One of the most significant dynamics of prayer is how much it can change the heart of the one praying. We often come to God with stuff on our hearts—fix this, please do that, etc.—but as we pray, God begins to work on our hearts regarding both what we are praying about, and to shape us closer to the image of Jesus.
Recently at my church’s mid-week prayer meeting, Chuck, one of our oldest members, shared something that powerfully touched the people there.
We were having a time of prayer over the new families that had recently started attending. They had brought with them an influx of kids. In fact, the previous Sunday we had been blessed with the largest number of kids we had in Sunday church for many years.
Chuck shared that he was in the foyer after the service and kids were running around everywhere. He nearly got knocked over. Uh oh, I thought, where is he going with this?
Then through choked-up watery-eyes, Chuck grinned and said, “It was wonderful!”
Prayer Changes Us
During the past year, while we searched for a new senior pastor, praying for young families to come to our church and praying for our children’s ministry to grow was a regular topic of prayer in our midweek service.
God is answering those prayers. Over the past 6 months He has brought us a dynamic, young (early 30s) pastor couple with 5 kids, who started in January of this year. We have also seen several families who previously had come only once in a while, become regulars. And we have added several new families. The result thus far is that in our smaller church we have seen overall attendance go up 30% and our children’s ministry increase close to 100%!
One of the primary benefits of prayer is that while it can and does change situations, prayer changes us!
A number of years ago I ministered in a church in central Florida that was loaded with “snowbird” retired folks. A problem it was having was shared with me the weekend I was there. This church had hired a new youth pastor a year or so before I was there. He was a magnate for kids, and close to 100 junior high and high school kids were now coming to the church—most without their parents. These were unchurched kids who had no understanding of what was appropriate in and around church. Many of them would ride their skateboards on the patios outside the church. People started getting upset and wanted the youth pastor to do something about it. Ban the skateboards, they pleaded. But that might keep these kids from coming. What to do?
We got the seniors to understand that these kids did not know any better, and that they needed prayer. A plan was set up to get the seniors to each pray for specific kids. As they did, over time something happened. As they prayed, God changed their hearts for the kids and they started loving these kids and being excited that they were coming! When we pray, the Holy Spirit engages our hearts with His purposes, and changes our hearts to align with those purposes!
Back to my church. As I have been praying with my congregation for growth and more families and kids, something has happened to my heart, too. A few days ago, my wife, said to me that Courtney, our kids’ ministry co-director, had asked her if she and I would lead the first graders at VBS this summer. “Do you want to do that,” my wife asked, thinking she already knew my answer would be “no.” “Sure,” I said. What happened to me? Prayer and the Holy Spirit! That’s what!
So I encourage you that as you pray over a situation, pay special attention to how your heart responds to the situation. Are new thoughts about the situation entering your spirit? Are new thoughts regarding what God might want to do entering your mind?
God might just be preparing your heart for His answer—and changing you in the process.
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