How Prayer Works to Expose Our Illusion of Control

Let's be honest about what we think about how prayer works: Sometimes we use prayer as a way to feel that we're in control of a situation. But that is far from the truth about prayer.

Let’s be honest about what we think about how prayer works: Sometimes we use prayer as a way to feel that we’re in control of a situation. But that is not the truth of how prayer works.

John Onwuchekwa, the lead pastor at Cornerstone Church in Atlanta, Georgia, shares how prayer really works.

In a recent video on the Cornerstone Church’s site, Onwuchekwa says that “prayer reminds us that control is an illusion; it’s a farce. We don’t have it.”

One could think that this sense of no control or being out of control could lead to hopelessness and depression, but Onwuchekwa disagrees. He says, “But far from that driving us to depression, I think it drives us to dependence. And when we depend on God, we see him in a whole new light.”

We are told in Matthew 6:8 that our Father knows what we need before we ask him.

The portrait that Onwuchekwa paints of our God that we pray to is not only beautiful but it’s also biblical (see Luke 11:10-13). Onwuchekwa says, “We’re reminded that the God that we serve is eager to do good to us. This is not a God that has to be coerced into solving our problems. But this is a God whose concern for our problems predates our awareness of the very problems that we have.”

“And more than that, God himself tells us the things that we should pray for so we don’t have to invent them all ourselves,” Onwuchekwa continues. “God is eager to come through. He’s eager to bless. He’s eager to help his children.”

Isn’t this what Romans 8:26-27 says: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

So not only are we NOT in control but we are also called to give up control. “And when we give up control, we’re reminded that it’s not a bad thing. Some of the best news that we have is that we aren’t in control because we serve a God that [is in control].”

Once again, Onwuchekwa emphasizes what Scripture has already said to replace our fear, worry, and grumbling with gratitude in prayer. (See Philippians 4:6-7.)

Onwuchekwa challenges us to be grateful: “As we come together and pray to a God who’s been good to us and desires to do good to us, grumbling is erased by gratitude. When we think of the things that he’s provided that we didn’t even ask for, we thank him because as we call out to him and pray, we’re only asking him to do the things that he’s already promised to do.

“So we don’t have to coerce him. God is eager. We’re not in control. And that’s some of the best news we’ve heard all day.” And Onwuchekwa sends us off with those words.

Watch the brief video here.

How Prayer Exposes the Illusion of Control from Crossway on Vimeo.

Onwuchekwa is a native of Houston, Texas, and was born into a Nigerian home where the gospel was cherished deeply and modeled excellently. After graduating from college, he studied at Dallas Theological Seminary. He’s served at churches in both Texas and Georgia and in 2015 moved into the Historic West End to help plant Cornerstone Church with his best friends. He and his wife, Shawndra, have been married since 2007. They welcomed their daughter, Ava, in 2017. They are eager to see the hope of the gospel restore a sense of family, dignity, and hope to their neighborhood through their local church of ordinary people. 

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Christine Yount Jones
Christine Yount Jones is Content Director for Outreach Media Group. She has published several books and hundreds of articles about ministry in the last three decades. Before his death in 2003, Michael Yount and Christine had three children. Now, she and her husband, Ray Jones, together have five grown kids.

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