Blog #Gospel

The Power of Prayer

Like most who enter the nonprofit sector, I had dreams of the difference my work could make, but it didn’t take long to realize that this work was far more complex than I ever imagined. Working in rural Cambodia early in my career, I remember realizing the interconnectedness of poverty. It wasn’t just a lack of financial resources impacting families’ opportunities but compounding factors of inadequate healthcare, inequitable access to education, corruption, natural disasters, and conflict. And there were no simple solutions. 

As difficult as it is to help individuals overcome material poverty, it’s even more complex when our hearts’ desire is that the men, women, and children we serve would turn to Christ. That’s where our mission goes from difficult to impossible in our own strength. We can bring the Good News of the Gospel as we can tackle the interconnectedness of poverty, and we can plant and water seeds, but we are most certainly not the saviors. 

That’s true for many of us, whether we’re working for a nonprofit, longing to see a loved one come to Christ, or wondering how we got so far from Eden. What we long for in our world is beyond what we can attain or engineer through our own efforts. I say this not as permission to embrace fatalism or cynicism but rather as a reminder of what we can do. “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” was not a prayer to be prayed once but a model Jesus gave us to emulate. God invites us to pour out our deepest longings for restoration. Could it be that our missions are, by design, beyond our abilities? Reaching the end of our abilities is an invitation to reach up to our Savior, to be driven to our knees in prayer rather than despair. 

The Importance of Prayer

For years, I said prayer mattered, but I lived like my striving mattered more. I’d strategize, plan, toil, consult with others, weigh pros and cons, and then sprinkle all my efforts with some prayer pixie dust. Though I certainly didn’t believe this, I acted as though it had been a clean transfer when God entrusted this mission to me—the baton passing from His hand to mine—when in reality it was more like an invitation to join with God in this work of restoration.

A few years ago, a friend invited me to join him in researching and writing the book Lead with Prayer. The book was the best excuse to probe the prayer lives of leaders who inspire me, like Joni Eareckson Tada, John Ortberg, and Francis Chan. These leaders and so many more were incredibly generous with their time and insights. Among that group was Gary Haugen.

Gary is the founder and CEO of International Justice Mission, an organization with clear vision and significant ambition. For more than twenty-five years, IJM staff members around the world have worked with local authorities to rescue and protect tens of thousands of people from violent forms of oppression such as labor trafficking, sexual exploitation, police abuse of power, and violence against women and children. By 2030, they seek to rescue millions and protect half a billion of the world’s most vulnerable from ever experiencing this kind of violent exploitation in the first place. There’s a lot to do if they’re going to accomplish this mission—and Gary says that’s why every IJM staff member at every office around the world begins their day with 30 minutes of silent prayer. Just a few hours later, they gather together for another 30 minutes of corporate prayer. Last year, the time they invested in prayer was valued at $4 million. And Gary considers it an essential investment. 

The Influence of Prayer

I love what he says about prayer. He explains that when we say that something matters, we could mean two different things. The first meaning is we value this thing. It matters to us, and we cherish it: like our marriage or our home. The second way to matter is to make a difference. This is why it matters to bring sunscreen to the beach. It matters to an outcome that we value—like avoiding a blistering sunburn.

Gary compellingly argues that prayer matters not only in this first way, in which it’s valuable to us, but also in the second, in which it actually influences outcomes in real-world struggles. His team goes head-to-head with evils seen and unseen every day, and they regularly confront circumstances far beyond their control. But nothing they confront is beyond God’s control. 

“God in His sovereignty has chosen not to do all of this on His own. Rather God has chosen to give us a part to play in things that really matter. God allows us to impact real events, both by the work we do and through unleashing His power into the world through our asking,” he reflects. “We cannot choose to matter more than God has ordained. That would be pride. But we can choose to matter less than He has ordained by declining His invitation to release His power into the world through prayer.”

This is a humbling and freeing reminder. It’s amazing news, actually! Our missions are not our own. The burdens that can weigh on us so heavily were never ours to carry. Through prayer, we are invited to bring our calling, our insufficiency, our heartaches before our omniscient, all-loving God. God is with us, and prayer orients our hearts and minds to His presence. And through prayer, God “unleash[es] His power into the world.” God’s Kingdom comes and His will is done, on earth as it is in heaven. Prayer matters for us and for our world. 

Lord, teach us to pray!  

Peter Greer is president and CEO of HOPE International, a global Christ-centered organization working to alleviate physical and spiritual poverty in more than 20 countries around the world. Peter’s favorite part of his role is spending time with the remarkable entrepreneurs HOPE serves. A graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School, Peter has co-authored 15 books, including his latest release, Lead with Prayer. Peter lives with his wife, Laurel, and their four children in Lancaster, PA. For more information and free resources to cultivate rhythms of personal and organizational prayer, visit

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