It’s Spring! Yellow daffodils are peeking up from from their winter hiding places and avid gardeners are popping up here and there in the neighborhood with wheelbarrows full of mulch. As I watched one such gardenerpile shovel load after shovel load of mulch into his wheelbarrow the other day, I thought of how I sometimes feel the same way praying.
When answers don’t come quickly and it seems like I’m repeatedly heaping piles of prayer on with no results, maybe I’m focused on the wrong wheelbarrow. Am I praying for someone else to change to suit me? Am I more focused on filling their wheelbarrow than mine? What I must remember is that my prayers fill my wheelbarrow. I am the one my prayers are most likely to change. And that’s as it should be.
As Oswald Chambers puts it, “Take care lest you play the hypocrite by spending all your time trying to get others right before you worship God yourself.” As we pray let’s be willing to be changed. Am I praying for a friend to come to know Jesus as Savior? Perhaps prayer will change me so that my increasingly Christlike behavior will draw this dear one to the Lord. Am I praying that some annoying person will stop irritating me? Perhaps ongoing, humble prayer will change me into someone who is so in awe of what God has done for me, that I am no longer bothered by another’s annoyances or by not having every creature comfort on the planet.
James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” Effective to do what? Effective for God’s purposes, not our own. Oh, He is gracious to plant in us godly desires as we follow Him and then give us the desires of our hearts, but He is also merciful to refrain from giving us desires misaligned with His will and our good.
Perhaps the way it works is this: day after day we load onto our wheelbarrow shovels full of prayer. The process makes us spiritually strong as we persevere. Then one day, when the wheelbarrow is full to overflowing, God allows it to tip. As its contents spill out upon us, they cover the old self we needed to leave behind and a new creature of faith peeks out from the mound like a Spring daffodil.
The prayer of a righteous man is indeed powerful and effective.