Faithfully yours - Prayer changes people. Changed people change things


By Neil Strohschein

Neepawa Banner & Press

Several years ago, a North Dakota farmer organized a gathering in the middle of one of his wheat fields. Joining him were many of his friends, his neighbours and some of their friends—so it was a fairly large group. Clergy of all faith traditions were there as well. This was not a protest meeting. This was a prayer meeting—and that’s what caught the attention of a CNN reporter.

Many of those who gathered to pray that day were facing significant financial challenges. Their communities were suffering one of the worst droughts on record. Crop prospects were grim. Hay and forage crops were very poor—feed for beef and dairy cattle, hogs and other livestock was getting harder to find—and the needed rains were not forecast to come any time soon.

After the formal service ended, the reporter asked one of the farmers why he had come to this gathering. His reply: “We’ve tried everything else.” Unfortunately, that statement says a lot about the average North American’s view of God and of the purpose of prayer.

Now don’t get me wrong here. I am all for people praying together in times of crisis; but I am not surprised when I hear some of those who came together to pray, openly wonder if anything was achieved by what they did. “We prayed in the wake of Harvey—and Irma still hit us. What good did it do us to pray?”

I can understand the frustration of those who say these things. In times of desperation, I have offered similar prayers and achieved the same results. But, thanks to a wise counsellor, I learned that the purpose of prayer is not to twist God’s arm so that he will do what we want him to do. The purpose of prayer is to change us—to bring us to a point where we can say: “God, whatever you choose to do; however you choose to answer our prayers, may your will be done.”

That is not fatalism—that is a prayer of faith. But this prayer does not absolve us of blame for any part we may have had in causing the problem about which we are praying. Sometimes we are the authors of our own misfortune. Nor does it excuse us from the responsibility of doing what we can to be part of the solution.

God has his people, on the ground, where they need to be, ready to help the victims of every disaster rebuild their homes, businesses and lives. Being part of the solution means giving them the tools so that they can finish the job; and then doing everything we can to lessen the impact of future events when they happen—as they most certainly will.

That is why St. Paul urges us to pray about everything. Whatever the issue, whether large or small, bring it to God, express your desire concerning it; then release it into his control and leave it there. Let him respond in his time and in his way; and be prepared to do what God may ask of you to help bring about His answer to your prayers.

For many years, a small plaque hung in my office. Three words were written on it: “Prayer changes things.” It doesn’t hang there any more. I lost it many years ago. A new one will hang there shortly; as a constant reminder that God wants me to be part of his answer to my prayers.

Here’s what it will say: “Prayer changes people. Changed people change things.”