(Inside: Prayer is one of the best ways that God invites us into relationship. It’s how we see him and feel him through reflection and conversation.)
“I lost my job!” I said between sobs into the phone.
“What do you mean, you lost it?” my husband replied, confused.
“I. Got. Cut. Even though I’m tenured, I’m STILL the least-senior teacher.…so, cut!”
“Oh, wow. Okay. It’s going to be okay. We’ll get through this.” He shuffled papers into his briefcase, “I’ll leave work to be with you.”
“What!?! Are you crazy?” I belted out, “One of us needs a job. Stay! At! Work! Work longer if they need you too!” (I’m a complete delight to be married to at all times.)
A boss telling you, you’re not “needed” anymore is always painful. But, what put the edge on this situation was my part-time teaching job at an amazing high school was gold. I’m going to wind up teaching an hour away under a tyrant boss who demands I teach full-time, supervise both before and after school detention, and teach summer school! I’ll never see my kids again. Or be happy. (No drama here.)
These kinds of situations send us to our knees. But, this time, I felt uncomfortable there.
As I approached the throne with my prayers, my defeated brain spun these thoughts:
- God already knew I lost my dream job – He doesn’t need me to enlighten Him.
- God is already strong and powerful – My prayers aren’t going to add to His might.
- God isn’t a Genie in a Bottle – He’s not there to grant all my wishes.
So, what’s the point? Why pray?
Later, I was asked to speak at a women’s ministry event on this topic and was forced to address the importance of why we should pray. (I think that’s called irony.)
The heart-stirring reasons why we are called to pray are beautiful, hopeful finds…
1. Prayer Nourishes Us.
At the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed all night. Jesus knew his future: the raw lashes on his back against the rough, suffocating cross, the mocking words of the people he was trying to save – and he didn’t want that path. (“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.”) His prayers didn’t change the situation, so why did he spend the entire night praying? His prayers clearly didn’t work…or did they?
While on His knees, Jesus was being nourished. Look at what scientific research says are the benefits of prayer. Richard Shiffman writes:
“Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiovascular specialist at Harvard Medical School and a pioneer in the field of mind/ body medicine discovered what he calls “the relaxation response,” which occurs during periods of prayer and meditation. At such times, the body’s metabolism decreases, the heart rate slows, blood pressure goes down, and our breath becomes calmer and more regular.”
Shiffman’s article outlines more benefits of prayer including increased levels of dopamine (associated with happiness), reduced headaches, a stronger immune system, reduced stress, and slower cell death.
It’s clear – God designed us to pray. Just like prayer nourished Jesus the night before the crucifixion, prayer also nourishes our minds and bodies.
2. Prayer Builds Our Relationship with God
Have you ever noticed how often Jesus prayed?
- Early in the morning (Mark 1:35) and all night (Matthew 26:26-46).
- Before making big decisions, like choosing the 12 disciples (Luke 6:12-13).
- Before performing miracles: walking on water (Matthew 14:23), raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:41-42), and feeding 4000 people (Mark 8:6-7).
- While performing miracles, like healing a deaf, mute man (Mark 7:31-37).
- For people: Peter (Luke 22:31-32), children (Luke 18: 15-17), and for us (John 17:1-6).
- Before teaching (Matthew 11:25-26, Luke 11:1).
- While dying (Luke 23:46).
Jesus talked often to God because they were building an authentic, real relationship. It makes sense. Think about how we build a connection with our loved ones: we text, interact on social media, grab dinner together…we consistently check in with our people.
God invites us to do the same thing through continual prayer (I Thessalonians 6:16-18). Prayer helps us feel heard and to hear God press on our hearts strength, peace, and the next right steps in our lives. Prayer builds our relationship with God.
3. Prayer Transforms Us
I read Raising the Perfectly Imperfect Child, by Boris Vujicic, father of motivational speaker, evangelist, and businessman, Nick Vujicic. Nick was born without arms and legs, and Boris talks early in the book about how his wife – in her intense grieving – wouldn’t hold infant Nick. As the story unfolds, you see the amazing transformation of a mother who becomes the fiercest protector, cheerleader, and teacher of her special needs son.
That sums up one of the beautiful reasons to pray: Prayer often doesn’t change the circumstance, instead it changes us. Oswald Chambers says:
“Prayer is less of a matter of changing things externally, but instead of working miracles in a person’s inner nature.”
Prayer helps us turn our pain into our power and our weakness into our strength. It gives us a fresh perspective, a renewed mind, and the strength to move forward. Prayer transforms us.
4. Prayer Changes Circumstances
So if prayer often transforms us, does it actually change circumstances? We see evidence in scripture that God answers prayer, like when Elijah asks for the drought to end and the skies broke open. (1 Kings 18:41-46) How prayer works is a mystery of God and maybe something we will never fully understand. But, in my research, I found Dr. Stephen E. Witmer gave a solid explanation:
“God ordains ends and God ordains means…. Look at Elijah from James: God ordains the ends (that the rain will stop) and He ordains the means (Elijah’s fervent prayer for the rain to stop). Elijah’s prayer really was effective to stop the rain! God really answered his prayer. Both the prayer and the answer to the prayer were ordained by God. This explains how prayer can have real results and God can be sovereign at the same time. God ordains the end result and God ordains your prayer as the means of getting to that end result. Why does God choose to work this way? Why not just do everything Himself? Why include us? I believe the answer is so that His people can be involved in His work and thus be drawn closer to Him.”
Dr. Whitmer likens why God includes us in His work through prayer as to why we expect our children to participate in family chores. We can clean the house ourselves – and often that’s easier – but we want our kids to contribute to and take ownership of our family as we do life together. Prayer is one way we can all be a part of God’s great work on this earth by helping change circumstances.
My lost job turned into a new position at the same high school as an academic and career counselor for our STEM program.
It’s been an amazing, fulfilling career move. However, the grant that pays me ends this year and I’m back in the same spot – not sure what next year holds. But this time, I’m embracing this gift of prayer. I’m letting it nourish me, strengthen my relationship with God, transform me, and hopefully keep me at the same high school.
We can all wrap our arms around this tool God generously gives us. We can let prayer nourish, strengthen, transform, and remind us…it’s all going to be okay.
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Cheryl is a mom of 3 boys, wife, speaker, high school teacher, and author of Empowered Moms & Kids. She has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and is passionate about learning and teaching. On www.empoweredmomsandkids.com you’ll find inspiration and encouragement for moms raising tweens and/or teens. Read more in the “about” section of this page.