When I Wonder If Prayer Really Matters by Jennifer Wier
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I guess it's because my birthday is coming up, but it has me thinking about the tradition of making birthday wishes. It's fun and harmless, even hopeful. But, it's kinda weird to blow out candles and spit on a cake before slicing it up and serving it to everyone, isn't it?
A couple years ago, my sister gave me a birthday card that had these words typed inside: "I'm wishing for your birthday wishes to come true." She had put an "X" through "wishing" and wrote above it, "praying."
It seems simple, but this little change has stayed with me.
What about you? Do you find yourself wishing or praying? What's the difference? Is there a difference? This week, my friend, Jennifer Wier is joining us for Psalm 127 and helping us sort through these questions.
Jennifer Wier is a writer, counselor, and follower of Jesus dedicated to pointing people’s hearts toward Home. Jennifer has a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has worked with clergy, university students, teen mothers, and community members in need of mental health support. A Chicago native turned military spouse, she currently resides in Alaska with her husband of fifteen years and their four young children. She serves as Vice President of Spiritual Life for the chapel women’s ministry at Eielson Air Force Base and writes regularly at www.jenniferwier.com.
Do you ever wonder if your prayers really make a difference?
After many years of following Jesus, I still often struggled with the idea of supplication, or asking God for things in prayer. I enjoyed experiencing His presence in various ways, including through prayer. However, when it came to bringing certain kinds of requests to Him, it sometimes felt a bit superstitious to me. Would my prayers really affect the outcome of a situation? Did I even want them to? I knew God’s ways were better than mine, and I trusted Him. So why insert my own opinions into the equation and ask Him to do things my way? My perspective felt rooted in faith, not doubt, but little did I know how much I was missing out on by adopting this view.
One day, as I was about to embark on a big project, a friend kindly offered to pray over it with me. As she spoke, asking the Lord to guide and bless this new endeavor, I realized that in all my preparations, I had forgotten to invite God in. This thing I was about to do was meant to be for Him, but suddenly it occurred to me that if He wasn’t a part of the process, if He wasn’t the architect, the builder, and the sustainer of what I put my hand to, then what was the point?
As my friend continued her prayer, the Lord brought to my mind Psalm 127:1, which says,
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. - Psalm 127:1
The missing puzzle piece in my theology of prayer suddenly slid into place, and I finally understood: Prayer is how we let the Lord build the house. Prayer isn’t the recitation of some magic words, it’s remembering to invite God in. It’s the laying down of my plans, my pride, and my striving and asking the Lord to build something worthwhile. But unlike the fatalist view I formerly held that assumed God would do whatever He intended, regardless of me, I saw in this moment a middle ground— a better way. A together way. Rather than God doing it all without me, or me thinking I can do it all without God, prayer creates an opportunity to participate with Him in His redemptive work in the world.
Prayer makes the difference between building my own Tower of Babel or building His Kingdom. It is the difference between striving in my own strength or offering up my small gifts to the Lord like fish and loaves, asking Him to multiply them in His power. Prayer is choosing humility over pride, partnership over individualism. Prayer is relationship with God, and it’s what He desires more than anything I could accomplish for Him.
I’m getting better about remembering to invite the Lord to build by bringing things before Him in prayer, even though I know He might go in a different direction than what I’ve sketched out on my blueprint. Sometimes He might even say no to a particular project or request altogether. But it’s because He has better plans in mind, plans He will invite me into when it’s time (what an amazing thought!). Other times, when I bring my ideas before the Lord, He’ll respond with a wide smile and a resounding “yes!” and I’ll watch as He builds it into something more magnificent than I could have imagined.
Now, It's Your Turn!
Before opening God's Word, take a moment to pray and ask God to meet you there. Then...
Read Psalm 127 a couple times. Highlight what stands out to you.
Circle verbs or specific wording you notice.
Then, write down a bullet point takeaway based on this. "I-statements" help make this personal. Think of this as a challenge statement.
When I doubt the power of prayer, I will remember Who I am praying to, Who is listening to me, and Who knows my voice and loves me.
Then, jot down a question or two to think about today. You don't have to have the answer to this question now. And yield to the Holy Spirit - prayerfully ask God to search your heart and lead you to more truth and grow your faith through the Holy Spirit.
In what area of my life have I been "striving in my own strength"? How can I offer this up to the Lord like fishes and loaves through prayer and ask Him to provide in His power?
Again, we don't have to be Bible scholars and talk only in the thou's and art's of King James version to read this book. ...because when we pray before we read, we are not alone. The Holy Spirit is with us, guiding and teaching us.
Praise God for this!
And praise God for refreshment as we are intentional to spend a summer in the Psalms together, for if we want His truth to ever be on our lips, it must first be planted in our hearts.
Our strength grows as we rely on strength from above. Our joy grows as we see God transforming us from the inside out. Our peace grows as we spend time in God's presence, and we find rest when we intentionally seek the Lord first in our lives, for the Lord is ever our portion.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
I love hearing from you, so go ahead. Leave a comment. Be brave. Maybe your comment will speak life into someone else!
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