Prayer – What’s the Point?

26 03 2013

In the fall of 2011, I read a book by John Ortberg entitled, If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat. On page 93, he gave what he called the “Bob Challenge.” He stated: “If you pray [for a specific ministry] every day for six months and nothing extraordinary happens, write me…I will give you a refund of the cost of this book. To the contrary, if something extraordinary does happen, you have to write and tell me about it.”

I was into the book for $.95 (I bought it at a second-hand store) – so I thought, why not? He risked a lot with his challenge. After all, many thousand copies of the book had been sold. He stood to lose a lot of money. That kind of confidence piqued my interest. What if this is true?

I imagined the laugh he would get when I wrote for my $.95 refund, but then a new vista opened before me. For the first time, I saw the possibilities.

I got out an old prayer journal and jotted down the names of people at a half-way house I was visiting at the time. However, I also go to a recovery house every week, and didn’t want to leave them out. I listed those ladies as well.

Since I was going to Nicaragua in a few months, I listed several things to pray for our medical mission.

How can one pray for “outsiders” and not pray for their own congregation? I couldn’t do it with a clear conscience, so I jotted down a few specifics to pray for my church.

Drawn into a tighter focus, I realized that I’d left out my husband, children, and grandchildren. That would never do. I wrote each one in my journal as well.

Of course, we’re called to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) – and I would definitely need God’s favor if this were to be a successful venture…so I put Jerusalem at the top of the page 😉


When I finished, I looked at the task before me. It was rather intimidating. However, there was that promised $.95 refund I’d receive if nothing amazing happened! The idea of writing John for such a small amount was so silly that it actually inspired me to “give it a go.”

For the next six months I prayed – not perfectly – I missed a day here and there – but consistently.


The results? They were so astonishing that at the end of the alloted time, I took a week off, then made up a new list to use for the next six months.


However, it wasn’t until just recently that I began to discover what I’d learned during the challenge. That’s what I want to write about here.

Just this morning, while reading My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers used Genesis 18:17 as his text. It reads, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” Instantly, Jesus’ words from John 15:15 came to mind: “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

That’s it! That was the most amazing outcome of the challenge.


You see, when I began to pray for them by name, I realized that I had no clue how to accurately pray. I asked the Father to show me each one through His eyes. The results were astonishing.


For instance, there were two mean-mouthed women I was praying for. Both of them frequently hurt those who were around them – sometimes intentionally, sometimes by accident. After seeking the Lord’s view of them, He kindly granted my request and showed me that they were bloody, wounded little lambs. Because of their own pain, they lashed out at everyone who came near them – biting and kicking all who were within reach.

That certainly changed how I prayed. Every day I would mentally scoop up their battered little bodies and place them in the Healer’s lap. I would point out their gashes and sores, and remind Jesus that it was for this reason that He’d been anointed (Luke 4:18, 19).

I’m happy to report that one of the two is in the process of being healed and set free. She looks so different that it’s hard to believe she’s the same person.

I also began to pray for certain Christian leaders who tolerated a lot of ungodly behavior by those who were under their authority. Jesus brought to my mind all the people who’d left their ministry over the years…angrily (and unjustly) accusing them of all sorts of nonsense. That insight helped me to understand why they operate under the fear of man. “Man” has done much emotional harm to these leaders. Prayer on their behalf changed from “O Lord, would you straighten them out?” to “Wow! They need You to heal those wounds, Lord.”

In addition, I can extend a lot more grace concerning the decisions they make, which have been based on what people will think. With the Spirit’s help I can better “comprehend” their path and their lying down (Psalm 139) – which goes way beyond “which path they choose;” and has become “now I understand better why they do what they do.”

In other words, Jesus gave me more compassion for people than I ever had before.


Yes, prayer is the key to a relationship – a true friendship – with God. Not only can I lay my burdens in His lap, but He also lets me see into His heart. Sometimes (not always) He would tell me what He was doing with this or that person for whom I’d been praying. At other times He would simply let me see them through His eyes. The view is very different, I assure you!

The unexpected “point” of prayer was that it brought me into a deeper friendship with the Lord which, in turn, caused a transformation in me. My way of seeing others was changed to be more like His. 




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