There is power in prayer, but we don't want to stop at just receiving God's power for ourselves. God's power has a purpose. We can know for certain that we are praying effectively when we partner with that power!
I have had the privilege of being part of many denominations within the Christian church-at-large over the years. From Presbyterian to Pentecostal, house churches to megachurches, I have experienced God in a variety of settings. This is what I have found: that we need both power and effectiveness, as James the apostle writes, in order to fulfill the Christian mandate.
What troubles many pastors and believers alike is that we know there is genuine power in the Kingdom of God, but we have seen so many bad examples of the use of that power that we prefer to keep it out of our services and out of our lives. This, however, is a mistake.
Power has a purpose. It isn't wrong to experience the power of God; in fact, we should both desire and delight in the many manifestations of God's Presence in our midst! They produce the fruit of miracles, healing, deliverance, prophecies, tongues, and a host of other experiences that contribute deeply to Christian life.
The trouble is, when supernatural power comes, our flesh often reacts strangely. The impact of spiritual reality on human flesh can cause us to tremble, shake, cry, laugh, or prophesy. (See Acts 4:31, Matthew 28:4, Jeremiah 23:9, and Daniel 10 for a few biblical examples.) In Acts, at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were at first accused of being drunk. But that release of power had a purpose: a great ingathering of souls.
God does not release His power so that people can make spectacles of themselves. Church leaders have traditionally struggled with the challenge of "controlling" manifestations of power because of those who have not handled it well, bringing glory to themselves instead of to God. But the prophet Isaiah tells us that God "looks with favor on those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at His Word." (Isaiah 66:2, NIV.) The manifestations are not the problem. People who get "stuck" on the manifestations, either for or against them, are.
Trembling, shaking, and experiencing the power of God are also not signs of holiness. They are simply signs that God is on the move and has a purpose He's fulfilling. The question is, when God's power comes, what is His purpose? Are we using power effectively?
James writes that the prayer of a righteous person is both powerful AND effective. This tells me that once we access the power of God, we are meant to have an effective impact on the world around us, just like that pastor I described in last week's post did on me.
"The spirits of the prophets are subject to the control of the prophets," the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:32. Not only prophets, but anyone who experiences the power of God can exercise the self-control needed to wait their turn to prophesy, to turn that power into prayer, or to release healing to someone in need. Remember: it's not about you. It's about the Kingdom of God advancing!
A Personal Power Encounter
Here's one reason why I believe in powerful and effective prayer. Years ago, I was visiting a Christian couple at their home in Massachusetts. I was in my 20's, just out of college, and part of a Baptist church that did not emphasize the Holy Spirit! But they did believe in prayer.
This particular couple had a house rule: if you visited them for any reason, they insisted on praying for you before you left. I had no objection to that, since I loved prayer, too. But when we began to pray, something unusual happened.
I felt the power of God in my physical body.
It was as though the Holy Spirit landed heavily upon me and began praying through me, for someone who was in need of prayer at the time. My body began to shake violently, and I began to cry. I could see this person's face in my mind's eye as I prayed. I knew that it was urgent that we pray for her.
Not knowing how these Baptists would react, I tried to explain what I thought was happening. Thankfully, they agreed to join me in prayer, despite the odd manifestations, and we groaned, wrestled, and prayed until the burden for that person lifted. The trembling stopped, my tears dried up, and I wearily made my way home.
It wasn't until years later, as I talked with the person God had brought to mind, that I realized that the time the Holy Spirit caused us to pray was most likely the exact time this dear one needed prayer most. A disastrous series of events had happened in her life, and God sent a believer across her path at that very moment to assist her with basic human needs, helping her through those tragedies.
Because the three of us agreed to partner with the power of God in prayer, our intercession became both powerful and effective, however strange it may have looked on the outside! God later allowed me to see that those prayers bore fruit. Working within the will of the Holy Spirit is the key to knowing that you are making a difference in prayer.
Romans 8:26 reads: "The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (NKJV.)
Are your prayers powerful and effective? Do you co-labor with the Holy Spirit, God's power manifested in you, to pray more effectively? (Or evangelize, show hospitality, give or preach?) To be both powerful and effective, we must know the Word of God, but we also need to know the Spirit of God. When the Word and the Spirit work together, we have both power and effectiveness! Pray with me today:
Father, I confess I have been skeptical and even judgmental about whether the power of the Holy Spirit is still valid for us today. In my reluctance to abuse power, I have sometimes shut down the one source of power I should welcome most! Forgive me, Lord, for trying to put you into a more "acceptable" box for the sake of pleasing man. Help me to work with You, not against You. We need Your power more than ever before, and I want to be someone You can trust to use power effectively. I welcome the manifestation of Your Holy Spirit in my life for the common good: to be a more effective worker for your Kingdom, bringing hope and healing to all who will receive it. Amen!
© Deborah Perkins / www.HisInscriptions.com
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.