Does prayer have any real impact on our world? Or is it merely a private conversation with God?

When a New Jersey couple learned that a man had been released from prison and had moved into their area, they started praying for him. Then they paid him a visit and opened their home to a weekly breakfast for ex-offenders like him. Now, 22 years later, the area’s most despised men have one place to go where they are welcomed and treated respectfully.

What would happen if we followed literally Jesus’ command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? What if we became known for approaching heaven on behalf of outcasts and disagreeable people?

In a scene recorded in the book of Revelation, the apostle John foresees a direct linkage between the visible and invisible worlds. At a climactic moment in history, heaven is quiet. Seven angels stand with seven trumpets, waiting. Silence reigns, as if all heaven is listening on tiptoe. Then an angel collects the prayers of God’s people on earth—all the accumulated prayers of praise, lament, abandonment, despair, petition—mixes them with incense, and presents them before the throne of God (8:1-4). The silence finally breaks when the fragrant prayers are hurled down to earth: setting off a storm of “thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake” (v.5).

The message is clear. The prayers are essential agents in the final victory over evil, suffering, and death.