Q: Sometimes I've heard preachers talking about God waiting for a certain amount of prayer before He'll meet a need, such as church growth or bringing a lost child to salvation. That sounds a lot like we have to do works to persuade God to act in grace. How can that be?
Your question raises an insightful concern regarding the dynamic process of prayer. Our attention is often turned towards the way that we are given opportunity to participate in a conversation with God. However, it is important that we be reminded that prayer has little to do with the effort of humans and everything to do with His revelation to us.
Our Heavenly Father has invited us to call upon Him because it is His great desire to make Himself known in the arena of daily living. He longs that His Kingdom would come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
My sense is that the preachers to whom you refer have not fully thought through their call for an increased "amount" of prayer. In their attempts to encourage people to spend more time on their knees, they have raised major concerns regarding the nature of God. I have great difficulty believing that He is withholding the power that ignites revival.
Filled with a love that sent His Son to earth, He yearns that His Church grow and lost children come to salvation. No "amount" of prayer will do anything to intensify that desire in God's heart and persuade Him to act differently. He is the God who wants no one to perish, but all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
Rather than confronting people who already feel that they do not pray enough with the guilt trip that they ought to pray more, the greater need is to focus attention on what makes prayer effective. According to the book of James, effective prayer is founded in righteousness (James 5:16). It flows out of the life of one who is both confident in the desire and heart of God (James 1:6) and pure in motive (James 4:3). Effective prayer cannot be separated from a call to put faith in action (James 2:17).
I don't believe that we need to encourage people to keep praying because the amount of prayer will somehow tip the scale and persuade God to answer. Rather, we give time and energy to prayer because it cultivates an environment within us whereby we can know God's heart and bring ourselves in line with His desires. We keep praying because we want to develop greater sensitivity to the way He is working within our lives and the world.
We pray because we believe that God is going to continue the story of redemption and we'd like to find our role.
Prevailing prayer makes us aware of God's grace and fills us with the strength and courage we need to do the good works we have been called to do.
Holiness Today, 2009