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God Needs Prayer

• Greg Boyd

If God is all-powerful, does he need our prayers to change this world? And is it even worth praying if we can’t see the results? In this sermon, Greg addresses these questions as we begin a new series on prayer.

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In our culture, we are conditioned to attach value to things we can see. Exercising is valuable because we can see how it affects our bodies. Working is valuable because we can see the results of our labor. However, prayer doesn’t usually operate this way.

Prayer is something that is very powerful, yet we don’t always see the results of it. No one but God knows how much or little we pray, so prayer can look like a waste of time.

Add this cultural conditioning to the idea that God is all powerful, and some people begin to develop a theology that prayer isn’t useful. Understanding why we should pray is important. We pray because God invites us to partner with him in changing this world. God wants to partner with us to heal afflictions, deliver people from ailments, repair broken relationships, and change the world.

The truth is there are more if/then statements in Scripture associated with prayer than any other human activity. If/then statements typically follow the “If we do something, then something will happen”. If we jump off a cliff, then we’ll fall to the ground. God says that if we pray, then things will happen. Things really hang in the balance on whether or not we pray.

In James, the author uses the word energeo to describe the way we are to pray and to describe what prayer does. From energeo we get the word energy. James was saying that if we pray with energy, it energizes creation. The energy we expend in prayer releases energy into the world and accomplishes things. Energy put into prayer is never wasted, and it takes faith to continue praying even when we can’t see the difference it makes.

Kingdom people know that the hope of the world doesn’t lie in politics, laws, guns, or bombs. It doesn’t lie in the things we can only see and know. It lays with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ. And this King is asking us to partner with him in prayer because that is primary way that we shape this world.

God is all-powerful, but that doesn’t mean God uses his power the way that people of this world do. God defines his power. And God chooses to share all he is with others. This was shown right from the start in the Garden, on the cross, and it continues to show through prayer. As we continue to manifest the image of God, we are to pray and partner with God’s work.

The goal is, and always has been, for God to have a corporate bride who reigns with him on the throne. We are not merely characters in a story that God wrote all by himself before the world began. Rather, God created, redeemed, and has empowered us to be his image on this Earth. And, while we have the opportunity to exercise our God-given say-so in this physical world, prayer allows us to exercise this say-so in the spiritual realm. God is clearly not above needing our help in this world, and by embracing prayer, we can join in God’s work.

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Topics: Disciplines, Power, Prayer

Downloads & Resources

Audio File
Study guide

Focus Scripture:

  • James 5:16

    Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

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15 thoughts on “God Needs Prayer

  1. Samuel says:

    There are soundproblems, starting at around 13:40.

  2. Peter says:

    Your right Samuel. It must have been OK for the PA system in the building otherwise they would have stopped to fix it…..although the problem appears intermittent and may relate to Greg’s movements….perhaps his mic pack has more than one feed…..hopefully there may be a backup in the system (don’t they run two services on Sunday?) even if it becomes just an audio download. Then again perhaps Greg can do his ‘Pastor’s Cut’ for the ‘Poddies’.

  3. Brandon says:

    The downloads of the mp3 mp4 etc. work just fine with the sound

  4. Katrina says:

    Good to know the other sources are sound worthy!!

  5. Trevor Ford says:

    Hey all-

    Thanks for your help with quality control of these files. No, those silent spots are not spots where we had to censor Greg.

    I think I’ve made a huge mistake (-Gob) and somehow the mp4s from this weekend’s sermon are all wacky.
    Going back upstairs to process the files again and will change out the corrupted files later this afternoon.

    For the record, the mp3s are good, but the mp4s and wmv are broken.
    Sorry for the inconvenience … please use the coupon code: HUGE_MSTK for 75% off your next free WH sermon download.

  6. Katrina says:

    The mp4 also drops out at 13:40

  7. Kevin says:

    Coupon code 🙂 good funny Trevor.

  8. john says:

    Go Trevor! Thanks for the coupon! 🙂 customer is king at WHC.

    But most of all, thanks for all your work! It’s greatly appreciated.

  9. Dave Pritchard says:

    Since Greg started out his Awesome Message with some C.S. Lewis material, I’d like to post two germane chunks from his essay entitled “The Efficacy of Prayer”, Lewis states:

    “For up till now we have been tackling the whole question in the wrong way and on the wrong level. The very question “Does prayer work?” puts us in the wrong frame of mind from the outset. “Work”: as if it were magic, or a machine—something that functions automatically. Prayer is either a sheer illusion or a personal contact between embryonic, incomplete persons (ourselves) and the utterly concrete Person. Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine. In it God shows Himself to us. That He answers prayers is a corollary—not necessarily the most important one—from that revelation. What He does is learned from what He is”.

    He goes on to say –

    “For He seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye. He allows us to neglect what He would have us do, or to fail. Perhaps we do not fully realize the problem, so to call it, of enabling finite free wills to co-exist with Omnipotence. It seems to involve at every moment almost a sort of divine abdication. We are not mere recipients or spectators. We are either privileged to share in the game or compelled to collaborate in the work, “to wield our little tridents.” Is this amazing process simply Creation going on before our eyes? This is how (no light matter) God makes something—indeed, makes gods—out of nothing.”

    I absolutely loved Greg’s use of the Synergos -“Syn” and “Sin” dichotomy! This also got me thinking about the “Reciprocity of Prayer” in that God always gives back or even (holds back) more than what we would expect. Synergos also speaks to the “Covenant of Prayer” that we have as Believers via Romans 8:26 –

    “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (NIV)

  10. M85 says:

    Excellent preaching. I totally agree with what Greg is saying here.

  11. Peter says:

    “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, voices, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” From this quote in Revelation (8:1-5) we see after the seven seals have been broken and before the judgments of the seven trumpets and seven bowls, the pivotal importance of the prayers of all the saints. Symbolically, the prayers are on the altar before the throne of God….they have the highest position in God’s presence….they are mixed with incense with the smoke going up before God…..no doubt they are a sweet smelling fragrance to God symbolizing that they are in harmony with His will. When the censer filled with fire is thrown onto the earth (from Heaven), then we see symbolically through the thunder, flashes and earthquakes, the out workings of those prayers.

    Prayer life has to be at the core of Christian activity…..for those who have witnessed the growth of a child will normally notice its development through time and its gradual maturity to an adult. So I believe it is with our prayer life as a Christian. Initially, our child like requests are for personal things like a baby seeks after food, toys and affection. However, as we grow and our thinking matures our desires should tend towards praying for needs of others (be they friend or foe) and not so much our own needs.

    As one theologian put it:-

    ‘To abide in Christ and the Father, and to walk in the Spirit is to know and have the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5; I Cor. 2:16), the mind of the Spirit (Rom. 8:26–27) and thus the mind of the Father. Indeed it is to know the will of God, and so to be able to pray according to the will of God. If at any point we do not know God’s will in any matter then we ought not pray explicitly for anything to happen. Indeed in no case dare we trust our own wisdom, or tempt God to do what we think is best. It is here, most of all, that we should first seek to know the mind of the Father, otherwise ‘thy will be done’ is an empty, lazy or presumptuous prayer. We
    are trying to get God to do what we want done. This is tempting God: it is proceeding without the dialogue of true prayer, and an example of this is seen in Psalm 106:15, ‘he gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them’.’

    When Jesus was praying in Gethsemane is further evidence of the correct approach (Matt 26:39):-

    ‘Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”’

    As Greg intimates, the importance of prayer cannot be overstated either for a Christian or the heart of every Church, for without it how are we to know God’s will? How are we to present a Cross like love to the world if we fail to have the mind of Christ?

  12. Nick says:

    Just finished listening to your “God needs prayer” sermon. I was hoping you will address the question of unanswered prayers. I am sure you have observed, like I did, many true believers genuinely pray for perfectly good causes and nothing happens! For a skeptic, this does not align with a loving God just waiting for somebody to pray in order for him to do the good thing. Any comments?

  13. Laura says:

    I loved the speaking, and was looking forward to listening to the whole thing, but it doesnt work after 27 minutes

  14. angelique says:

    Thank you so much! This was a beautiful sermon. Looking forward to crucifying my flesh and building that relationship in prayer for my sake and the sake of the world.

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"Thank you all the way from Oregon. I deeply appreciate being shepherded by Pastor Greg and everyone else on the panels. You are a rare find in the church nowadays. Tackling tough questions with humility and a kingdom perspective. It has been life changing for me in such tumultuous times."

– Heather, from Oregon