What Prayer Will and Will Not Do
Introduction: We are told that 78% of all Americans pray at least once a week. 57% pray at least once a day. Serious prayer, studies show, usually begins after age 30 when the illusion that we are masters of our own fate fades. Prayer is efficacious (Eph. 3: 20). Prayer can and will, providing God's conditions are met, accomplish many wonderful things.
I. What Prayer Can Do
A. Prayer can strengthen the soul (Ps. 138: 1-3). God is all-powerful and is able to do "exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think " (Eph. 3: 20).
B. Prayer can be a source of stability and preservation (Ps. 121).
C. Prayer can impart peace. Instead of being overcome with anxiety, the child of God is to pray and prayer can result in "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding " (Phili. 4: 6, 7).
D. Prayer will grant the child of God his requests. The scriptures teach answered prayer (Matt. 7: 7-11, Phili. 4: 19). Of course, prayer is answered when the one praying has the attitude of "thy will be done" (I Jn. 5: 14). God even knows man's needs before man petitions him (Matt. 6: 8, 32). However, God still wants man to ask.
E. Prayer can result in forgiveness. Man enjoys forgiveness as he submits to God's plan of salvation . The child of God, though, experiences forgiveness through prayer (I Jn. 1: 9, 2: 1, 2).
F. The prayers of the Christian can affect others. Intercessory prayer is plainly taught (Rom. 15: 30, 31, Eph. 1: 16-18, Phili. 1: 9-11, Col. 4: 3, I Tim. 2: 1-3). However, the Bible does not teach that you can pray for the salvation of another and God will arbitrarily and against that person's will save them.
II. What Prayer Will Not Do
A. Prayer alone will not save the lost. Nowhere is it taught or exemplified that prayer directly saved the lost. Throughout the book of Acts we read how different ones preached the gospel to save the lost (Rom. 1: 16, Acts 2: 14 ff.). The apostles did not simply have regular meetings in which they prayed for other's salvation (instead of going out and aggressively preaching).
B. Prayer will not relieve any of their responsibilities. Some seem to think that instead of doing what God has commanded, they can simply pray. Not so! Prayer is no substitute for visiting the sick, restoring the erring, and living a holy life (Jas. 1: 27, Gal. 6: 1, 2 Cor. 7: 1).
C. Prayer will not impart faith. When the jailer asked how to be saved, he was told to believe. The word was then preached to him so he could develop faith (Acts 16: 30, 31, see "Cases of Salvation," accessed from the Archives page, subject table, "Salvation"). Faith comes from the word (Rom. 10: 17, Jn. 20: 30, 31).
D. Prayer will not keep the Christian from trials. Difficulties serve as a source of growth (Jas. 1: 2-4). God has promised a way of escape, however (I Cor. 10: 13).
E. Prayer will not reveal the will of the Lord. Some refuse to study the scriptures to determine the Lord's will, preferring to rely on prayer alone. However, we learn God's will or desire for us in general from the scriptures (Matt. 7: 21 ff.)
F. Prayer will not sanctify the sinner. Holiness of life is required but it does not result directly from prayer alone. Conformity to the word of God sanctifies (Jn. 17: 17).
Conclusion: The point we are attempting to make is God has designed prayer to accomplish certain things, as we have seen. Prayer was never designed, however, to accomplish the things we have just noticed. In order to benefit from prayer, as God wants us to, we must be in the right condition and properly avail ourselves of the privilege of prayer. Too many "know not what they ask" (Mk. 10: 38).