I’ve been a praying person for much of my life. Has it worked? Has it fixed me entirely?
Apparently not, because I still have a long way to grow.
You’ve no doubt prayed about some things, hoping for prayer to fix it, right?
When we’re sick, we pray for God to heal us.
When we’re poor, we pray for God to provide.
When we’ve been wronged, we pray for God to make it right.
All of those prayers are good prayers. God calls on us to trust him in such moments to move, to work and to act on our behalf.
But still, praying doesn’t “fix” all of the situations we encounter.
In the Book of Acts, chapter four, we read the story of Peter and John being arrested for preaching about Jesus. Later, they’re released after a strong lecture from the temple police about not continuing to spread the gospel.
The church, in response, begins to pray. And here’s the spoiler…the persecution issue actually gets worse.
Prayer didn’t fix it. The problem remained. But prayer did change the situation. Here’s what the church prayed…
And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
~ Acts 4:29-30 NLT
What did the church pray for in the face of persecution? Greater boldness. Greater power. A greater witness.
And God answered that prayer, not by fixing the persecution problem, but by changing the variables…
After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness. All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had.
~ Acts 4:31-32
We sometimes place a burden on prayer that praying was never meant to handle. We treat prayer like a magic formula.
If I say these words, the problem will instantly go away…
What we essentially say to God is, “God, I’ve got this issue, and I’m asking you to fix it for me…”
And when the problem doesn’t resolve or go away quickly, we feel disappointed with God, discouraged about our circumstances, and disgusted with our own lack of faith.
What if, instead of expecting praying to “fix” all of our negative circumstances, we trusted instead that God designed prayer to change the variables.
Could it be that when I’m asking for God to fix my broken finances, his real desire is to change and grow my ability to manage my finances?
Perhaps, instead of miraculously fixing areas of conflict in my marriage, God’s real aim is to change me and my spouse to be more like Jesus to each other.
God often heals and provides in response to prayer in dramatic and miraculous ways. I’ve seen it. I believe in it.
But more often, he goes to work changing us and the people around us from the inside out—sometimes slowly and progressively—to be able to handle our challenges in different ways.
Here’s what prayer does do… Prayer changes all of the variables at work in any given situation, making possible either a miraculous and instantaneous deliverance or the slow, progressive change and growth necessary for overcoming adversity.
Handling life without prayer is like playing basketball with a flat ball. It just doesn’t work. And we expect prayer to make us pro players who never miss a shot overnight. But prayer really gives us an inflated ball—better equipment, better skills, better opportunities, more strength and speed and stamina—so the game becomes winnable.
Prayer isn’t a magic formula that instantly and easily fixes everything.
But prayer is definitely powerful to change the variables of any situation to which we apply its power.
This article originally appeared here.