Several years ago a man started a rural business in a tiny community. His tiny farming community was located 150 miles from any town of any size. So he began by stocking things in small amounts that he knew the people in his area needed--a little feed, a little fertilizer, a few basic farming supplies.

He was six foot four, weighed a lean but muscular 240 pounds, and was strong as an ox. When a truck arrived with his supplies, he moved everything by hand. He just picked it up and carried to where he wanted it.

His business grew. Since his was the most convenient place to get supplies, his orders grew bigger and bigger. For example, when he started, a thousand pounds of feed was a huge order. Now he was ordering feed by the tons. The same thing happened with all his supplies--volume really increased. He was still strong as an ox, but it was close to impossible to move all those supplies by hand.

One day a driver said, "I can't believe you don't have a forklift." He didn't know anything about a forklift. The driver explained, "A forklift would move all this stuff wherever you wanted it in a tenth of the time it is taking you now."

So the man ordered a one-ton forklift by phone. When it was delivered, the person who delivered it assumed that the man knew how to use it. He showed him how to start it, how to run it, how to raise the lift, and how to place a load. He demonstrated with five sacks of feed.

The man who bought the lift was amazed and thrilled. He would manually place five one-hundred pound bags on the lift, drive the bags where he wanted them, manually stack them, and go get five more bags. And he was elated that he could do the job so much faster and easier.

One day the driver arrived with an especially large order of feed. He knew the man had bought the forklift, so he asked if he could use it to off load the feed. The man was dumbfounded as he watched the driver move this huge order, lifting pallet by pallet. He was astounded to realized that he had access to all that power and did not even know it was there.

Many of us in our prayer life are too much like the man hauling five hundred pounds of feed on a one- ton forklift. Each time we discover the power of prayer on a higher level, we are astounded when we realize that we had all that power available and did not even know it was there.


  1. Before we consider the power of prayer, I want to make what I regard to be some important observations.
    1. Observation #1: Effective prayer is dependent on heart and attitude, not on procedure.
      1. If you have a four-year-old, an eight-year-old, and an eleven-year-old, you will listen to, understand, and respond to each one of them.
        1. They each will have different vocabularies, differing abilities to communicate, and different levels of thinking and awareness.
        2. But you are quite capable of listening to each one of them on his or her own level and with understanding responding to that child's true needs.
        3. If you have more than one child in your family, every one of them is different, and--unless they are identical twins--they have totally different levels of communication and comprehension.
        4. Having children of different ages challenges our abilities to listen and understand, but rarely does it exceed our abilities.
      2. God is a better parent to His children than we ever dreamed of becoming.
        1. He understands what we are asking and what we need when we do not even understand ourselves.
        2. He understands what we are trying to say when we don't even know how to say it.
      3. The key to effective prayer is a matter of heart and attitude.
        1. If the heart and attitude are right, God is touched.
        2. Procedures and technicalities are never the key to effective prayer.
      4. Jesus made that point eloquently in the parable about the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14.
    2. Observation # 2: We must understand and hold a critical awareness about relationship if we are to pray effectively.
      1. God does not exist to be our servant; we exist to be God's servant.
        1. God is our Father, not our servant.
        2. We must approach Him as a Father that we love and respect dearly.
        3. We must never approach Him as though it is His obligation to do as we instruct Him to do.
        4. He exalts the humble; he turns a deaf ear to the egotistical.
      2. We did not make God; God made us.
        1. God is not our creation.
        2. You and I are God's creation.
        3. God does not depend on us--for anything; his purposes will come to pass with or without us.
        4. We are dependent on him--for everything; our true purposes cannot come to pass without him.
    3. Observation # 3: God commonly works in unexpected ways to do the unexpected.
      1. When God had the prostitute Rahab rescued from Jericho , he allowed her to be one of the ancestors through whom the Christ came; God was working in an unexpected way to do the unexpected.
      2. When God sent Jonah with a message for the cruel, vicious, idolatrous nation of Assyria, God was working in an unexpected way to do the unexpected.
      3. When Jesus worked through a Samaritan woman who had been divorced five times and was living with a man to whom she was not married, God was working in an unexpected way doing the unexpected.
      4. When Jesus when to the home of Zachaeus, a wealthy tax collector who was a social untouchable in the city of Jericho, God was working in an unexpected way doing the unexpected.
      5. When Jesus told the thief who was dying on a cross beside his cross that the thief would be with Jesus in paradise that day, God was working in an unexpected way doing the unexpected.
      6. God has never stopped working in unexpected ways doing the unexpected.

  2. There are so many examples of the power God makes available to us through prayer that it is difficult to pick just a few. I want to call your attention to two.
    1. The first example I call to your attention is Hannah in 1 Samuel chapters one and two.
      1. Hannah's husband was a polygamist; Hannah was one of two wives married to Elkanah.
      2. Elkanah was a devout Israelite.
        1. He was very conscientious in making a yearly trip to the tabernacle to offer sacrificial worship to God.
        2. He loved Hannah, was very kind to her, and was very generous to her.
      3. But Peninnah, Elkanah's other wife, took the occasion of this annual trip to the tabernacle to torment Hannah.
        1. Peninnah had children--she had been blessed by God; she was fulfilling her role in Israel.
        2. Hannah had no children, so when the family made their annual trip to worship at the tabernacle, Peninnah made it an occasion to remind Hannah that she had not been blessed by God.
        3. She would provoke Hannah bitterly, deliberately irritating her because she had no children (1:6).
      4. One year she tormented Hannah so much that Hannah could do nothing but cry--she could not even eat.
        1. Elkanah lovingly tried to comfort her, but without success.
        2. Hannah privately went to the tabernacle in great distress and prayed to the Lord as she wept bitterly.
        3. In her prayer she made a vow: "If you will bless me with a son, Lord, I will give him back to you."
        4. She prayed silently, but she moved her lips as she prayed.
        5. Eli, the high priest, saw her weeping and moving her lips and concluded she was drunk, and he chastised her for being drunk.
        6. She respectfully explained the she was oppressed in her spirit and that she was pouring out her soul before the Lord.
        7. Eli told her to go in peace and said, "May the Lord grant your petition."
      5. In less than a year Hannah had a son.
      6. When her son, Samuel, was three years old she took him to the tabernacle and dedicated him to the Lord.
      7. He became one of the great prophets and great leaders of Israel in one of the most evil, troubled periods in Israel's history.
      8. It happened because Hannah prayed to God.
    2. The second example I call to your attention is Jesus when he prayed the last night of his earthly life.
      1. At no time in Jesus' life do you see the reality of his humanity as clearly as you do on the last night of his life.
      2. When he entered the garden to pray, Matthew tells us that he was grieved and distressed (Matthew 26:37).
        1. He told Peter, James, and John, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death" [I am as distressed as I would be if I were actually dying] (Matthew 26:38).
        2. He prayed three times, pleading with God to remove the necessity of his death.
        3. But he also yielded to the will of his Father.
      3. Mark describes Jesus' mental state when he entered the garden to pray as being very distressed and troubled (Mark 14:33).
        1. Mark also records that Jesus told Peter, James, and John, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death" (Mark 14:34).
        2. Mark records Jesus saying in one of his prayers, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for you; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will but what you will" (Mark 14:36).
      4. Luke says of that evening, that "being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground" (Luke 22:44).
      5. You ask, "Where is the power in that prayer? He died. The death was not removed."
        1. The power is seen in the way he surrendered to his captors and healed Malchus's ear.
        2. The power is seen in his demeanor in the Jewish trials.
        3. The power is seen in the way he interacted with Pilate.
        4. The power is seen in the way he faced and endured death.
        5. The power is seen in the way he treated everyone while he was in the agony of one of the most painful forms of death ever invented.
        6. The power is seen in everything Jesus did after he prayed.
      6. God had the power to take the worst things that Satan could do and create an eternal Savior.
        1. He gave Jesus the strength to succeed in his sacrificial death.
        2. He raised Jesus from the dead.
        3. He made him Lord and Christ.

  3. May I call two scriptures to your attention that affirm the enormous power that is available to us as children of God.
    1. In Romans 8, Paul was giving encouragement to the Christians in Rome who had endured and were enduring discouragement and suffering because they were Christians.
      1. The struggle was real.
      2. To me, Romans 8:31-39 is one of the most powerful and most encouraging scriptures ever written to Christians.
      3. In verses 31 and 32 Paul asks:
        If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own son, but delivered him up for us all, how will He not also with him freely give us all things?
      4. There is no power superior to God's.
        1. Nothing can defeat Him.
        2. We belong to the winner who can not be conquered.
      5. How can we doubt that He will respond in any way necessary if He has already allowed His own son to die for us?
    2. The second statement was made to the Ephesian Christians in Ephesians 3:20-21:
      Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
      1. You cannot have a need or make a request that exceeds God's power to be of help.
      2. He can do more than we can even imagine according to the power at work within us--right now.
      3. That is the power that keeps us in a saved condition, that forgives us, that sanctifies and purifies us, and that sustains our relationship with God.

There is no condition that Satan can create in your world or your life that God cannot work in. If God could take the crucifixion and create a Savior, God can take anything that happens in your life and produce your salvation.

Never conclude when terrible things happen in your life that God is not at work. He is not causing the terrible things, but he is working through those terrible things to advance your salvation. I have finally understood that when I am going through the most trying times of my life, God is doing His best and most powerful work. God's power is most evident in my life when I am at my weakest.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 23 February 1997
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