have been reading a study on servanthood by pastor chuck smith and just finished a section on outlets of spiritual power. these outlets can be our words, our life, our finances, etc. but the greatest of these by far is our prayer life. i've heard this quote before so i don't know if this is the origin but in any case it's still good.
"you can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed."
yada yada...prayer is important, you know all this. wait! nooononono, we do not know this because if we knew this we would have a heck of a lot more prayer meetings than we have planning meetings. if i knew this i wouldn't have anxiety during prayer meetings as i think of all the things i need to 'get done.' i would not worry, as i'm praying, that i'm not being used by God, or that i'm not being fruitful. something occurred to me recently as we've been meeting to pray for missions and persecuted Christians all around the world. i may never see the fruit of these prayers. i realize that the effects of these prayers could be so micro and specific that i may never see what the Lord is doing. in fact the only way i would involve some fairly miraculous coincidences (which is totally plausible). the broad-scale effectiveness of my prayers may be virtually non-existent in my perception and i may never actually see the spirit of the Lord sweep through the nations reviving his people and stirring up revolution on a macro-scale. however the beauty of our Lord is that no victory is 'small' and an outpouring of the spirit in the life of one village, one church, or one person which results from the faithfulness of a small prayer group 30 nations away is as miraculous and effective as that global spiritual awakening for which i long so greatly.
this is why prayer, along with being perhaps the most important of all spiritual disciplines, is also one of the easiest to abandon or at least reschedule until a more 'convenient' time. the results may be entirely invisible to the laborer. does anyone remember that experiment in behavior psychology that examined how long a test subject will repeat an action when there are no perceived results? we are called to be faithful in a labor which may never appear to bear any fruit, which feels uncomfortably similar to the popular definition of insanity: 'repeating the same behavior hoping for different results.'
why do we pray then? if nothing else, because our mysterious and invisible Lord and Savior, widely doubted and mocked amond mankind, has told us to do so (mt 6, mk 11, lk 10, lk 11, lk 18...among many others).
yes, yes we Christians are quite insane.
but we are insane with confidence because we know that our simple obedience to this faith we have in Christ (by which we stand) is not without effect. we know that obedience to this faith opens the mystery of the gospel of Jesus Christ: "now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith" (rom 16:25-26). we also know that salvation is only possible because Christ has become the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him (heb 5:9).
we are able to maintain this insanity because through him (Jesus Christ) 'we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for his name,' among whom we, also, 'are the called of Jesus Christ' (rom 1:5-6) knowing that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (heb 11:6). if nothing else, we know that we are loving our King by heeding his command to pray (john 14:15). other benefits of obedience: we abide in His love (john 15:10), we know Him (1 john 2:3), we have His blessing (deu 28:1-2).