Have you ever heard or even used the phrase, “Well, all we can do now is pray?” I’m sure I have. I know I have heard similar words said by people who don’t even believe in prayer. The insinuation is that we have exerted all the control or influence on a situation that we possibly can and now it is out of our hands, and the best we can do is hope for the benevolence of God (even if we’re not certain he is there or listening.) If that’s the way you have looked at praying, I have a passage of scripture that is both exciting and sobering when considering the privilege and responsibility we have in prayer.
The passage is in Revelation chapter 8, the last book in the Bible. An angel is described as burning incense on the altar and the smoke rising up to God. Some translations say the smoke rises with the prayers of God’s people, but it is more accurately that the smoke, and maybe even the incense, represents the prayers of all God people. (The term used is “saints” which is a common New Testament way of referring to all those who have been made acceptable before God through Jesus Christ by faith. If you are not sure this describes you but you would like to feel free to contact me and I will help you to know for sure.)
It is only after these prayers are offered that God enacts the final events that bring to an end the influence of sin and death and usher in the eternal Kingdom of Jesus Christ. But notice that while it says the prayers of all God’s people, it doesn’t say all the prayers of God’s people. In my experience much of our praying is so self driven and focused that it is ineffective. (See James 4:3) We need to be praying more like Jesus did: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” It is significant that praying God’s will follows closely after fervent worship both in the Lord ’s Prayer and in Revelation 8. Effective prayer flows from fervent worship.
When Jesus would spend the entire night away by himself praying what do you suppose he prayed about? What would you pray about for a whole night? Not sure? Maybe you should spend some time alone in worship and ask him to tell you.