Do our prayers really make a difference? Or would God have just done what he was going to do anyway, even without our prayers?
I think Paul definitely had his opinion on the matter. He said concerning his trials,
He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (10-11)
The ESV makes it even stronger in verse 11.
You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
In short, Paul felt the Corinthians’ prayers made such a big difference that he begged them for their prayers. He encouraged them: “Your prayers make a difference.”
Why does God desire so much that we pray? Why doesn’t he just do whatever he wants to do?
I think the main reason is he wants us to interact with him. Not only that, he wants us to partner together with him in his work. What happens when we pray, and especially for others?
1. We start to see beyond ourselves to the needs of others. When God sees us doing that, it delights his heart that we are becoming like him. Do our prayers then make him more inclined to act? The Bible does seem to imply that. James wrote, for example,
You do not have, because you do not ask God. (James 4:2)
Jesus himself said,
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:24)
2. We start to see what God wants us to do. As we pray, God starts to whisper to our hearts and tell us how we can touch others. I think of the disciples coming to Jesus at the end of a long day saying, “Send the crowds home so that they can eat. They’re must be hungry.”
Now I don’t think the disciples were primarily thinking of the crowds. They were probably thinking of themselves and wanting to finally rest after a long day of serving. But Jesus told them, “You give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16)
They then went out and found a boy who had a small lunch of five loaves and two fish, brought it to Jesus, and he performed one of his greatest miracles.
In the same way, as we see the needs of others around us and we pray for them, Jesus starts to show us how we can partner with him to do his work.
3. We start to see more of God’s goodness as he answers those prayers. That in turn gives us even more encouragement to pray in the future.
4. Not only will see God’s goodness and be encouraged, but others will too. Paul said,
Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (11b)
So let us never doubt the importance of prayer in our lives. And let us make it a special point to partner with God by praying for others.
Who is God calling you to pray for today?