Reflecting on the power of prayer

Adam Harbinson
Adam Harbinson

You might remember some years ago there was a TV programme, a sitcom called the Liver Birds based on the lives and relationships of two girls, Sandra and Beryl.

I remember it was Beryl who used to kneel beside her bed at night to say her prayers. She would say, ‘Dear Lord, same as last night. Amen,’ and that was that.

Beryl clearly did not understand what it means to pray, for her it was perhaps a habit or maybe it was superstition, or a wish list.

But I wonder how many Christians who claim to pray, do so out of a sense of trying to keep on the right side of a tetchy God.

Or perhaps we think if we pray hard enough or long enough we will succeed in twisting God’s arm or manipulating him into doing what we think is best for us.

I listened to the airline captain of flight 1549 that virtually fell out of the sky after colliding with a flock of birds in January 2009.

The captain, Chesley Sullenberger, was being interviewed for a TV programme a short time ago, and as he recounted his feelings and automatic reactions as he guided the Airbus 320 safely onto the surface of the Hudson River, the interviewer asked him did he pray.

He quipped, ‘I guess there were people in the back of the aircraft doing that for me,’ but added a serious note, he said he had his mind on other things.

In other words, he was suggesting that if he had dropped to his knees pleading for God to intervene, neither he, his crew nor his 155 passengers would have survived.

To put it another way, God is not the God of the possible, he is the God of the impossible.

I think that is the point made in the Book of Exodus in the record of the Israeli’s escape from Egypt.

Moses and his three million strong flock were facing their first hurdle after negotiating the release of his people, and there he stood on the edge of the sea, surrounded by the complainers wanting to return to captivity, sea in front and the army pursuing from behind.

Perhaps with tongue in cheek he had just said, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today...Just stay calm.’

And we know he was praying under his breath for God said to him, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground.’

‘Huh! Why didn’t I think of that?’ he might have mumbled sarcastically, but he did just that, and the rest, as they say is history.

So, of course we should pray, without ceasing, but remembering always that the God to whom you are praying is not the God of the possible, he is the God of the impossible.

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