Receiving Prayer Changes Things

I’ve always been slightly uneasy about the statement that prayer changes things. As far as I can see, prayer doesn’t change things; God changes things in answer to the prayers. It might seem a bit of a picky thing to say, but it is important. God is Sovereign and he chooses to act in response to our prayers – it isn’t that our prayers have some sort of magic property in and of themselves to change things. I suppose there is a sense in which the act of praying does change the person doing the praying, but that is rather a special case.

Recently, I seem to have heard a lot about people ‘receiving prayer’ along the lines of the phrase “stay behind after the service if you would like to receive prayer”.

Once again, I may be being too picky, but surely people don’t receive prayer, God does. We pray to God on behalf of other people. Of course there is a value in praying for people and experience tells me that having people pray for you when you are physically present can be a real encouragement. But the ultimate value of the prayer lies in the fact that God listens to our prayers and chooses to act in response to them. It isn’t about the prayer, it’s about God.

I wonder, am I being too picky? Is saying “would you like to receive prayer” just a fashionable way of asking if someone would like you to pray for them? Linguistically sloppy, perhaps, but ultimately not something to get worked up about. Or, does this new way of speaking about prayer actually reflect a view that prayer is somehow magical in and of itself and that the act of praying is all that is needed to convey change?

On balance, I suspect that this neologism reflects nothing more than a loose use of language. However, given the way that language can shape our ideas, I am worried that if we keep talking about people “receiving prayers” we will end up getting our theology of prayer somewhat confused.

By the way, if you would like to pray to God for Sue and I and the work we do, we would be more than grateful! You can sign up for our regular prayer emails in the box in the sidebar.

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5 replies on “Receiving Prayer Changes Things”

Doesn’t look overly picky to me, but I’m not sure I would have been sharp enough to pick up on these trends.

If you haven’t seen Google’s “Ngram” tool yet, this is a good example of how it can give at least some rough-and-ready data on these sorts of trends. This graph plots the usage of “receive prayer” and “be prayed for” from 1800-2000 (data comes from Google Books, I think). Interesting?

I’m not sure how the comments work for links – it all seems rather random, to be honest. I found that graph fascinating, but I wish we had the data on the use of language by ‘service leaders’ in church!

Nice thoughts! I’d agree and say that it is a bit perplexing the language we use with prayer. Good thoughts here. You say ‘It isnt about the prayer, its about God’… Yes!! I always find it weird when praying in a group, most of what people say isnt even directed at God – it seems to be just what the person praying wants the rest of the group to hear. ie some kind of theological stance – ‘ God I thank you that you are…….’ Anyway, nice thinking.

Take a look at my blog if you like. You can find it here its called The Kingdom Post.


Hi Cameron – I’ve put your blog in my rss reader, look forward to what you have to say in the future.

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