Why is it that when something seems impossible, we say, “You don’t have a prayer!” as if prayer were the last shred of hope, verging on utter futility, before totally giving up? For many, it’s akin to referring to someone who is financially challenged as being “down to his last penny.” Sounds hopeless, right? The difference is when it comes to prayer, it’s more like being down to your last gazillion dollars! Having a prayer is anything but hopeless, a last resort, something you do when all else fails.
God doesn’t always grant our requests, but He always answers the prayers of His children. I don’t have room on this page to list all the affirmative answers to prayer we’ve experienced in just the past week or so as a church and personally. Thankfully for some things that seemed nearly impossible, we had a prayer!
Many believers find it difficult to lead a consistent prayer life. It’s ironic since prayer is something you can do virtually anytime, anyplace and for as long or as little as you desire. At the same time, it’s the most powerful tool at our disposal. Yes, it does require focus, but why does it seem praying is such a battle? The answer is simple, sounds trite, but it’s true: Prayer changes things. Satan delights in people making excuses (too busy, don’t know how, forgot, don’t feel the need, etc.) for not praying.
No political system, feat of human ingenuity, or religious practice can produce the results that prayer can. Yet we’ll postpone or even forego praying to try to make those other things work. We’ll say prayer is of utmost importance, but we’ll treat the other things like they’re our real hope. That’s self-contradictory: a paradox.
Perhaps it’s because we see prayer as relinquishing control. We’re afraid that our prayers simply bounce off the ceiling. We might wonder if God will ever answer certain prayers. Again, God always answers the prayers of His children. It may be slow, or He may say “no,” but there’s always an answer. He desires that we be persistent.
One of the most persistent people when it came to praying was George Mueller. He was a 19th century pastor in Bristol, England. He became famous for his unflinching faith and incredible prayer life. Here’s an excerpt from his diary:
In November 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without a single intermission, whether sick or in health, on the land, on the sea, and whatever the pressure of my engagements might be. Eighteen months elapsed before the first of the five was converted. I thanked God and prayed on for the others. Five years elapsed, and then the second was converted. I thanked God for the second, and prayed on for the other three. Day by day, I continued to pray for them, and six years passed before the third was converted. I thanked God for the three, and went on praying for the other two. These two remained unconverted.
Thirty-six years later he recorded that the other two, sons of one of Mueller's friends, were still not converted. He wrote:
But I hope in God, I pray on, and look for the answer. They are not converted yet, but they will be.
In 1897, 52 years after he began to pray, these two men were finally converted. Mueller understood what Jesus meant when he taught his disciples that “at all times they ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
Would these five have come to Christ without the faithfulness of George Mueller? Only God knows for sure. But, if not for George, they may not have had a prayer!
“For to You I pray. In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice;”