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Prayer Changes Everything, But Prayer Doesn’t Fix Everything

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.

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Brandon Cox is Lead Pastor of Grace Hills Church, a new church plant in northwest Arkansas. He also serves as Editor and Community Facilitator for Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastor's Toolbox and was formerly a Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. In his spare time, he offers consultation to church leaders about communication, branding, and social media. He and his wife, Angie, live with their two awesome kids in Bentonville, Arkansas.