The Lord leaves a lot up to us and our concern and prayer. If we only pray halfheartedly, we only get half an answer. But if we pray with our whole heart, we get a wholehearted, strong answer. If we turn it on real strong, then it reflects strong. Like a beam of light focused on a mirror, prayer will reflect or be answered with the same intensity that it originates with. It will bounce back with as much power as it began with.
The Lord leaves a lot up to us—our faith, our prayers, and what we want done. If we stir up ourselves to pray for a needy person or situation, then God will stir up Himself to do something about it. A lot of people have a lazy attitude and seem to think the Lord will do it all no matter what, but the truth of the matter is, a lot depends on us. He wants us to show concern and pray, and to be specific about what we want Him to do.
If we really believe, every prayer is heard and answered. But if we don’t pray, it is not done! An awful lot depends on us. We have to visualize the people we’re praying for and pray specifically for the Lord to do this or that for them.
The very intensity with which we pray and really mean it or desire it is reflected in the answer. Like a radio beam that hits a satellite, our prayer is reflected according to the intensity of the original beam. The power with which it is sent determines the power that is reflected and the power that is received. The result of our prayer—the answer or help that the person we pray for receives—is determined by the power of our prayer for him. He is not going to receive any more than we send.
Why do certain answers take longer to come than others? Some prayers are like radio waves being bounced off a distant planet: It may take years to get the answer, but it will eventually come.
Also, while we would like for our prayers to be answered immediately, the Lord may know that it’s not the best time. It’s sort of like sending a spacecraft to the moon, the timing of which is dependent on both the position of Earth and the position of the moon. Why do they pick a certain day to send it? Because the moon needs to be at its closest point to Earth when the spacecraft arrives, so when it’s time to leave, the moon will still be close enough for the spacecraft to get home.
The game of pocket billiards, or pool, also makes a fitting analogy. There are a number of variations of the game, but all are played on a six-pocket billiard table and have the same basic object: to use a cue ball to knock other balls into the pockets.
The player controls the original force and direction in which the cue ball is set in motion, and that determines everything else that happens. The most common variations of the game start off with fifteen numbered balls arranged in a tight triangle toward the far end of the table. One player takes the opening shot, or break shot, to scatter the balls around the table. Then each player, in turn, tries to knock as many of the balls as he can into the pockets. He is not allowed to move any of the balls by hand from the positions they land in—not even the cue ball, except under special conditions. He must try to shoot the cue ball in such a way that it strikes another ball at just the right angle to knock it or one of the other balls into a pocket, using one or more of the cushions, if necessary.
Prayer works much the same way. God wrote the rules of the game, and He fired the break shot. People and situations are out there in the positions He destined them to be in, and we have to play by His rules. He sets the original scheme of things, and we need to try to do something with what He has set up.
The position of each of the people or situations involved has a major bearing on what happens next, but the way in which we pray for them also helps determine the outcome. The way we word or express our prayer and the way we ask God to answer are like the way we hit the cue ball. The force, the angle and the spin we put on it all work together to help determine the outcome.
Depending on the variation of the game that is being played, the players must hit the numbered balls into the pockets in a certain sequence. They can’t hit a certain ball into a pocket until its number comes up—and of course, the One who created the game numbered the balls.
As one of the players, you don’t control where on the table that numbered ball or the cue ball are going to be when it’s your turn to shoot. Those factors are determined by the way the balls were scattered in the first place, and what’s happened since then. You have to wait until the cue ball and your target ball are in good positions in relation to one of the pockets, and then you must shoot just right to get the target ball to go where you want it to.
The lead player is God. He made the break shot that scattered the balls originally. Shot by shot, He and you and the other players keep changing the position of the balls. The only difference is, God is not trying to beat you. He’s actually trying to help you win, if you’re on His side.
It’s like playing doubles: Your partner is God, and your opponents are the Devil and his ilk. Your partner, God, tries to “set up” your next shot for you. But of course, it doesn’t matter how good God sets things up, if you don’t shoot straight, it won’t do any good.
And no matter how good your aim is, that target ball (the person or situation you’re praying about) has to be in a certain position for you to be able to hit it right. You may be doing everything right, but if the path to the object of your prayer is obstructed, your prayer is not going to get through. A lot depends on the recipient of your prayers, too. To get the benefit of your prayer, you have to be in the right position and he has to be in the right position.
Let’s take radio waves for another illustration: Say you’re going to send a radio message via satellite, for someone on the other side of the world to pick up. First of all, your transmitter won’t have any power unless it’s plugged into the current. Next, your transmitter has to be in good condition. If it’s faulty or out of whack or tuned to the wrong frequency, it won’t transmit properly and it won’t get the message through clearly. Also, the antenna has to be aimed so that the message is beamed in exactly the right direction to hit the relay satellite.
In this illustration, you are the transmitter and antenna, the Holy Spirit provides the power, and God’s will is the satellite. God controls and limits the direction of your prayer, in a sense, because if you don’t beam it in the general area of His satellite, it will miss altogether. The satellite of God’s will is on a fixed orbit that you can’t change—like God’s overall plan that is fixed. You must use your antenna to aim your prayer within the limits of that fixed orbit. It won’t do a bit of good if you’re firing off in some other direction. You’ve got to be on target.
If you’re in tune, the Holy Spirit directs your prayer. If your set is automated so that the Holy Spirit is in control, then it’s automatically tuned just right—power, beam, direction, everything—by the Lord’s own computer, and it can’t miss! But if you’ve been fooling around with the dials and the settings, you can mess up the whole works by trying to do it your way. Also, the satellite of God’s will has to be in just the right position to bounce it down to the intended recipient, and the recipient has got to be in just the right position and have his receiver turned on in order to receive it.
So there are a lot of factors that affect the whole process of prayer, any one of which could explain why we don’t always get the answer we ask for right away. The trouble may be with us, or maybe it’s not God’s time because His satellite isn’t in the right position yet, or the trouble may be at the other end.
This leads to another question: Is it necessary to keep praying the same prayer over and over until it gets answered, which may take years? In answer to that, I would say an original prayer is probably enough, except that you may want to remind God from time to time that you’re monitoring to see if He’s still on the line, or to find out if He’s gotten through to the one you’re praying for. Or you may continue to put out CQ (“seek you”) transmissions, hoping the recipient will tune in and pick up the message.
So prayer depends on four principal factors: Your position, God’s position, the position of the person or situation you’re praying for, and the way you pray.
In the pocket billiards illustration, it depends on the positions of the cue ball, the target ball, the pocket and the way you shoot. You don’t control the outcome completely, the person you’re praying for doesn’t control it completely, and God has specifically limited Himself not to control it completely, but to let it be affected by these other factors.
In the radio transmission illustration, the position of His satellite is set, but how it is used depends on you and the recipient. In other words, God has set the position of His overall plans, but how you fit into the plan depends on your position, the position of the person or thing you’re praying for, and whether or not your beam is aimed right to hit the satellite.
So God has left a lot up to you and a lot up to them. He will always do His part. His orbit is set, and His satellite will always be where it’s supposed to be at any given time. So the only things that will change the outcome are your position, the recipient’s position, and the power and direction of your transmission.
Prayer is also like a mathematical problem: The more factors there are, the more complicated the problem becomes and the more difficult it is to work out the solution. It’s easy to get a simple little answer to a simple little problem like adding two plus two, but bigger problems are harder and take longer to solve.
So that’s how prayer works. If it’s according to God’s will—what He knows is best for everyone concerned—and you and the object of your prayer are in the right position and you aim straight, your prayer will hit the target and have the desired effect!