in our leadership? Is it what God wants in his servants?

Obviously not. 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. And again, there’s 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.