Prayer doesn’t change God’s will, praying changes our will.
I have been hanging around church circles long enough to know that when I hear someone say, “I’ll pray about it” I know that they are trying to work through something or seek an answer from God. It is definitely what I do in hard situations. I often come to God in prayer with a self-absorbed expectation that He will do something for me. In fact, I expect that He will do his most powerful work to change the person I am praying for, make the phone ring with the good news I’ve been waiting for or He will help me in some way.
God never intended to do all the work. He doesn’t expect that we should do all the work alone either. He desires a relationship with us and desires that we unite with him through prayer. You see I think prayer is the most intimate form of relationship with God we can have. It is a place of tenderness where our hearts are subtle. It’s where our fullest measure of trust can be explored and it is a safe place where we are willing to be completely exposed. We want God to know us and we want to know him when we pray. It is intimate.
My husband and I have prayed every single day of our marriage and honestly, some of those days I wasn’t willing to have a single conversation with him, let alone pray. Yet, out of obedience we prayed anyway because we knew we needed all the help we could get. We are a blended family. Both of us were single parents for over a decade when we met. We are stubborn, independent, prideful, and old enough to be stuck in our ways. The word submission would make us both roll our eyes with sarcastic expression followed by a snarky comment or two. Our marriage was on a train to nowhere with our obstinate attitudes and resistance towards one another.
It seriously is a mystery how showing up every single day for prayer changed things and changed us. It’s almost like I can hear the Holy Spirt say Oy Vey… these two again? You see, we would bow our heads in yielded submission to God every morning. Then walk away like hypocrites exchanging passive aggressive insults for the rest of the day. I would guess that was our attempt to keep our independent nature alive… just a guess. With self-centered hearts we wanted the other person to learn how to live life the “right” way…our own way.
Through God’s constant grooming over years and years of praying together, slowly we began to become like minded, develop commonality and unity. Do you want to know the outcome? As scripture promises in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them” (NIV). God shaped our thoughts, minds and desires to be the same as His. We discovered unity by first agreeing with God then with one another. It took several years to find our stride and we’ve been running a strong, unified life ever since making up for broken years that was void of a marriage vision and lost directionally.
So what happened when two came together to pray? I can promise you our prayers were not more powerful and our chances of having a winning a lottery ticket didn’t increase. We weren’t assured of a good outcome for every desire we had. What happened was that the Holy Spirit interceded on our behalf and transformed our self-absorbed wish lists into huge changes in our faith and character.
Matthew Henry says in his commentary on Romans 8:26-27 that Jesus intercedes for us in Heaven. The Holy Spirit intercedes in our hearts here on earth and melts our will to match God’s will. Therefore, every time my husband and I bowed our heads, we gave the Holy Spirit access to our hearts. The Holy Spirit changed our hearts so that we were aligned with God’s will. Oy Vey! I am absolutely sure that the Holy Spirit groaned as he interceded just like Romans 8:26-27 says He does.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (NIV)
Now I may have prayed that God would change my husband, make him stop doing one thing or to start doing another thing. I may have carried on and on about what was important to me, how I would be more comfortable in life if my husband would simply _______ fill in the blank here. My husband may have prayed the same kind of prayers for me. There in the gap stood the Holy Spirit with a groaning that we couldn’t understand, interceding and aligning our wills with Gods will. I’d like to think He was exchanging our self-centered prayers for a deeper desire that we didn’t know how to express. This mystery of change and transformation is still taking place today.
So the next time you are around your Christian brothers and sisters and you hear or say the coined phrase, “I’ll pray about it.” Smile and know that seeking an answer from God or asking Him to move a mountain is a good thing, but what is about to happen is that the Holy Spirit is about to intercede and life transformation is about to begin!
Sheri Page has been married to her husband for 10 years and cherishes their blended family of 6 adult children and 9 grandchildren. She has worked in and alongside ministries for over 30 years. She has served many roles with in the walls of a church including, a Women’s Ministry director and assistant to a Care Pastor where she served people who were walking through Baptism, Celebrate Recovery, Divorce Care and benevolence. Sheri loves to share her curiosity and unique understanding of life with Jesus by her side. She is a 5 year breast cancer survivor and considers that experience to be the one of the greatest gifts God has given her. More writings from Sheri can be found on her blog: https://thelordsdwellingplace.com/