6. But if God can read our minds, isn’t just thinking about what we want to pray good enough? Isn’t saying, “I’ll pray for you” and intending to do it as good as doing it? You know, “It’s the thought that counts,” right?
I used to think this. I used to think that if prayers were just formalities and if He could read my thoughts, then He knew what I wanted to pray. And that was just as good as praying. Right?
Wrong! Once again, it wasn’t until Job actually prayed for God to forgive his friends that God forgave them. Even though God planned to forgive, He didn’t act on that until Job prayed. And on top of that, it wasn’t until after Job obeyed and prayed that God blessed him again.
Job 42:9-10: “. . . and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.”
Here is a simple illustration that shows the difference between “thinking/intending” and praying. Imagine that I have a gift in my hands, and I intend to give it to you. Maybe you even know what’s in it. Now, you know that I am thinking about giving it to you. That is my intention. I just don’t get around to doing it. But isn’t it enough that you knew what my intentions were? No! It’s not the same as giving it. As long as we are still holding it, it is “ours.” It isn’t until we give it to the other person that it becomes “theirs.”
I think that God waits for us to hand the gift - the prayer - over to Him. It’s not good enough to just think about prayer, to intend to get around to it. There is no power in that. He waits to move until we call Him into action with our prayers, until we move from intending to pray to actually praying. And He does this because He is allowing us to make the choice to keep it or to give it over. Once again, He’s honoring our free-will. It isn’t until we actually put it into words in prayer that we have presented the prayer to God and invited Him to action with our concern or request or confession.
I don’t just base this belief on my own ideas. Everything should be evaluated by Scripture. First off, look up how many times God says things like, “And when the people pray or cry out to me, I will hear them and act.” You never read, “And when the people think, I will hear and act.”
Praying makes the difference! Crying out to God makes the difference! Our thoughts are our own, but our prayers are for God. We can pray in our minds or out loud, but we need to pray. Just thinking about the things we should pray about or what we wish God would do isn’t the same as praying.
And as we already looked at, the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 explicitly tells us to pray “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Like I said, I used to think that it meant “May Your Will come to pass on earth,” like it comes to pass in Heaven.
Now, I see it as a twofold message. One, as I already discussed, implies more responsibility on our parts than passive waiting: “May Your Will get done obediently by us on earth, as it gets done by Your angels in Heaven.” And another way that I read it is as an actual command to pray that His Will gets done, because our prayers will be what gets it done. He’s not saying, “Let’s hope it gets done.” He’s saying, “You need to pray that it gets done.”
And look at all these verses that command us to pray: Matthew 5:44, Luke 18:1, Ephesians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, James 5:13, James 5:16, among many others. I used to think that it was good advice, meant for our benefit because it was all about drawing closer to God. Now, I think that the reason God takes prayer so seriously is because it makes a difference in whether or not His Will gets done!
In fact, it’s such a powerful tool that we are told this in 1 Peter 4:7: “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can . . . “ So that you can what? Eternity is bearing down on us, and we need to be clear-minded and self-controlled so that we can . . . witness and win as many souls as possible? . . . gain as many blessings as possible? . . . bring glory to God? . . . go out on a high note?
No, we are told that with eternity right around the corner, we need to be clear-minded and self-controlled so that we can . . . pray! This verse is what fully convinced me of the necessity of prayer, the importance of prayer, and the power in it.
And in Matthew 21:12-13, we read about Jesus getting angry and overturning the money changers tables. What made Him so angry? He was angry because they had turned the Father’s house into a crooked business place, whereas it is supposed to be a house of . . . that’s right . . . Prayer! It’s not called a house of worship or a house of sermons or a house of fellowship. It’s called a house of prayer! Do we value prayer as much as Jesus and God’s Word does?
I believe that God wills certain things: things that He desires for us and from us, and things that He has planned based on His wisdom and love. He has willed these things from His throne-room in Heaven, but it’s our job to bring His Will down to earth; by our righteous living and obedience, by abiding in Him, and by our prayers. (Like I said, I hate to be redundant.)
And without those prayers - the prayers of righteous and godly men and women - it won’t happen. It won’t happen until God finds someone who is receptive enough to the Spirit to know how He wants them to live and pray. And then who is obedient enough to do it.
However, don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that man has unlimited power and full control over what happens on earth. God is still sovereign over all, He still holds all things in His hands, all things have to pass through Him, and evil is still limited. And I am not saying that man gets to decide what happens by his prayers. But man has to pray to accomplish what God has already decided. And it is the prayers of righteous people that are powerful and effective.