The Power of Prayer

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘The Power of Prayer’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 8/24/2014, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1AXuBzF

The Facts

We all know prayer is important. We’ve heard the Bible story about Elijah praying for rain, so we know that our prayers can profoundly impact what happens in our lives and the climate around us. My hope is also that you have personal experience where your prayers have been answered in a measurable, tangible way. James 5:16 says that “…the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” In other words, when we pray according to God’s Will, good things start to happen!

But not all of us pray with the authority we’re supposed to command. Not all of us pray regularly. In fact, some of us have even swallowed the lie that our prayers don’t matter at all. Sure, maybe you’ve had seasons in your life where it felt like all your prayers were answered. But what about the times when it feels like God just doesn’t hear you? Have you every caught yourself thinking “I don’t matter to God”? How about “I don’t need to pray because somebody else will do it”?

One of Satan’s most consistent strategies to rob us of a fulfilled life is convincing us that our prayers don’t matter! But I want to tell you that your prayers do matter to God. You are significant to God, and so are your prayers. Be refreshed by John’s conclusion on prayer:

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

– 1 Jn 5:14-15

We’ve been reading through the book of Esther recently as a church. I believe her story has much to tell us about the power of our prayers, specifically relating to our ability (and need!) to intercede on behalf of other people. Let’s take a look.

From Rags to Riches

Esther lived in an age of Persian dominance. The Jewish people lived in exile, scattered about the Persian Kingdom. Esther lived with her cousin, Mordecai, in the Persian city of Shushan.

After dethroning his queen for disobedience, the Persian King Ahasuerus was searching for a new queen. Mordecai brought Esther to the palace, and the king was blown away by her beauty. Esther rose from living as an outcast in a foreign land to becoming queen over the Persian people.

But all was not well. King Ahasuerus had a wicked advisor named Haman who sought to kill all the Jews. Haman issued a decree that on a certain day, and at a certain time, all the Jews in the Kingdom of Persia should be killed. Mordecai knew that Esther was the only person who could help. She needed to approach King Ahasuerus and ask him to reverse the decree and spare the Jewish people.

Fear Not

But Esther was afraid:

Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him a command for Mordecai: “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days.” So they told Mordecai Esther’s words.

- Esther 4:10-16: 10

Esther viewed the king as many of us view God! She knew she had found favor with him, because he had married her and made her queen over all of Persia! Yet Esther still feared that if she entered into the king’s presence, he would kill her.

And many of us view God the same way. The Bible calls us – the church – the bride of Christ. Despite our faults, sins and shortcomings, God has declared us beautiful. He has given us favor – not because we deserve it, but because Jesus Christ has earned it on our behalf. So why are we afraid to approach Him with our requests?

Under the New Covenant, we do not have to fear God. We have an “…Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 Jn 2:1). We do not have to be afraid to bring our petitions before God! Esther should have confidently and boldly approached the throne, and so should we! But instead, she faltered.

Such A Time As This

And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

– Esther 4:13-14

Let’s really think about Esther’s situation and how it relates to us today. Haman – the personification of evil – sought the destruction of God’s people. The responsibility to appeal to God for protection rested on Esther’s shoulders, because she had been brought into the presence of the king and was granted favor. Satan seeks our destruction in the same way Haman sought hers! Satan would love to see all of God’s children – the church – completely wiped out and taken out of commission. Yet we have been brought into the Kingdom for such a time as this. The responsibility to appeal to God for protection rests on our shoulders.

There is someone in the world right now who needs your prayers. That statement is not meant to add stress to your life and make you feel responsible to bring every person in the world to salvation. But I’m guessing God has put someone on your heart, and brought someone to your mind, who really needs your prayers. If you don’t pray for them, who will? You have been brought into the Kingdom for such a time as this. And to pray effectively, you need to know that God has given you power when you pray!

Praying With Power

When Jesus walked the earth, He intervened to God in prayer directly on behalf of His disciples. We see an explanation recorded by Luke:

And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

- Luke 22:31-32

When Satan asked for Simon Peter, Jesus’ answer was simple: NO! This is the New Testament reality.

That response is night and day compared to Job’s experience in the Old Testament. In Job’s account, we’re told that Satan asked for Job (see Job 1:6-12), and God granted him control over all that Job had. Next, God granted Satan the ability to afflict Job with sickness (see Job 2:1-6). So why did God grant Satan control over His servant Job?

            Nor is there any mediator between us… – Job 9:33

Under the Old Covenant, there was no mediator between Job and God. But under the New Covenant, that reality has changed! Jesus is our Mediator! He has ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father! That means that whenever Satan asks for us, Jesus’ answer is the same as it was for Peter: NO! When we rely on Jesus Christ as our Savior and put our faith in the finished work of the Cross, Satan cannot touch us!

Gone are the days when Jesus has to physically pray for us. Now that He has ascended, He wants to pray with us. He wants us to pray with Him by addressing the Father directly in His name:

…but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” – Jn 16:25-28

Jesus doesn’t have to physically pray for us anymore. It is now our responsibility to pray to the Father, in the Name of Jesus, with the Holy Spirit.

As you pray, you must know that God really values you. He needs you so much so that He has brought you into the Kingdom for such a time as this. If you remain silent and refuse to pray, He will bring about His will through another vessel. If you don’t have the confidence to pray, someone else will. But you won’t reap any of the benefits; and you won’t have a front row seat for the unfolding of God’s Kingdom in front of your eyes.

Make A Decision

Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai:  “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” – Esther 4:15-16

Esther made a decision to approach the king and make her request known. As she did, she had to wonder if she had found favor with God. But we get to know that we already have!

Under the New Covenant, we are instructed make our requests known to God with boldness and confidence because of the favor we have been given through Christ!

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

– Heb 4:14-16

Jesus Christ knows the suffering and temptation you’re experiencing because He experienced it Himself. He gets it. We’re all made of flesh; and as long as we’re made of flesh, we’re going to be imperfect. So don’t let imperfection keep you from making your requests known to God. He has given you grace to help – not just yourself, but also others – whenever it is required.

Who Are You Praying For?

Take a minute and think of someone in your life who really needs your prayers. He might be a coworker or a friend. She might be a distant relative of a close family member. Now pray for that person. Pray with boldness and confidence. Pray with faith!

When Esther approached King Ahasuerus with her request, his response was one of favor and love:

Now it happened on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, across from the king’s house, while the king sat on his royal throne in the royal house, facing the entrance of the house. So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter. And the king said to her, “What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!” – Esther 5:1-3

And when we approach our King to make our requests known, He will have the same response.

Don’t be afraid to pray for yourself. God hasn’t exalted you to your current state and position just to see you eliminated. He wants you to prosper; but you can never be afraid to take your petitions to prayer. If your request is Scriptural and Biblical, it will be given unto you!

Don’t hold back from praying for others. God has brought you into His Kingdom for such a time as this – so that you can reach out through prayer and ask Him to bring others to salvation through Jesus Christ.

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White and CityLight Church, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael White and CityLight Church with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.