Small causes often have larger effects. This is the underlying premise of the Butterfly Effect. A simple principle within the chaos theory that suggests the smallest causes can have the most far-reaching effects.
One of the most famous and revealing quotes on the butterfly effect is found in the book Good Omens where the authors state “A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe”
Prayer is perhaps one of the most powerful examples of the butterfly effect. It is a small and simple gesture that requires little effort and can take place anytime and anywhere.
And yet the Bible tells us that prayer can move mountains, heal the sick, reveal forgotten dreams and generally change the world in ways that were previously inconceivable. Why is prayer so powerful? What makes the butterfly wing of prayer cause seismic shifts in the world around us?
Well, prayer is powerful because it engages and moves the hand of God. Not manipulatively, like some giant marionette moving a puppet on strings. Instead, prayer is talking to God as though He is your best friend.
It is asking Him for help and guidance and strength and then trusting and believing that He will answer and provide in much the same way that you trust a good friend to answer and provide in your time of need.
The book of Acts provides one of the most vivid descriptions of the butterfly effect of prayer. Acts 2 describes the experience of Jesus’ disciples 40 days after He had ascended to heaven. Acts 2:1 says “When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” NKJV
About 120 people, crammed into an upper room, praying together, united in a single purpose. They were praying for forgiveness of their sins, they were praying for direction, and perhaps most importantly, they were praying for the power of God’s spirit.
A handful of people in the midst of Jerusalem, in a far-flung corner of the vast Roman Empire, spanning most of the then known world. They were a small group and yet their united prayers were heard and answered.
In Acts 2:2 & 4 the Bible says, “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting….and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Not only were they empowered by the Holy Spirit they were also given direction. To go out and preach the gospel with power, which is exactly what they did. That day over 3,000 people accepted Jesus as their Saviour.
Before long the good news of Jesus had spread throughout the Roman Empire and as far afield as China, India and other places on the eastern frontier. The early Christians turned the world upside down. And it all began with prayer.
There are three things we can learn from the prayer of the disciples in that upper room. First, there is power in praying together. Jesus says in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” NKJV
Second, the Bible says they were all with one accord. Which means they were all in harmony with one another. This implies that there was no strife or division among them. Their relationships with each other were clear of animosity, discord, ill-feeling and jealousy.
Thirdly, we know what they were praying for. In Acts 1:8 Jesus plainly told His disciples “But you shall receive power when the Holy Ghost has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and in Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” NKJV
Jesus had already promised to send the Holy Spirit and He had already told His disciples that they were to go out and be His witnesses. Not only were they united in relationships they had a common goal they were praying towards.
These three aspects can make prayer extremely powerful. Praying together, harmony in our relationships with one another, and a clear, common goal. It is this type of prayer that can truly have a butterfly effect. The kind of gentle, small movement that can cause seismic shifts clear across the globe.