“Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience.”
— A.W. Tozer (1897–1963)
The effectual and influential pastor of the 20th century, Tozer, made this comment above in the context of revival – spiritual revival. His point was that there was nothing wrong about praying for revival, so long as we would connect with that prayer the will to do something in alignment with the prayer. We might pray for revival – aligning ourselves with the heart of God – and then ten minutes later be cursing our neighbour. That’s just being disobedient. Our prayer has not changed us. That disobedience has made a mockery of our prayer. It disrespects God.
None of us wants to be a false witness, yet when we pray in ways where we don’t follow through we become just that. It cannot be glorifying to God.
God’s will for prayer is possibly many things, but it must include his will to grow us and therefore change us. As we pray for somebody else, we invite the Holy Spirit to lead us into doing something practical; something of love. This is not about substituting God’s miraculous intervention with our own; it’s about being used by God to bring a little hope into another person’s life. Most of the time people are touched by God through what others do – when others are God in skin.
God’s will for prayer is that we experience him rather than expecting to be delivered. Indeed, to experience him is to be delivered. There is a subtle, yet spiritual, difference. But this subtle difference makes all the difference in the world.
God’s will for prayer is that we are connected to obedience via trust. The simple matter of prayer is trust, but when we pray selfishly there is no trust, just conceit.
God honours obedience. God will see to it that there is blessing on our path because of our obedience. Trust is always rewarded, but we cannot give up trusting just because we haven’t experienced the reward. It is still some time off, perhaps.
We must have faith that we are obeying not for a reward, but because it is right. We are putting God in the right place; not as someone who can be used for our gain, but as our Lord who deserves our worship.
Prayer and obedience fit together. Prayer without obedience is an abomination. Likewise, prayer changes us and not we it. God will bless our obedience, but this is not why we obey. We obey because it is the right thing to do. We leave blessing entirely in the hands of the Lord.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.