When Jesus prayed, things happened. Lives changed. People were healed. Communities were restored. This is what we want when we pray as well, isn’t it?
When the disciples asked, “Lord, teach us to pray,” Jesus responded with a prayer that is so well known it’s easy for us to miss its significance. He shared a story about boldness, emphasized a promise, and unveiled the power behind his prayers. “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” In essence, Jesus was saying, “I pray under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit, and you can too!”
Later, when Jesus is about to go to the cross, he promises to send his disciples a comforter, the Holy Spirit (John 16). After the resurrection Jesus again promises them the Holy Spirit, commanding them not to leave the city until the Holy Spirit comes on them (Acts 1). And just before he gives the disciples the great commission to be His witnesses in Jerusalem (their immediate location), Judea and Samaria (their near neighbors), and the ends of the earth (all people everywhere), he tells them to wait.
It seems as if Jesus doesn’t want them running out ahead. They need a guide, they need power, they need the Holy Spirit. And we do, too.
If we want to see our communities transformed, it doesn’t start with compelling sermons, perfectly constructed arguments, healings, or elaborate demonstrations. It starts with prayer.
After Jesus ascends, the disciples “join together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). After days of waiting and praying, the wind blows, tongues of fire rest on each of them, and they are all filled with the Holy Spirit. A crowd forms and people hear about Jesus in their own language. Peter stands up and testifies to the risen Christ, inviting the crowd to repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Three thousand responded to that invitation and were added to their number that day.
This is how revivals have started throughout history. Before anything else, they start with prayer—prayer for the Holy Spirit to come and move.
So, when we ask, “How can prayer transform a community?” The answer starts with us. It starts with praying as Jesus taught us, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name…”
Prayer is first and foremost about loving God. The word “father” speaks to the intimate love between a parent and child. Prayer rises up out of our loving relationship with Christ. It is a trusting act, an act of bringing ourselves before our father, knowing him, loving him, and in turn knowing ourselves as His beloved.
If we do not pray with this kind of open intimacy, our prayers are just hollow, religious words—like the Pharisees in the temple, who loved to hear themselves speak.
So, we pray, welcoming God’s presence as a child trusting a loving father.
“Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”
God is always present. Yet when we pray and wait on the Holy Spirit, Christ manifests his presence among us. Moses said, “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7). This is the same God who draws near to us when we draw near to him (James 4:8). And of whom, Jesus says, “Where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:20).
When we pray by the Holy Spirit, we are making ourselves aware of God’s presence. We are pulling back the veil and catching a glimpse of God’s kingdom.
When we encounter the living presence of Jesus, we are filled with the desire to pray, to experience God’s presence more fully in our lives. And when we experience the resurrection presence of Jesus, we are filled with his power to bring about his will and his kingdom on earth.
“Give us this day our daily bread”
As we pray under the influence of the Holy Spirit, God converts spiritual promises into reality. Jesus’ promises are in the realm of the Spirit. He said things like, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11). Or, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace” (John 16:33).
We see so many people who are depressed and losing hope. Without prayer, we can talk about Jesus’ promises, but the words are not made flesh. When we pray and encounter the living Jesus, we experience true joy, peace becomes real, and we have hope in him.
“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
It may not sound like it, but repentance is a gift from God. When we repent, we acknowledge that we can’t do it all ourselves, that we need Jesus. We come to the end of our own strength and find that God is waiting for us there. When we seek forgiveness from God, he never fails to meet us with grace and mercy. God ministers to us in our brokenness, pain, and weakness.
We’ve seen this again and again at Alpha. Guests pray desperate, repentant prayers, and they are met with an outpouring of God’s love.
God does not ask us to repent because he wants us to experience guilt and shame. He wants us to experience freedom from sin. He wants us to know who we are in him—that we are hidden in Christ. When God looks at us, he first sees his son. All the love, favor, and blessing that he has for Christ, he has for you. When we repent, we are free to experience the love that God is already pouring out on us.
“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
We all encounter the devil’s schemes, but when we pray we bind the enemy.
Think about two wild animals—one is bound and the other is roaming free. Which is going to do more? The enemy wants to bind and hinder us, to keep us from doing the work God has for us in this world. But when we pray, we bind the enemy, we stop evil in its tracks, and we are freed to bring God’s kingdom here on earth.
Prayer lends us God’s strength and limits the power of evil that’s trying to work against us.
“For yours is the kingdom and the glory, now and forever. Amen.”
When we pray, we put our focus on Jesus. We acknowledge that it’s his kingdom that we want to build, for his glory. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. It’s his power at work in us. It’s his strength that holds us. It’s his resurrection hope that propels us forward.
Do we want to see our community changed? We need to call out to Jesus.
Any change we want to see in this world must start with prayer, through the power of the Holy Spirit. We must gather and ask God to send his Spirit, fill our churches with prayer, and manifest his presence among us.
It’s from this starting place that mission is launched, and our communities are changed.
Would you like to learn more about how Alpha equips the Church in prayer? Experience our national Kingdom Come Prayer October 12-14, 2021—learn how to hold dynamic prayer meetings, or pray on your own. Find more information about Kingdom Come Prayer here.