Before beginning a prayer ministry, it’s good to spend some time thinking about our own understanding of prayer. Do we view prayer from a truly biblical perspective? Sadly, people often misunderstand the purpose prayer. Today, let’s consider some common misconceptions about prayer. These are subtle misunderstandings, but it’s important to make these distinctions as we begin teaching other women about prayer.
Misconception #1: Prayer ensures successful ministries.
In other words, prayer is the insurance policy that ministries will be blessed. Certainly people don’t experience God’s power without prayer, but Scripture records that many have prayed without life-changing results. Consider the Jews of Jeremiah and Ezekiel’s day who prayed and fasted, yet perished. Consider the Pharisees of Jesus’ day who diligently prayed, yet the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. Both Scripture accounts affirm that God’s mighty hand never moved on their behalf. Thus, praying does not guarantee success. Something greater than prayer remains.
Misconception #2: The more I pray, the more God answers.
Another way to say this is: the more prayer, the more power. While this may be true, it’s also true that many people seek God for extensive periods of time with no results. God hears because we are on His agenda, not because of our effort or sacrifice. A national prayer leader once said the issue is not to get people to pray more but to help them have a vision from God. Biblical prayer flowed out of understanding what God was doing. No matter how earnestly one prays, praying in the wrong direction or for the wrong thing has no more power than not praying at all. Staying focused on God’s person and purposes helps us avoid the pitfall of misdirected, fruitless praying. Something greater than prayer remains.
Misconception #3: God answers prayer.
In the Bible God never separates the request from the condition of the heart of the one praying. Who you are and what you ask have direct correlation with each other. God doesn’t answer the prayer so much as He answers the pray-er. James 5:16 doesn’t read, “Prayer avails much.” Instead it reads, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (italics mine, NKJV). A righteous woman walks in a love relationship with God and follows His agenda and purposes. Therefore, you cannot implement a program, devise a strategy, or promote a campaign and expect God to bless it unless you and the people in your ministry are connected to Him. Something greater than prayer remains.
Misconception #4: Prayer changes things.
No, God changes things. If prayer changed things, then many world religions would have incredible spiritual impact. Instead, God remains sovereign. He alone determines what happens, not our prayers. Something greater than prayer remains.
Misconception #5. There is power in prayer.
The power is in God. Anyone who believes prayer has power might also substitute the activity of prayer for an encounter with God. The goal is to pray, allowing the prayer to create the opportunity for an encounter with God. Something greater than prayer remains.
So what is greater than prayer? The answer is simply the Lord Himself. Let’s remember that the purpose of prayer in our lives is to draw us nearer to the Father and rely on His power. The Lord wants us to talk with Him and listen for His voice. He wants to have an ever-growing relationship with us. He is so much more than just the One to whom we take our requests. We don’t need Him to answer our prayers exactly as we see fit. All we really need is Him.
Take some time to reexamine your view of prayer and see if any of the misconceptions above have found a way into your understanding. If we, as women’s ministry leaders, view prayer in a healthy, biblical way, we have the opportunity to help the women we lead grow in their relationship with the Lord through healthy prayer lives as well.
This article is adapted from Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level, compiled by Chris Adams.
John Franklin is a nationally known speaker in the areas of prayer and spiritual awakening and the author of several publications including Spiritual Warfare, which he co-authored with Chuck Lawless.