Prayer -- Does it Make a Difference?

As thunder clouds rolled in last Friday afternoon, our prayer walk plans changed slightly.  Instead of hiking to the top of the iconic Castle Rock, after which this town is named, a small group of us huddled together at the covered picnic area near the trailhead.  Though our faces were sometimes windblown, they were nonetheless aglow with joy as we shared testimonies and then interceded for our community with fervor and faith.  Near the end of our season of prayer, an elderly gentleman who had observed our gathering interjected with words of affirmation and exhortation.  He shared a copy of the card pictured here with each of us gathered and assured us we were doing exactly what God wanted us to do — pray.

I was blessed by that.  Every now and then, each of us needs to know that when we pray and especially when we pray for others’ salvation, we’re doing exactly what God wants us to do. 

Whether we say it out loud or not, sometimes our hearts wonder, “Does prayer really make a difference?”

I read a story this morning in Exodus 17 that reminded me in no uncertain terms that prayer absolutely makes a difference.  Just a little more than a month removed from their miraculous deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites come under attack by the Amalekites.  While Joshua is commissioned to lead an organized defense, Moses stations himself atop a hill, not merely as a spectator but as an intercessor.  Moses was convinced that prayer makes a difference.

 

Prayer Gives Perspective

It may be a small detail, but I think there’s something significant that Moses chose to pray from the top of a hill.  

And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.”  Exodus 17:9, NKJV

That simple, tactical decision provides an illustration of the way prayer allows us to put our struggles and battles into perspective.  When under enemy attack, prayer causes us to be still and know that God is God, that our struggles and affliction are not bigger than our God.  Maybe it’s this prayerful perspective that the psalmist yearns for in Psalm 61:2

From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

When life’s pressures sweep over us like a flood, prayer gives us a vantage point of faith that God is still in control.

 

Prayer Recalls Providence

When Moses found his prayer position, he was also intentional about bringing along “the rod of God” in his hand (v. 9).  I don’t think this is a prescription for prayer charms or amulets of any sort.  But I do see Moses clinging to this rod as a reminder of God’s leadership and his personal surrender to it.

Prior to his burning bush encounter with God in Exodus 3 & 4, this was his trusty shepherd’s staff, but ever since accepting the commission to lead Israel and God’s assurance that He would provide all that was needed along the way, the Exodus narrative refers to this staff as “the rod of God.”  It was a token of God’s past providence and previous promises.  When we pray in the face of struggles of our own or struggles of those we love, we can recall God’s past faithfulness and plead with God to reveal His faithfulness in the present.  Like Moses, we can hold up hands of hope in prayer when our hearts are filled with reminders of God’s grace and victory in the past.

 

Prayer Requires Perseverance

Sometimes the victories and breakthroughs we know God can work on our behalf do not come in an instant.  Momentum shifts not just because the enemy of souls is dogged but sometimes because our pursuit of God flags.

And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.  Exodus 17:11-12, NKJV

Difference-making prayer requires a persevering faith that God will supply all we need and when we need it most.  It requires a steadfast trust that God actually is greater than he that is in the world (cf. 1 John 4:4), even when outward appearances may indicate otherwise.

Furthermore, the perseverance that inspires difference-making prayer finds strength in numbers. 

Moses’ upheld hands grew weak as the day wore on, but his companions Aaron and Hur understood the necessity of persevering in prayer.  It was their presence and also their united efforts that catalyzed the kind of endurance in prayer that resulted in victory for God’s people.  

Have you experienced your fervor in prayer fizzle and fade?  Maybe we ought to take a page from Moses’ playbook and find the Aarons and Hurs God has put in our lives to pray with us, and I mean to pray with us.  Not just praying for the things you’re praying about in their own time and space, but actually praying with us, alongside us.  There’s nothing quite like uniting with others in faith-filled prayer that fans into flame our fervor for prayer.

In the coming weeks and months, may the Lord bless us with the perspective, the reminders of His providence, and the faith-filled perseverance to pray individually and unitedly.  May He grant us the assurance and evidence of His victories and blessings in response to our fervent prayers.