The Surrender of Prayer

By Dr. Jack Graham

Nehemiah said, “I am your servant” (Nehemiah 1:4–11). We should never ask God to do something without also asking Him, “What do you want me to do?” That is what Nehemiah did. He asked God to do something, but he also volunteered, “Lord, I am willing to do something.” Prayer is not an excuse for nothing. Prayer produces surrender, sacrifice and service.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, had deep insight into prayer. In fact, tradition has it that he was called “Old Camel Knees” at the end of his life because he had spent so much time on his knees in prayer. James wrote that “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). He believed in prayer, taught prayer, and practiced prayer.

But it was also James who wrote that if you pass someone who is hungry and just say, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled. Good-bye,” there is not good in any of it. That is when he talked about faith without works being dead (see James 2). In other words, prayer without surrender and faith without works mean nothing. We are God’s means and method toward accomplishing His will. It is in prayer that we are enabled and energized.

Prayer makes us proactive. So many times we are reactive rather than proactive in life. Notice that Nehemiah did not say, “Lord, do something over there in Jerusalem. Lord, bless and comfort all of those people. And send somebody over to help them.” No he put himself at God’s disposal saying, “Lord, I am Your servant.” He, like Isaiah, said, “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). These men prayed and obeyed.

Ephesians 3:20 says that God is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” In other words, God chooses not to work in spite of us, but God chooses to work in step with us. We are co-laborers with Christ.

Prayer makes it possible for us to obey God. Yes, we are to pray for the hungry, but we are also to feed the hungry. Yes, we should pray for the hurting, but we should also drive to a hurting person’s home, put our arms around him or her, and say, “I love you, and Jesus loves you. Let’s talk.” Yes, we are called to pray for the lost. But we are also called to rise up from our prayers, energized by the Holy Spirit, and go tell the Good News of Christ to a lost person. Yes, we must go to God, but we must also go for God. We are to wear out our knees and the soles of our shoes.

The fact is, all great men and women, such as Nehemiah, are simply weak persons until they begin to discover—in the sanctity of prayer, in the sincerity of prayer, and in the surrender of prayer—the power of presence of Almighty God. That is praying successfully.

Dr. Jack Graham is Pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, one of the largest and most dynamic churches in the country.