The incredible impact of prayer
Prayer changes the atmosphere. I remember the first time a mentor couple told me that. And it has stuck with me ever since. It was evident to me that they really believed in and knew the power of prayer. They had seen time and time again how spending time in the Lord’s presence made an impact…how it changed the atmosphere of their lives and the lives of those around them. And because of their example and prayers, I have had the joy of experiencing that atmosphere-changing power of prayer in my own life. I’m sure you have, too.
There is power in prayer. And there is especially power in praying for others. The Bible says, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16 NASB).
There’s a story that has always struck me that illustrates this very idea:
There was a boy living in California who was born with cerebral palsy. His condition and the way that he was treated by some of his caregivers at a young age had led him to believe some terrible things about himself. He thought that he must be bad, because only bad little boys would have to live with the things that he had to live with. When the boy grew up to be a teenager, he would sometimes get so upset with himself, that he would hit himself hard.
But there was one show that would always help him to calm back down: Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. He had always loved the show, and especially the star of the show, Fred Rogers. He had always hoped that he could meet him. And one day, he got the incredible news that he would get to do just that. Because of a foundation designed to help children like him, he was going to get a very special visit from Mister Rogers, who would come to his house to meet him.
When Fred Rogers first arrived, the boy started to get embarrassed and angry with himself. And so, like many times before, he stayed in his bedroom and started to hit himself. But Mister Rogers waited patiently in the living room… Eventually, the boy began to calm down and summoned the courage to meet his childhood hero.
As they began to talk, Mister Rogers made an interesting request of the boy… something the boy would have never expected. He said, “I would like you to do something for me.” The boy answered on his computer, “Yes, of course, I would do anything for you!” Mister Rogers replied, “I would like you to pray for me…” The boy was shocked. You see, he had never been asked to pray for someone before. Of course, others had offered to pray for him—he had been the object of prayer. But he had never been asked to pray for someone else.
And so, even though he didn’t know if he could do it, he gave it his best shot. After that moment of prayer, from that day forward, something miraculous happened. The boy stopped hating himself. The boy stopped hitting himself. And you know why? Because he figures that if Mister Rogers is close to God, and that Mister Rogers liked him enough to ask for his prayers, then that must mean that God likes him, too…
One reporter, when he heard this story, was amazed at how Fred had come up with such an amazing solution—to ask the boy to pray for him. But Fred was surprised by that observation because he didn’t see the situation the same way. In fact, his response to the reporter was: “Oh heavens no! I didn’t ask him for his prayers [to help] him; I asked for me…I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.”1
You see, there is power in prayer. It doesn’t just transform others. It transforms us, too.
So, how do we pray with and for others? At Chapel Hill, there are many ways. You can come forward to receive prayer on a Sunday morning after service from one of our vetted and trained prayer team members. You can submit a prayer request online, call into the church office, or even use our new prayer request box that will be placed at the wood wall tomorrow morning. You can subscribe to the prayer email to receive requests and lift up the needs of your brothers and sisters to the Lord. You can commit to a quiet time with just you and God when you read Scripture and pray. You can join a LifeGroup or, if you are already part of one, you can redouble your efforts as a group to set aside focused time to pray sincerely and earnestly for each other. You can find a prayer partner or take time each night before bed to pray with your spouse (Pastor Mark preached about it in 2017; listen to the message or read the manuscript). But whatever way you go about it, the important thing is to start somewhere and stick with it.
Pastor Mark challenged each of us to long for revival in our community and country. This is a wonderful thing. But we must also come to terms with what this requires of us: true revival always begins and ends with prayer. Are we ready? Are we willing to make space for the Lord in our lives, to say with the Psalmist, “My soul follows hard after thee” (Psalm 63:8 KJV)? Are we committed to approaching the God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV)? If we want revival, we must be a people of prayer. It is there and only there that we find the revival for our own hearts– the kind of revival that God desires and uses to spread his revival to the communities around us. As others have put so well, we must pray, “Let revival begin with me.” If you agree, and also desire revival…if you also hunger for more of the Holy Spirit in our church, in our community, and yes, in our country…please join us Sunday, March 19, at 6:30 pm in the Sanctuary for something we’re calling Prayer & Worship Night.
Prayer changes the atmosphere. There is power in prayer. So… let us pray.
 This story is from the incredible biography of Mr. Rogers by Tim Madigan, I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers (2012)