I’ve been watching a lot of high school basketball recently. I have seen some ridiculous shots this year. I watched, with my own eyes, one player lob the ball at the halftime buzzer from the opposing foul line and actually make it. To make it even more ridiculous, if possible, the ball also passed through four sets of rafters. Kudos to that kid. A few weeks later I watched another player lob the ball down literally the entire length of the court at the halftime buzzer… and bank it in. I may never see two shots like that again in my life. But I’ll tell you what I have not seen one single time this season. I have not seen one single dunk this entire year in high school basketball.
It’s not that all players lack the height to dunk it. In fact, I know there are several players who CAN-and without much difficulty– throw it down. Yet, for whatever reason I haven’t seen them do it yet. I don’t get that. Maybe it’s because I’m a whopping height of 5’10” with an amazing vertical of about 12 inches. But be assured my friends, if I could dunk it, then it would be dunk city, all day every day. I wouldn’t care if the coach told me not to, I would still do it. I would do MJ poses as I soared from the free throw line. I would tomahawk it on your head and then probably taunt you back down the court, especially if you couldn’t dunk it. I would attempt, at least once a game and especially when playing away, to tear the rim off the backboard. I think I have made my point. I don’t understand why people who can dunk, choose not to.
God is probably asking the same question about a lot of His redeemed children. I don’t understand why people who have my ear, choose not to speak to it. For purposes of theological clarity I am not suggesting that God doesn’t understand that. He knows all things. He is omniscient in every sense of the word. All illustrations break down at some point, but I do believe the point being made still stands. Let me phrase it for you this way: If you’re skipping prayer time, then you’re missing out on the explosive transformative power of God. I don’t understand why some Christians overlook the gift of prayer, but I am telling you that you shouldn’t for at least this one glaring reason.
Prayer is effective.
And every one reading gave a hearty amen! It is very likely that you could probably name at least one time where you have experienced the full force of that truth in your life. I don’t think I could even name a Christian who feels as if prayer isn’t really effective. There could literally be millions of volumes written on individual testimonies of how The Lord has gloriously worked mightily through a specific prayer you have offered. I certainly could share several accounts where God’s holy ear was the only explanation for what was happening. And while I believe that there is a time and place for Christians to testify and celebrate God’s mighty movements in the lives of His people, my intention here is to point you to The Bible. Yes, a book that is overflowing with accounts of effective prayer. I immediately think of one of my favorites, Peter and the angel. Acts 12 records this for us but I’ll give you the summary here.
At the beginning of the 12th chapter of Acts, things are looking grim. James, the brother of John, has just been maliciously executed by Herod. To make matters worse, Herod had also laid violent hands on the apostle Peter (Acts 12:1-2). Luke, the author of Acts, paints a scene of tragedy. Peter is arrested, thrown into prison, and guarded by four squads of soldiers. What would become of Peter, the pillar of the church? Well, Luke isn’t explicit here but he does reveal Herod’s intentions: intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that this would not have faired well for Peter. Let us not forget that Herod’s hands were still dripping with the blood of James.
If you’re a member of the early church, who is under some heated persecution at this time in history, I can’t imagine a set of more dire circumstances. Should they flee the country? Should they give up the faith? Should they mount up their horses and challenge Herod in a political showdown? You may have plenty ideas of what “they should have done.” But I can only tell you what they really done. They prayed.
So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:5, ESV)
The following events, which Luke wants us to see as God’s activity in response to the praying church, are for a lack of a better word: miraculous. As Herod was arranging for Peter to be “brought out” God was arranging Peter’s release. For while Peter was sleeping in two chains between two soldiers in a cell guarded by more soldiers, The Lord sent an angel who immediately stood beside Peter. The angel hit him on the side and told Peter to get up and the chains just fell from his hands. Peter quickly gets dressed via further instructions from this angel and they literally walked right past the stationed soldiers without any conflict. Peter couldn’t believe his own eyes! Peter thought it was a dream! It wasn’t until they walked through the gate, which opened on its own, and walked down the street that the angel left him- and then Peter came to himself. One word flashed through his mind: Run! And so he did. He ran all the way to that little house church that was praying fervently to God for his release. Can you imagine being in that house? Can you imagine being Rhoda, the young woman who went to answer the door? The answer to the very prayer that you and your friends were praying was knocking at the door! As Thomas Watson wisely commented, “The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer that first fetched the angel.”
This is one narrative of effective prayer in a book containing hundreds of other accounts. It is when I read passages like this that I ponder why I don’t pray more frequently and fervently. Now don’t take this to mean that you can pray for a shiny new car and it show up in your driveway. If that is what you think effective prayer is about then you really need to spend more time reading the Bible. But when it comes to matters of the glory of God and His holy kingdom, friend I have great news: God is listening! Little wonder why Paul the apostle would command the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Or even why Jesus, The Lord Himself, would repeatedly invite and exhort His disciples to make their requests known to The Father.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of The Father in my name, He will give it to you. (John 16:23, ESV)
* Other references off the top of my head that I have read just recently: Mark 11:24, Luke 18:1, John 14:14.
There are other reasons for why you should pray. Maybe I will write about them one day. But if nothing else I hope you have read this and have found some encouragement to pray. Some conviction to trade in extra sleep for extra time of prayer. It is worth it, it is effective, God is listening, and if you’re skipping prayer then you’re missing out.
I’m going to watch some more basketball at the County tournament this weekend. Who knows maybe some high school student will read this and tear the rim off the goal for me. Either way, I will enjoy watching the games. And I will also rise early in the morning just to pray.