Dallas Willard on the Power of Prayer

“I’m too tired to read my Bible and pray,” a pastor shared with me, “but I need the Spirit’s anointing to preach this weekend.”

In the eight weeks since the Covid-19 virus closed churches around the world, he’s had just three days off. He’s been overworking to lead his church into new media ministries and keep everyone engaged in community and prayer.

To keep producing he became machine-like. His soul was depleted and his relational centers had shut down. All he could do was sit down alone in the dark. And feel guilty.

Sometimes all of us who serve the Lord—whether at church, work, or home—get a tired soul. 

Leading and caring for people for Jesus’ sake are so important that it’s hard not to neglect our own soul care. But then we get dependent on our service to others providing the success, closeness to God, or appreciation that helps us feel alive.

It’s a vicious cycle. We can get trapped in continually doing the very work that’s draining our soul so we can get more shots of adrenaline or consolation to keep going.

Instead, as Dallas Willard liked to say, “We need a life shot through with prayer.” As in “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But that may conjure up a feeling that you need to be heroic in prayer. The truth is that not many of us are called to spend hours each day praying. To expect that puts us under guilt and discouragement and we may just give up praying.

The power of prayer is in joining what God is doing and participating in the Kingdom of Light.

“Prayer is a power-sharing device,” Dallas taught. “God wants to empower you to do what you want.” He admits that’s risky because we’re prone to want the wrong things!

As with the pastor who called me, it’s hard for us to wait for God’s power—we need it now for the work and needs at hand. So we push forward, sacrificing our intimacy with God and soul care in the process. Outwardly successful results seem to justify this.

In my meetings with Dallas he taught me to pray, “Lord, please don’t grant me more power than my character can handle.” That means praying for less success, less notoriety, and less money!

I’ve prayed Dallas’ prayer countless times to counteract my ego ambitions and wait for the Lord’s timing of provision. Often God has answered my prayer for less power by letting me fail or get disappointed. Then as I turn to Jesus he gives me new power.

Why does God let us fail? Why does our loving Father often make us wait for what we want? Because he wants a love relationship with us.

Intimacy with God is the source of our power to do great work for God. That kind of a praying life develops in us the character of Christ, which makes it safe for us to receive divine power. Christly virtues like humility, dependence on the Holy Spirit, patient courage, and lovingkindness enable us to use God’s power wisely.

“Enjoy being with me and talking with me, even as I do with my Abba,” Jesus says, “and then you will have the strength and ability to do great work” (paraphrased from John 15:5-9). That’s the power of prayer!

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Listen to today’s SoulTalk: In this episode, Bill and Kristi unpack a few of Dallas Willard’s paradigm-shifting insights on prayer. Grow in integrating prayer into every aspect of your life by consistently tuning into God’s presence and action. Prayer is a process and a journey that makes it possible for us to live like Christ. Experience the great things God does in and through us through prayer!

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