Why There Isn’t More Evil (6)
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5.16
And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” Luke 22.31, 32
State of the field
We have been working to understand that state of things in the Lord’s field, where we are daily sent to sow good Kingdom seed by our words and deeds. Like Paul, preaching to the philosophers in Athens, or Solomon, counseling his wayward-leaning son, we want to understand the times in which we live, so that we might know better what we must do in serving the Lord and advancing His Kingdom in the world.
We know that the Lord’s field contains many tares, and at times the tares can seem as if they own the field, and will soon enough make a tangled, worthless mess of it all. Christians can become discouraged and listless when this is their understanding of the times.
But the fact is, God is at work in the field of the world, as Creator, sovereign Lord, and Redeemer of the world. And He is at work in and through His people, in their Personal Mission Fields, to make sure that, when the final day arrives, the day of harvest, the field of the world will abound in much fruit to His glory and praise.
But the tares persist, and will until the end of all things. And the presence of so much evil prompts some people to doubt the existence of our sovereign and good God. What they should be wondering instead is, Why, in our materialistic and narcissistic age, there isn’t more evil in the world. And the reason for this is that God is at work, converting people to Christ, growing and equipping them to bear fruit in good works, and using them to influence the way of things in the world according to His Word.
If we understand this about the times in which we live, we’ll know better what we must do to make the most of our time for the progress of God’s Kingdom. And certainly one of the things we’ll need to spend much of our time in is prayer.
A powerful force
Over the years, prayer has been a powerful force for overcoming the effects of sin. Jesus Himself showed the power of prayer to restrain evil when He prayed against the devil’s utterly possessing Peter, as well as when He turned to the Father to sustain Him through His great trial and suffering.
That prayer is a powerful force may not have any credit with the unbeliever who objects to the Gospel because of the presence of so much evil in the world. But, we might ask our friend to consider, since it is abundantly clear that Christianity itself has proven to be a source of so much good, and a force for overcoming evil with good, what it is about Christians that enables them to achieve such consistent effects?
We have already explained that the Bible is one such power for good. But it will also be important to help our unbelieving friend understand that, because prayer is so intimately and essentially a part of the life of every Christian, it is impossible to account for the Christian influence for good apart from prayer. Prayer has power for all kinds of things, including restraining the work and effects of evil.
Simply put, Christians believe in prayer, and many, if not most, of them practice it faithfully. In prayer Christians are invited to bring their most earnest concerns to God. He hears us when we pray, and will meet our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. This doesn’t mean we will always receive from God precisely what we ask, but it does mean that we may expect to receive from Him exactly what is best for us and for His glory.
In prayer Christians seek relief from fear, anxiety, and suffering. In prayer Christians intercede for those who are in trouble, or sick, or experiencing anguish or distress. In prayer the followers of Christ seek the wisdom of God for practical ways of advancing His good and perfect will on earth. In prayer believers find strength to resist temptation, reach out to the unlovely, and show compassion for the needy. In prayer believers wait on the Lord to bring seasons of revival, renewal, and awakening to the world.
Can it be merely coincidence that Christians are given to such prayers and practice prayer faithfully, and that, as a community, they stand in the forefront of those who have worked and sacrificed to alleviate and overcome the effects of evil in all its forms?
That seems unlikely, and for any unbeliever to pooh-pooh the power of prayer without understanding what prayer is, how it works, and what the practice of it promises and requires, is simply to remain a slave to the under-the-sun presuppositions of the day.
The effectual, fervent prayers of those who are seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness have tremendous power to advance the goodness of God and thwart the progress of evil in the world. This world would be a far more violent, wicked, sad, and corrupt place without the prayers of faithful men and women interceding before the throne of grace for themselves, their neighbors, and the world as a whole. And this should encourage us as believers to give ourselves even more diligently, fervently, and constantly to this important work.
Why isn’t there more evil in the world? Because, for one thing, Christians pray!
1. In what ways are your prayers working effectually to restrain evil?
2. God does not always give us what we ask in prayer, but He always answers our prayers when we come to Him in faith. Explain.
3. How would you help and unbelieving friend understand the role of prayer in your life?
Next steps – Transformation: What can you do to bring more power, consistency, and effectiveness into your prayers?
To learn more about the practice of prayer, sign up for our free online course, The Parameters of Prayer (click here).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.