James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
In late August of 2008 hurricane “Gustav” crashed into Cuba, recording the highest wind gust ever recorded there - 211 mph. All of the computer models were forecasting a disastrous impact on the central Gulf Coast somewhere between Houston, Texas and Mobile, Alabama. The models showed that the storm would intensify to a “Category 5” storm, bringing devastation to the very cities and towns which had not completely recovered from Katrina - three years earlier. This was the third anniversary of Katrina’s landfall. On August 30, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin issued a mandatory evacuation of the entire city and nearly two million people evacuated from southern Louisiana in advance of the storm.
That evening, inside the walls of the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, the KAIROS prison ministry meeting was closing a service of confession and forgiveness. Each participant had just forgiven those who had hurt them deeply in the past. As I stood to offer the closing prayer, a rush of faith came over me to pray against the storm heading our way. Forgiving others clears us to be forgiven resulting in our prayers heard by God. Prayers in too many churches are ineffective, because of the lack of forgiveness. How can you rebuke a storm outside when there is a storm raging inside of you?
We prayed for the storm in the Gulf to dissipate and be reduced in power. It would have been inappropriate to ask it to swerve away and hit another coast. We prayed for the Lord to rebuke the storm.
There was a bit of spiritual pride later when Gustav, instead of intensifying over the warm gulf waters, dropped to a “Category 2” before making landfall on September 1st, west of New Orleans, in an evacuated area. But then on Monday evening, my brother called from California to ask how we were doing as we were touched by the edge of the storm. He had been at a large Christian gathering in Anaheim, CA where they prayed that the storm would dissipate. He commented, “Prayer really does works!”
That day, I opened an email prayer bulletin from another ministry. Their letter read,
“We believe that the Lord has given us authority to pray the death & destruction out of the hurricane and to command the winds to be diminished, and that is what we are doing. We are asking all of you to join with us in our intercession for the Gulf Coast and the East Coast.”
During the “Cold War,” I watched - at close hand - the construction of the Berlin wall. Stationed in Germany at the time, in a small way participated in the Allied response - a show of force the day after the wall went up.
In the mid nineteen eighties, an organization of Christians, Intercessors for Germany, headed by Berthold Buecker, were led to bring German people together to repent, East and West. They believed that this could destroy the strongholds of division that kept the Berlin wall in place. Later, though no one orchestrated it, East Germans began to come together in Leipzig, interceding fervently for the country. They were at great risk because the "Stasi" were watching and recording. Thousands gathered in the church and throughout the city. It was too late to stop the pendulum of history.
In November of 1989, dismantling of the Berlin Wall began. In 1992, the demolition was completed making way for the reunification of Germany. Over the next several years we heard from literally hundreds of people who had been in Germany and prayed that the wall would come down. Each one took some satisfaction in their part in praying down the wall.
We can always be self-satisfied when our prayers are answered; whether we pray for a hurricane to dissipate, a wall to come down, or for some tyrant to be defeated. But we also have to realize that it is not about us.
Though our prayers are effective, it is all about being a part of the Body of Christ and responding to the Holy Spirit as He calls us to pray. The Holy Spirit speaks to many at the same time and causes us all to pray the same way.
Our prayers go up to God as a divine orchestra rather than a solo aria. The effectiveness of our prayers is based upon our submission to the maestro as He conducts the concert.