How to Pray with Power - Part 1
May 28, 2006
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! It is a beautiful day, and it is a beautiful day to be with the Lord and with each other.
Today I want to talk to you about a question that came to me from a wonderful member of our congregation. She said to me, “Pastor, would you be willing to give a series of sermons about how to pray for people? People ask me to pray for them, and I’m just not sure how.” I said I would be delighted to do that. So here it is, friends, Part One of “How to Pray with Power.”
Has anyone ever come to you and said, “Will you pray for me?” I’ll bet they have. What do you say? What do you do? It’s an important question. I’d like to suggest to you, first, a scripture that comes to us from the book of Mark, the eleventh chapter, the twenty-fourth verse. The words of Jesus, consider this:
“Therefore, I say to you,” says Jesus, “whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you will receive them.”
That is Jesus’s advice on prayer. Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you will receive. These are the words of Jesus. He is telling us something very important and powerful about the nature of prayer. Believe that you will receive. That is the style that you should pray in, says the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, the first thing I’d like to say about prayer according to Jesus is that prayer is positive. So the first thing we need to do is retire some ideas we may have had about prayer. When we think about prayer, do we think of it as a last resort? Do we think, well, we’ve tried everything else, we might as well try prayer? No, no, no! That’s not the approach! Prayer is not the last resort; prayer is the first resort. It’s the first thing we ought to do. We need to remember that we live in God’s world, and as soon as we remember that we’re in prayer.
We have a remarkable number of medical professionals in our congregation, and one of our doctors is a teacher at the university. We had a long conversation once, and I’ll never forget one thing he said. He was telling me how he constantly marvels at apparent miracles that happen in the world. He said, “Pastor, we live in an amazing world.” And that’s the gospel truth. I’ll always remember that. We live in an amazing world. Let your prayer be positive. Don’t go to prayer as a last resort. Do it as the first resort. Jesus wants us to keep it positive.
When you pray, do you pray the prayer of doubt or the prayer of faith? The prayer of doubt says, “Well, I don’t know whether this is going to be affective.” Don’t say “I don’t know”! Pray believing that you are receiving. Pray in the positive spirit of reception, and you’ll be praying in Jesus’s style. So let’s retire the prayer of doubt. Let’s retire the prayer of the last chance – although it’s always appropriate whenever you pray it. And let’s remember the first premise that prayer is positive. It is a positive thing.
When someone asks you, “Will you pray for me?” they have given you enormous power. They have said, “You’re the one. Your prayer makes a difference to me.” And so, they are of the mindset and the belief that the channeling of your spiritual energy to God on their behalf is a powerful thing. And believe me, it is a powerful thing. So let’s remember that prayer is fundamentally positive.
When somebody says, “Let us pray” or when you think “I should have a prayer,” your reaction should be “Good! We’re going to do something positive now. We’re going to do something blessed now.” Prayer is a positive thing, something we should approach with energy and enthusiasm. Jesus said, “Pray, believing that you are receiving.” That is the effective way to pray. Prayer is a positive thing.
In our Starlite Chorale, we sing in different places. It was never intended to be a church group or a Christian group, but it has turned out that way. After every rehearsal we make a circle and we pray for each other’s needs before we go home. We had a rehearsal lately that was so busy and so intense. When the ending time came, a lot of people had to run. People had a lot of questions. And we didn’t have our circle. Then one of the members said, “Wait a minute! What are we doing? We forgot the circle!” So we stopped right then and had the circle, because it wouldn’t have felt complete without the prayer.
Prayer is a positive good thing, and whenever we’re asked to pray, we’re asked to do a good thing.
Second, prayer is powerful. Prayer is powerful. Sometimes bumper stickers can have a lot of wisdom. Have you seen the one that says “Prayer changes things”? It’s true! Prayer changes things. There is no prayer that it ineffective. Every prayer has an effect. It can be a profound effect and a direct answering of just what you asked for. It can have a peaceful or a loving effect. Or it can simply put you in touch with God, which is not such a simple thing at all. Every prayer does something. So it’s a positive and enthusiastic thing that you can do, and it is a powerful thing that you can do.
I got a phone call from someone who left a message for me. “Gosh, do you know that prayer that you prayed with me the other day for my loved one? I went home and it was just as you phrased it in the prayer. She was doing better. She was more enthusiastic. It was wonderful!” I praise God for that. Sometimes that’s the powerful result of prayer.
And sometimes, my friend, it is simply the result that you feel blessed and cared for. I have had a series of wonderful bishops and district superintendents who from time to time have said to me, “Can I have a prayer with you?” and I say, “Thank you so much. Yes.” They will have a prayer of affirmation with me, and I will leave feeling transformed. Something happened. Prayer changes things.
So please remember, when somebody asks you to pray for them, it is positive and it is powerful. And third, remember please that is it personal. A great writer and theologian, Marcus Bach, put it this way:
“Hold me in your prayers, friend, hold me in your prayers.
‘Cause half the power of praying is knowing someone cares.”
Isn’t that true? When someone says, “Will you pray for me?” and you say “Yes, I will,” maybe you take their hand right then and pray for them. It’s a very good thing to do. Or you remember them at a later time if that seems more appropriate. There is a personal connection, an affirmation that happens. You have helped someone feel not so terribly alone in the universe. So, as the song says, let your prayer be a sweet hour. Take it to the Lord in prayer.
How is this for a thought? The universe is waiting to find out what it is that you want and how you want it! The universe is waiting to find out what you need. Tell it! God is waiting for your request. Let it be known. Let the power of your intention go forth.
Prayer is positive. Prayer changes things. Prayer is powerful. And prayer is personal. It’s a blessing, a powerful blessing, and a gift of love. More next time. God loves you. I do, too. Have a wonderful week. Amen.
© 2006 Anthony J. Godlefski