“Prayer: Does it Make any Difference?”

by Philip Yancey
Study with Anne Griffith, Founder, The Enlighten Foundation

Chapter 19: What to Pray For

“God invites us to ask plainly for what we need.” p. 268

“Faith works. It aligns body, mind, and spirit, and galvanizes the healing processes built into our bodies.” p. 268

Philip addresses confession of our sins. He states that sin can disrupt the relationship between ourselves and God in a way that “jars the alignment of body, soul and spirit.” p. 269.

  • 1. Have you ever found it difficult ask the Lord for what you need because you are blatantly hiding sins from him?

  • a. How have you addressed your sins? Could this also be a request you can make to the Lord?

The story “By the Fire” talks about prayers that the author has heard. He states that “the controlling principle in prayer comes out of Jesus’ model: “Remove this cup…nevertheless, they will be done.” p. 270

  • 1. In praying for your needs do you request of the Lord that His will be done? Are you willing to take the results of that prayer, even though it was not your choice? Do you honestly want God’s will to be done?

  • a. The author (Vernon) also interjects that “other spiritual forces are trying to frustrate the forces of good.” How appropriate is that in your prayer requests? Do you think that the Lord can take care of those “other spiritual forces?”

Philip suggests we include compassion and gratitude with our prayers. Why would that be important?

  • 1. How does compassion for others help with our own prayers?

  • 2. Why would we have gratitude for life if we’re suffering? If we’re broke? If we’re abused?

Philip discusses fidelity faith. This is faith despite whatever issues seems all encompassing or enduring. Paul had this faith because he talked about a thorn in his side. A constant source of irritation for him. p. 278

  • 1. What issues do you have that seem to be never-ending, all encompassing?

  • 2. Have these issues weakened your faith or strengthened your faith?

“I have learned that I have no time in which to live our Christ’s life other than now. This very moment is all I can count on.” p. 279

Many of us may be waiting for everything to be in place before we launch into God’s work. In my life it seems nothing is ever in place. Maybe for 1 or 2 hours but that doesn’t hold out for the whole day! Doing God’s work can be done everyday in and around all the insecurities, the bumps and lumps we face every day. The Lord doesn’t want us to wait. Life passes every minute. We need to be in the middle of God’s stream of life and float along with all of it. And as Philip writes, “Live these days with great love.” p. 280

Chapter 20: Prayer and Me

“Listening is an art, and I must learn to listen to God just as I have had to learn to listen as a journalist.” p. 287

Do you ever just talk to God during the day? Sometimes I realize I talk to the Lord in weird places and spaces like the bathroom, the shower, while I’m eating pints of ice cream over the sink or waiting for my order of french fries at Good Times. I just happen to have a million issues that I need to be run through the Holy Spirit. Do I listen well? I’m not so sure.

  • 1. How well do you listen to the Lord? Even when the message becomes glaringly obvious?

  • 2. Do you notice changes in your life if you don’t pray regularly?

  • 3. Have you ever been afraid of talking to the Lord because of His answers?

Philip talks about Henry Nouwen and how if he is ever “put into prison or tortured” he would pray they would allow him to keep a copy of Psalms. When I read that, I started reading Psalms and its true, Psalms does bring an immediate leveling to life’s emotional rollercoaster. p. 292

  • 1. Facing life without being anxious or impatient is a learned art in the power of prayer. Do you feel you’ve achieved that?

  • 2. How can you bring more emotional security, patience and calmness into your life through prayer?

Philip reviews how much time we devote to prayer each day. He writes about Anthony Bloom and his approach to spending time with the Lord. “He began each day in the quiet and stillness, acknowledging that the day itself was a gift of God, something that had never existed before, a chance for a new start.”

“He prayed to enter that day as God’s own messenger, carrying God’s presence to everyone he met.” p. 299

I’ve always found that, for me, the morning is fresh and new and often gives me a more objective outlook on life. It’s the best time for me to pray or talk to God. That time also sets the day into motion to face the challenges with a sense of purpose and perspective.

  • 1. What time of the day is good for you to be most receptive to the Lord?

Chapter 21: Prayer and Others

“The purest form of love is given with no expectation of return. Measured by this standard, earnest prayer for others is a magnificent act of love.” p. 301

Intercessory prayer plays such an important role in our prayer life. Often, others can’t pray or won’t pray for themselves. As God’s ambassadors we can pray for them, placing them at the feet of the Lord and earnestly talking to the Lord about the situation they are in. Philip considers this one of the strongest forms of love that we can do.

  • 1. Have you interceded for others in prayer? How do you view intercessory prayer?

Mother Teresa said that she saw Jesus in the face of others. She prayed every day to the Lord that she could see the face of God in each person she was caring for. Philip says as you develop compassion and love for others, “you begin to see fellow workers not as cogs in a machine, but as human beings graced and loved by God.” p. 304.

  • 1. Have you been able to see others through the lens of seeing a spirit created by God? Does that perception help you through dis agreements? Interferences? Petty issues?

Frank Laubach, missionary to the Philippines, believes that “we would accomplish more for the world by praying faithfully than by walking into the White House or Whitehall or the Kremlin with suggestions.” p. 309.

  • 1. Do you think as an individual, your prayer is powerful enough to sway a country? A President or Leader?

  • 2. Do you think that prayer can soothe anger and reignite relationships, even with those you dislike or who dislike you? What kind of prayer would that take?

“God loves his enemies,” concludes Bonhoeffer; “that is the glory of his love.” We defeat our enemies by loving them, and prayer activates that love.…I transfer the wearisome burden to One far better equipped to carry it. Over time, the wound shows tender signs of healing. God works in me what I could not work in myself.”

Chapter 22: Prayer and God

“No message comes through more forcefully in the Bible than that the human species matters profoundly to God.” P. 321

  • 1. Philip writes on p. 323 of our most reassured gift to God, that which God can never force.” a. What is that gift?

  • 2. As an ambassador of the Lord, who are we to love?

“I pray in astonished belief that God desires an ongoing relationship. I pray in trust that the act of prayer is God’s designated way of closing the vast gulf between infinity and me. I pray in order to put myself in the stream of God’s healing work on earth. I pray as I breathe—because I can’t help it.” p. 326

If you have a prayer that you would like our Enlighten Foundation Prayer Walkers to know about, please email us at Prayer@enlightenfoundation.org

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