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Hanging in the Balance

• Greg Boyd

The Bible shows us that our prayers make a difference in this world. Yet, our picture of God doesn’t always line up with that truth. In this sermon, Greg shows how the world operates when it comes to our prayer and what a difference it makes.

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Prayer is extremely important to God. We pray to give thanks, to express love, to talk and listen, and to intercede on behalf of this world. In Colossians 4, Paul tells us to devote ourselves to prayer because Paul assumes that prayer makes a difference. Things hang in the balance of whether or not we pray.

The command to pray is all over the Bible, and it often falls into an if/then type statement. If the Israelites were to pray, then their land would be healed. This is because God shares his power with his people, and the way they wield that power is through prayer. We are called God’s fellow workers when we pray.

There is no magic or formulas when it comes to prayer. Some people talk about God’s will or how much faith people have, but prayer isn’t a formula to be solved. It’s not just about God’s will or how much faith we have, although those things are important. Rather, this world and how things come about is an extremely complex system influenced by a tremendous amount of free will decisions by both forces of good and evil. And, because God has shared power with creation, it’s not as simple as His will or our faith. We do know, however, that our prayer is powerful and effective when we engage in prayer.

It’s important to understand that faith isn’t a psychological certainty but a covenantal faithfulness in the midst of uncertainty. Many people assume faith is convincing yourself that something is going to happen. However, faith is about embracing a vision of a future that you trust is God’s will and then faithfully praying in that direction. Hebrews 11 tells us that faith is the substantiating of things hoped for, and the conviction of things unseen.

Because prayer is our weapon used into the sea of mystery of how things come about in this world, we need to understand the important things that we can know in that mystery. We know that God is fully revealed in Jesus Christ, so we can trust that God is working good into every situation. We can trust that God isn’t out to strike us down or send a plague if we don’t follow a formula of actions the correct way. And we should know that, regardless of the outcome, our prayer is powerful, effective, and needed. By pushing in the direction of the Kingdom, we bring more and more of the Kingdom into this world.

To devote ourselves to prayer is a difficult thing and a discipline. It’s a difficult change for many to passionately pray in the sea of ambiguity that we live in. Yet, this is the call of the Kingdom and things really do hang in the balance of whether or not we pray. We at WHC want to ask you to pray for us as well as everything else the Spirit puts on your mind to pray for. We want your powerful and effective prayer to expand the Kingdom wherever you are.

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Topics: God's Will, Power, Prayer

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Focus Scripture:

  • Colossians 4:3-5, 12

    3 At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, 4 so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should. 5 Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.

    12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills.

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8 thoughts on “Hanging in the Balance

  1. Alan Morgan says:

    How do I put this, but this message brings up several questions I have been wrestling with for several weeks now. If prayer is all that important, how do we know if we have prayed enough for something? Also, how do we know if we see an answer to a prayer? Also how do we know if what we see is an answer to prayer or just circumstances or just the medicine working right or just doing the right thing to change something? Also, in Greg’s message he mentioned that God is allowing us to be a ‘part’ in His plan. It seems from that that is just letting us feel like we are part of what He is doing when in the end He IS going to have His way; He IS going to win. I am in somewhat of a spiritual crisis right now and these are just some of my questions. Thanks.

  2. Bonnie says:

    I really needed to hear this, thank you. I understand what it’s like to pray for things for a long time and not see the result I long for. These kind of prayers mainly involve people who are in my inner circle, those I am most invested in. I am realizing that other miracles are taking place even when I have lost the feeling of confidence: the miracle of softening my heart so I don’t give up on the people I pray for, the miracle of anticipation that I will someday see God’s Will be done. I think I am finally learning that I can’t outlove God, He really cares far more than I do. But I can learn to keep loving and praying, especially when I don’t feel like it.

  3. Peter says:

    Alan, your early questions are, to some degree not without precedent eg Lk11:1, “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”,which, of course, led into “The Lord’s Prayer”. This was followed by a discourse by Jesus on prayer that underscores the desire of our heavenly Father to be generous towards His children.
    While in one sense this does not directly address your questions…..but as Greg indicates, there are no magic formulas except as in Lk11:9 we have direction to “seek” and “knock”.

    Unfortunately, in relation to your example of medicine and circumstances, we are not necessarily going to see an angel or Jesus appear to answer every (or any) prayer, but He will use everyday things (including us) and medicines etc to answer prayer and not necessarily to our expectations as in our wisdom we may never know the true situation and what is the best outcome.

    In relation to your “God will get His way” comment, in one sense you are right from the viewpoint that God is the loving Father as the Luke verses outline and will act in holy love towards His children that are penitent to Him……in these circumstances I am prepared to allow Him to have His way. For the impenitent we have the wrath of God’s love for those who act outside of His will. (The example that Greg gave recently equating gravity to God’s love (as a metaphor)…..you will be perfectly happy walking around the top of a tall building, but when you walk off the edge, gravity will be your demise…likewise if we walk in God’s love obeying His laws (by the Spirit), we are able to rest in His love, but do your own thing outside His law and we receive punishment…..and as Greg indicated at the beginning of this message, man has a free will, God does not twist man’s arm to make him compliant otherwise we are no better than a robot; it has to be man’s choice.)

    Where you mention that you are at a “spiritual crisis”, it would seem that you are either new to the faith or, perhaps Greg’s messages have provided you with a deeper understanding that there is more to your life than the way you have thought to date. Paul talks about our old self that is conditioned by the spirit of this world and the new self we put on to be conformed/transformed into His image (again our choice). When faced with these two virtually diametrically opposite situations, all of us are in some form of spiritual crisis until we are “yoked” with Jesus (Matt 11:29-30 “ Take my (Jesus) yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

    In the end, perhaps learning to pray may be a lot like learning to ride a bike….you can learn all the theory but it is not until you get on the bike and put it into practice that all the theory makes sense (and that may involve trial and error and training wheels)….although once riding, we usually forget about all the theory and enjoy the moment.

    I hope these thoughts may assist.

  4. Kathy D. says:

    Nice comments. Good thing there is the blog to watch on, rewind is a wonderful thing! So jam packed with good information, and timely for me, as well, Bonnie.

    What stood out in particular was the “we have authority in prayer” when we are praying according to making our kingdom His kingdom, which tells me I need to understand what His kingdom on earth should look like in order to pray intelligently. I need to understand the dynamics of the situation in which I am praying for as well. I think of the animal kingdom, the worldly view of animals (which has been the churches view in large part as well) and all that we *use* them for. “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains.” Psm 24:1

    I’m reading “God at War.” Will follow this with “Satan and the Problem of Evil.” The theology I’ve found at WHC is priceless, thank you; and I will be praying for Woodland Hills, the individual ministries, all the staff, and the body.


  5. Kathy D. says:

    I would like to add – about animals – their world is a holocaust for the most part, except for a few of those we call *pets.* May we pray that their world would look more like His Kingdom than the kingdom of darkness’ world. Amen.

  6. M85 says:

    I love this teaching on prayer.

  7. Dave Pritchard says:


    Whether we like it or not, “Doubt” seems to be an unfortunate part of our mindset that we carry into our ‘covenant relationship’ with God. Verses like James 1:5-8, Matthew 21:21 and Proverbs 3:5-8 attest to this inauspicious fact of our fallen nature. I know I’ve struggled with those burning questions in my prayer life and have often heard it called the – “PDC effect” – The Perceived Discrepancy of Consistency. Sometimes there doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason for the way things turn out as they do, but I’ve always found that in retrospect, after a long period time, that my narrow wedge of finite perception, was such a limited and puerile understanding of God’s infinitely bigger pie of reality.

    Sometimes the answer from God is emphatically “No” and we simply refuse to accept it. I think that in Western culture we live within a “cause and effect” paradigm where we try to calculate everything out evenly in our heads in order to determine what we think is fair, what’s right and what’s ultimately most important. One is reminded of Paul wanting that “thorn in the flesh” removed and him praying three times arduously to have it taken away, but God desired to possibly keep him humble and dependent upon his Grace. Whether it was a either a physical aliment, besetting sin or an evil spirit sent to irritate him, Paul was essentially told – “My grace suffices for you, for power is perfected in weakness”.

    So when life crushes us and it appears that our prayers have gone unanswered, that’s when we should cling even more tenaciously to the rock of faith and drink from the fountain of Grace that he has provided for us!

  8. Michelle says:

    Thank you Greg. I’ve never understood why we were taught to do a scripted prayer rather than our genuine prayer. Otherwise what’s the point?

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