“Prayer changes things.”
I’m not sure who first said that, but it has taken on the stature of scripture. It is true enough, but an incomplete thought. It leaves people thinking that by prayer they will alter the circumstances they face. As a general rule, I find this patently untrue. That’s because the real power of prayer is to altar the one praying. No, I didn’t misspell that. But before I get to my word choice, let’s look at prayer and circumstances.
To pray for an alteration in your circumstances is not wrong. It does, however, indicate a certain degree of belief that you are not experiencing God’s plan for your life. That’s a huge assumption—and often the wrong one to make. More often than not, we are just where God wishes us to be and experiencing the situation that He believes is the best for our growth in the kingdom.
Yes, we might be in the shape we’re in as a direct result of our own disobedience. There’s a lesson to be learned in that case and who’s to say we aren’t meant to learn it and fully appreciate it before moving on? Israel’s disobedience generally led to unfortunate circumstances that God declared to be for their learning. Then there’s the Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, and today, and forever” thing.
So, what does prayer change? The person doing the praying. What we pray for is the truest measure of what we value. Prayer may not change our circumstances, but it will change our outlook on them, usually sending us to the altar within ourselves for redirection and reflection.
Pray is not meant to destroy our enemies, but to point us to love them despite their words or actions—in effect making us more Christlike—which is God’s desire for us. I see more of my mistakes when I pray than when I search for them. It’s akin to having a divine proofreader for the story of my life.
The scripture says to pray without ceasing. Paul told the Romans that this exercise resulted in a transformed mind free of conformity with the world.