"The prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective." James 1:6.
"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you." John 15:7.
But sometimes when I pray, I feel like my prayers don't go any further than my skull. I feel the gigantic gulf that separates the material world from the spiritual. I pray and I don't see any tangible results. I wonder if any of my prayers that God would reach out and transform my friends are doing anyone any good at all.
I had about 4 years of feeling like that. 4 long years of getting entrenched in my legal world and building relationships with people. 4 years of suffering as I worked to chase after the vision and dream God had placed inside of my soul. 4 years of road block after road block and so many times of wondering how I was going to make it through another day let alone make it to the place I had been called. It was a lot like what my pastor described this Sunday as he preached the stories of Ezra & Nehemiah. Discouraging. Overwhelming. More than I could handle on my own.
It's hard when you're in that place not to get the idea that you're asking God for something he's withholding from you. It's hard to believe that he's not waiting for you do do the right thing or say the right thing so that when he breaks through, it's a gold star or a sign of approval. I have to admit that that's often what I was thinking through those 4 years, without even being able to articulate it at the time.
And it wasn't that he wasn't answering prayers at all. I saw some amazing things happen during that time. I saw people come to have a relationship with Jesus. I saw people move from outright hostility to a slight openness toward faith. I saw books written and stories told. I saw doors opening. But each answer was usually followed by weeks or months of silence. And I would forget that God was working. More importantly, I would forget that when I was connected to him, remaining and abiding in him, listening to his heart for the world and for my friends around me, that when I pray out of that, he wants to answer those prayers. He delights in answering them.
It is a long, hard road. The intangibility of loving and sharing a life of faith with other people can be incredibly discouraging. But take heart. Your prayers for your friends are effective. Every moment you spend tangibly loving the people around you is worth it.
When was the last time you asked God to show you his heart for the people around you? How can you be praying for your friends and pleading with him to cause Jesus's name to be glorified in their life and his kingdom to come into their world? How can you be an encouragement to others who are seeking to be Jesus in their world?