A few years ago, my mom gave me a small plaque that has three words on it: Prayer Changes Things. Easy to read; easy to comprehend … but was it? I’m beginning to understand the many deep meanings of what “Prayer Changes Things” entails.
First, I marvel at the great power of a prayer; through prayer, God can change our hearts in ways we never imagined. It can affect someone halfway across the world. It can defy medical science by healings of the body or restoring of the mind. God can also choose not to, because He knows better, and that’s OK as well.
Prayer can also be wonderfully intrusive. I can offer to pray for you, and whether you want me to or not, I can still proceed to pray for as long as I want. It’s my prayer; it’s my conversation with God. Here are two dramatic examples:
The mother of one youg man knew that he needed the Lord and basically told the Lord, “Whatever you need to do to bring him to you, do it.” Her son had a huge accident that almost took his life, and that brought him to the Lord, and He became a passionate missionary for Christ all over the world! This man had no control over his mother’s prayers, and those wonderfully intrusive prayers saved his life.
Or take the story of another young man who was drafted into the Navy, when he was not too interested in church. He got stationed aboard a ship that was taking on heavy enemy fire. He poked his head out to the top deck and heard many bullets ricocheting off the metal and returned down below. When he went back to the same spot on deck a few hours later, he saw a line of bullet holes in the ship’s hull that exactly outlined where he stood; he was never harmed. Why? Because his mother prayed for him, and he attributes his mother’s prayers to his survival on that day.
Here’s a less dramatic example. My parents prayed for me as I grew that I would one day choose to serve the Lord, and I did. I asked for my baptism at the age of 13. No huge dramatic displays of heroic measures, no amazing “wow” factor. But the daily prayers of my parents contributed to the most important event in my life.
Prayer also opens wonderful opportunities for God to bring about change, as long as it remains open-ended enough for God. A prayer for a 2019 high-priced red convertible sports car probably won’t get you too far, but praying to God to get you to work or school to support yourself or your family? He will provide for you.
Prayer can solicit unexpected — but needed — responses from God. Once, when I specifically prayed for a comforting message from God at the start of a difficult trial, I received a chastising scripture from Job where God essentially asks Job, “Hey, where were you when l put the stars in the heavens and set the world in motion?” He reminded me that it was not He but I who could change my circumstances by way of approach. God’s plan is above my own; His ways are not my ways. It became I who changed instead of me trying to tell God how to change the things I thought were more important.
When I pray for more faith, perhaps I should not be surprised if I receive a trial of faith bigger than the last one. When I pray for a better job situation, I could get fired from the one I have (perhaps so God can lead me to the job that’s opening up for me, or perhaps so God can make me grateful for blessings He’s already provided).
The quote “When God closes a door, He opens a window” sounds promising, but if God didn’t want me to go outside through the door, is He really going to let me out the window just to wind up at the same destination? No, probably not. Just because I see a “door” or a way through doesn’t mean that’s the best for me or even the way to go. He could be asking me to change how I handle my circumstances instead.
When Mormon is writing to Moroni after he is called into the ministry, Mormon shares how he is praying for his son: “I am mindful of you always in my prayers, continually praying unto God the Father in the name of his Holy Child, Jesus, that he, through his infinite goodness and grace, will keep you through the endurance of faith on his name to the end” (Moroni 8:3).
No mention of a blessing, of a great gift to be placed upon him as an inheritance, no grand gesture of praying for the gifts of the Spirit to follow his ministry, etc. It’s a pretty basic, honest prayer for what matters most in this life (endurance to the end). Basically, Mormon says, “Hang in there with God. He’s the only way to get through this.” Of ourselves, we cannot make the changes necessary to truly follow Christ daily. It is only Christ’s love that can bring about the only significant change needed in our life, the change of our soul or another’s.
Paul asked the Lord three times in prayer to remove the “thorn in his side.” He finally understood 1.) God wasn’t going to remove the hardship and 2.) God wanted him to make his attitude to the situation the real victory instead of the removal of the affliction. And, yes, we will still continue to pray for things to change — jobs, circumstances, relationships, illness — but perhaps what God really needs is for me to get out of my own way and to pray for strength.
“Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36). The change we need most of all is the change of our soul to be a reflection of Christ regardless of what we are going through. I think prayer was designed to let God change our overall perspective and attitude of this life.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.