Ok, so I said that we found more examples of prayer directly changing things than we expected.
Here are a handful of them that are the MOST clear:
- There is a lot to this story, but the basic concept is that Abraham prayed and God healed people of judgment He had placed on them (Ge 20:17).
- Isaac prayed for Rebekah to have a baby and she did (Ge 25:21). This connection of women who cannot have a baby but pray and conceive is one of the more common examples.
- Moses prayed for God’s angry fire to go out and it did (Num 11:2). In fact, Moses regularly seems to talk God out of destroying the people of Israel.
- Eli’s mother prays for a baby and Samuel is born (1 Sam 1:27)
- Elisha prays and a dead boy is made alive (2 Kings 4:33)
- Manasseh asked to be freed from imprisonment in Babylon, God brought him again to Jerusalem. (2 Chron 33:13)
- Jesus asks God to raise Lazarus and He does at Jesus’ words. (John 11:41)
I quit recording them because I think these are enough. There are dozens more all through the Old Testament, especially. In the New Testament, only the gospels and Acts are narrative, so there isn’t as much space for prayer and Jesus generally lives in such intimacy with the Spirit, that I imagine that most of His prayers are internal… but He certainly does take serious time to pray at times! If Jesus asks for anything that doesn’t happen, I couldn’t find it, except once.
But, here is the catch… regularly God does NOT give people what they ask for.
It seems rational that Daniel and his friends would have prayed for the same thing as Manasseh… to be freed from Babylon… but they didn’t get to go home. I am aware that the Bible doesn’t tell us that they prayed for the freedom to go home, so maybe they didn’t. But…
Here are a couple a little more certain:
- Jonah and others pray for God to kill them. He does not.
- Jesus prayed for the cup of God’s wrath (my interpretation) to pass from Him. It did not. (Matt 26:39)
- Paul prayed for God to remove a thorn from his flesh. He did not. (2 Cor 12:7)
There are a few others, but these seemed significant enough to me to make the point.
In the biblical account, sometimes God gives people what they ask for and other times He does not. Often the person asking is a righteous, faithful person – Jesus and Paul being pretty good examples of that fact, I think.
So, I feel like we answered one part of the question – CAN prayer change things? MIGHT prayer change things?
Ready for this?
After a few weeks of this conversation, we came to a conclusion.
Does prayer matter? Can it change things?
Still more to talk about next time…