Author: Ron Graham
Our first three lessons have shown the power of God in the working of miracles during the time of Christ and his apostles. Starting with our next lesson, we will look at three works of the Holy Spirit, namely the baptism in the Holy Spirit, various miraculous gifts, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Before we do that, we should look at the power of prayer.
Prayer is a blessing that has always been in the world for all who care to avail themselves of it. You don't need any special gift to exercise the blessing and miracle of prayer. All you need is to trust God, obey his word, and bring your requests to him with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6).
When the scriptures show that miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were temporary and not given to every child of God, and when we observe that nobody today demonstrates gifts of that standard, we have to be careful not to detract from the power of prayer which is a permanent blessing.
"God is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us" (Ephesians 3:20)
This verse is about prayer, because it is talking about what we ask of God. God is able to work solutions to our physical problems that provide spiritual, eternal, and glorious outcomes. The power of prayer goes beyond anything we can imagine or comprehend even though we, through the revelation God has given, can comprehend very much indeed (cf Ephesians3:17-19).
The power of prayer is "the power that works within us" —the power of the Holy Spirit (cf Ephesians3:16). The language which Paul uses here seems clearly to indicate that he did not believe God had placed any limitations on the power of prayer or on what it could accomplish.
Having observed the permanent power of prayer, it is important to understand that this power extends to the physical realm. Because we are both physical and spiritual beings, our prayers will include both physical and spiritual problems. God doesn't say, "Sorry, I only do spiritual problems, don't bring your physical problems to me." God cares about our physical problems. He will respond to our prayers about them, and nothing is impossible to God.
Here are some points worth noting on this topic...
The physical and spiritual are connected. When we pray about our physical and earthly problems, we are not praying about something unrelated to spiritual and eternal issues. For example, Jesus taught his disciples to pray in the same breath, "Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses" (Matthew 6:11-12). Here in the Lord's model prayer, a physical temporal need is placed next to a spiritual eternal need, and neither is embarrassed by the other. The two are connected in the Lord's mind, as evidenced by what he goes on to say in the rest of Matthew 6. By praying for our daily needs we stop being anxious about them, and we set ourselves free to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness".
God solves physical problems with regard to his eternal purpose, and does not regard our physical problems as irrelevant. Paul had a physical problem, a "thorn in the flesh" and he prayed about it earnestly (2Corinthians 12:7-8). God took notice of that prayer and answered it with spiritual insight, giving Paul what was best from an eternal perspective. Even though, in this particular case, God had not removed the physical problem, Paul was confident that God had nevertheless answered his prayer. Paul believed that God controls all things, including physical problems, such that nothing can separate us from the love of God, and that all things, even physical things, work together for our good, both now and forever (Romans 8:26-39).
The Lord has compassion for us in both physical and spiritual problems. Jesus, while in this world, was often "moved with compassion" for people. His compassion embraced both spiritual and physical problems, and he helped people with both (Matthew 9:36, Matthew 14:14, Matthew 15:32). We may safely assume that in this regard nothing has changed.
When we talk about the power of prayer, and show that it applies to our physical problems as well as our spiritual problems, we bump into the idea that the natural physical world can only be influenced by natural and physical law. If prayer brings God’s power to bear upon physical problems, this introduces a supernatural and miraculous element which some may find difficult to accept.
This is hardly an issue, however, since we pray to no lesser being than God, the Creator of all things in heaven and earth (Colossians 1:16-17). Most of the time, physical things obey those designs and decrees of the Creator that we call natural law. However the Creator has the right and the power to command anything in the physical universe to do whatever he desires whenever he wishes. If a physical thing behaves otherwise than according to natural law, it still nevertheless acts according to the Creator's decree.
Some are disturbed if an answer to prayer seems miraculous. Others are disappointed if it doesn't. However we should not get hung up on the question of whether an answer to prayer is miraculous. Whether it is, or whether it isn't, God is controlling things, and doing so in our best interests. For that we simply give thanks to Him.