3 ways prayer changes our lives
J. Chris Schofield, director of Office of Prayer at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, shares what the Bible says about the importance of prayer. How are you praying?
Wednesday, September 9, 2017
For many years, George Mueller, who is widely considered to be one of the greatest men of prayer and faith in 19th-century England, began his day in prayer followed by the study of God’s Word. However, he often struggled in his ability to find direction, focus and a sense of the Lord’s nearness as he prayed.
Later, Mueller switched the sequence of his time with God and started with God’s Word followed by prayer. The difference was remarkable. After the switch, Mueller rarely struggled again with direction, fellowship and focus in his prayer life.
At the heart of biblical prayer is relationship. When we as believers pray, we are not just praying to some unknown deity in the heavens. Neither are we praying in a vacuum where there are no distractions or hindrances to prayer. We are praying to and with our Father who loves us and who lives in us through the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
As we pray along life’s way, we experience God through a vital spiritual relationship that is real, alive and tangible because of the gift of life we possess in Christ and His eternal and objective truth that is found in His Word, the Bible. Therefore, when a believer allows God’s Word to shape, direct and fashion his or her prayer life, a real and life-changing encounter with God occurs.
The prophet Isaiah understood how an encounter with God could change a person’s life. In Isaiah 6:1-8, Isaiah’s prayer/vision encounter with God demonstrates three ways God changes my heart through a prayer-centered relationship and encounter with Him.
First, my perspective of God changes when I encounter Him through biblical prayer.
In Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah saw the Lord “sitting” on His throne “high” and “lifted up.” In other words, Isaiah understood more clearly God’s greatness as King of kings and Lord of lords (see 1 Timothy 6:15). He is the only true God who is exalted high above all things on the earth and in the heavens as there is no other God besides Him (see Psalm 113:4). Isaiah’s prayer/vision encounter with God also helped Isaiah understand God’s holy character and power.
In verse two, the heavenly seraphim covered their faces and their feet as they cried out “Holy, holy, holy” before the Lord. Thus, with a threefold declaration, God is made known as completely and totally holy. He alone is the supreme revelation of what it means to be holy. God is also the almighty warrior God or “Lord of hosts.” He is all-powerful and has no equal in might and power. He alone is able to execute judgment and mercy. Because of who He is, I worship Him.
Second, my perspective of sin changes when I encounter the Lord through biblical prayer. Isaiah 6:5 says, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Isaiah sees his sin for what it really is as it relates to God’s purity and holiness. Thus Isaiah’s hopeless and helpless state as a wretched or “undone” sinner and his inability to stand before God’s holiness and majesty are magnified.
He also saw the sinfulness of the people of God. Isaiah was not a lone-ranger follower of Yahweh — he was a part of a sinful people who had departed from their God. Because his eyes had seen the “King” and the “Lord of hosts,” Isaiah came to grips with his need for God’s forgiveness and atonement which he soon received. This resulted in greater intimacy and communion with God (see Isaiah 6:7-8).
Third, my perspective of God’s call to mission changes when I encounter Him through biblical prayer.
Once Isaiah was cleansed by the “Lord of hosts,” he was able to understand more fully and clearly God’s purposes for his life. In Isaiah 6:8, the Lord invites Isaiah to be on mission with Him. The phrases “Whom shall I send?” and “Who will go for Us?” demonstrate that Isaiah is now hearing from the Lord in a personal way.
Isaiah had seen the Lord earlier in this prayer/vision encounter (see Isaiah 6:1). He had also heard from the Lord through the voices of the seraphim as they worshipped the Lord and as they spoke with Isaiah regarding his sin and forgiveness (see Isaiah 6:2-7). But now, the Lord reveals Himself directly to Isaiah (notice the phrase “voice of the Lord”). Isaiah, therefore, clearly heard the divine calling to mission and eagerly, without any hesitation, accepted the challenge and call with these words — “Here am I. Send me!”
J. Chris Schofield serves as director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Office of Prayer for Evangelization and Spiritual Awakening.