In recent years there seems to be a growing criticism of the church by the world whenever tragedy occurs. As Christians take to social media to show their support with comments like “Praying for you!” others will respond with aggression, believing that prayer is a cop-out for tangible action. Sadly, it seems that we witness more and more Christians giving into this mentality as well, wondering what good—if any—prayer does.
This isn’t new. In Psalm 3, the poet writes:
“O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
‘There is no salvation for him in God.’” (v. 1-2)
Notice, it is the enemies of God’s people that deny the power of God in the midst of oppression. They are the ones who deny the power of prayer or God’s ability to work in a mighty way. They depend only on their own resources and never look to heaven for help. To them, calling on God is weakness; it confesses an inability of our own resources and talents. Prayer is for the weak, not for winners.
In contrast, the man of God knows that the power of prayer is real, tangible, and completely dependent on the grace of God:
“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.” (3-6)
The believer may not always know the mystery surrounding how prayer works, but they have confidence that it does. From the Psalmist’s perspective, this is what separates the righteous from the unrighteous: one trusts in God for deliverance, the other doesn’t. This doesn’t imply we are inactive or passive in our salvation, or that God does everything apart from our input. Rather, it is a faith which recognizes that our participation in God’s great victory is simply sharing in a great work the Lord is already accomplishing.
When we have this absolute victory as our confidence, we can lay down and sleep, and wake up in the morning with peace. God is our shield, and he will save—he will answer our cries.