Does Prayer Work?
I’ve been asked that exact question before, more than once. From both non-Christian and Christian friends. I recently wrote about prayer; the heartache my friend had for her family member who didn’t seem to accept Jesus before he died. I was pleasantly surprised to have some of you talk to me about encouraging stories of loved ones coming to know Jesus late in their lives. I also had a few people ask me whether prayer ‘works’. Some conversations are along the lines of, “If God is sovereign and in control, is it worth praying?” Others are heartbroken that some prayers weren’t answered in a way that seemed good and right. I think it’s great to ask these honest questions! I too have wrestled with them. Through these recent conversations about prayer, I’ve again been encouraged about what the Bible says about it and driven to share with you about the power of prayer and importance of it in our lives.
As a parent, when my children ask me for something I won’t always answer the way they hope. I love my children and I’ll answer in light of this and from my desire for them to do their best. I’ll answer their request in a way that will nurture the way they care for others and steward the gifts they’ve been given. Most importantly I’ll answer in a way that I hope points them to Jesus. Think of that for a moment and then consider how infinitely greater God’s love is for His children, for you and me.
God, our heavenly Father, is sovereign and His incredible wisdom is impossible for us to fully comprehend ‘Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33)’ Not only is God our loving Father, He is also wise and all-knowing. He rules and reigns over all things in His supreme yet unfathomable wisdom.
We can take heart that God hears all of our prayers. His word says that ‘This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.’ (1 John 5:14). Jesus told his disciples that they ‘…should always pray and not give up.’ (Luke 18:1).
If we’re to answer the question of whether prayer ‘works’, I think we need to ascertain what prayer is meant for. I think we need to acknowledge that as Christians we’re called to a life devoted to prayer. Colossians 4:2 says to ‘Devote yourselves to prayer…’ Similarly, we read the words ‘…pray continually’ in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. While there are whole books written on this topic, there are word limits with these weekly write ups! Thus, I have written a short spiel on just three reasons why prayer ‘works’ and why it’s so important we heed God’s loving command to pray continually.
Prayer is a means to communicate with God. What a joy and privilege it is to pray to the King of kings and Lord of lords. One of my favourite verses in the Bible is James 4:8 ‘Draw near to God and he will draw near to you’. If you want a relationship to grow and deepen you will spend time and communicate with that person. It’s no different with our relationship with God. In Philippians we’re reminded to ‘…not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’
Think on the text above from 1 John 5:14, ‘…ask anything according to his will…’ What that means is when we pray we should use language that aligns with His will and way. God’s will for us is to love Him and others. To put His way first. It means echoing His character and values in our prayers (sorry but you aren’t justified to pray the bad driver in front of you gets a flat tyre!) Jesus taught us how to pray and says ‘…Your kingdom come, your will be done…’ (Matthew 6:10). We should have a conviction to pray for things that are consistent with God’s attributes of love, justice, and mercy. We should in humility consider others better than ourselves in our prayer life (Philippians 2:4).
As we pray according to God’s will, we will be changed, or as Romans 12:2 puts it ‘transformed’ by the renewing of our minds. God-centred prayer transforms our heart and mind, confirming us to God’s purpose. Often Psalm 37:4 is taken out of context where it says that ‘…he (God) will give you the desires of your heart.’ These words don’t mean God will give us what we desire or think is best… Rather, they point us to delight in the Lord, to commit to His way, which will cause us to be rewarded in righteous living and points us to His peace and protection. Listen to the words later on in Psalm 37 (23-24, 39-40) ‘The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. … The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.’
Friends, prayer does work. Prayer is a privilege. Prayer deepens our love and knowledge of God. I implore you – pray!
‘Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and consistent in prayer’ Romans 12:12