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Posted by on Jun 27, 2012 in Inspirational | 17 comments

Does PRAYER work?

Does PRAYER work?

Seven years ago I was on the phone with Pastor Dennis in the lobby of Sibley Hospital.  Up to that point, I had kept it together.  I had held Eileen’s hand.  I had reassured her that everything was going to be OK.  But when I had to say the words on the phone, I lost it.  I melted into a ball of grief as I choked out an update. We would never get to meet the little baby we had made.  We had prayed, and as far as I could tell, prayer hadn’t worked.

This experience runs in drastic contrast to countless other experiences where we’ve prayed and seen things work out exactly like we’ve asked.  Just two years ago, Eileen and I were short about $15,000 on our annual budget.  We had itemized our projected expenses, compared it to our projected income and found we were $15,000 short.  We prayed together and asked God to make up the difference.  Within two weeks, our expenses decreased and our income increased just enough to close the gap.  We had no idea those things were going to happen!  It seemed a clear answer to prayer.

So, does prayer work?  Two nights ago, I downloaded (for only $0.42 only Google Books) a very short read, The Efficacy of Prayer, by C.S. Lewis.  He suggests that empirical proof on whether prayer works or not is unobtainable.  Basically, we’ll never know, scientifically.  It makes sense.  I can no more run experiments on whether prayer works by praying and testing than I could run experiments on whether an engagement proposal works by proposing to a bunch of women in different ways.  If my goal is to figure out whether it works, then I haven’t really prayed…or proposed.  I just ran a test.

What can we know about prayer?  After all, God encourages us to ask Him for things consistently throughout Scripture.  Let’s focus on the analogy of a marriage proposal.  When I asked Eileen to marry me, I wasn’t trying to convince her to do something she didn’t want to do.  I had a sense, because of our relationship, that she wanted to be married to me.  My proposal was based on a confidence I had gained from what I knew about her and how she felt about me.  To say that my proposal “worked” would be a huge simplification of our relationship. Even if she had said “no”, it would have been a big learning experience in our relationship and understanding of one another.  But if I knew Eileen wanted to marry me, then why even ask?  Why didn’t it just happen?  My proposal to Eileen was an important step.  It was a communication of agreement.  I was saying, “I want this.  I think you want this.  What do you say, we do it?”

It’s just the same when we pray.  We’re not out there trying to convince God to do something He doesn’t want to do.  We’re fulfilling a role of agreement. God has given us the role of asking Him for things He wants to do in our lives and in the lives of other people.  For some reason, God chooses to do most everything He wants through people.  Prayer is just another way for us to be involved.  Why do you pray?  What’s been your experience?

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” John 15:7

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  • I pray to spend time with God. The act of prayer clears my mind. It changes my perspective so that I can see things as God sees them, to the extent that I am able. It opens my ears and my heart to hear the things God wants to speak to me throughout the day.

    I pray to bow in worship. I pray to thank God. I pray to confess and be cleansed. I pray to place my concerns, and the concerns of others, in God’s hands.

    • That is awesome! Thanks for sharing. Although this post focuses on petitions, prayer is so much more isn’t it? I love what you said about how prayer changes your perspective. Very cool!

      • Sorry about the slightly-off-topic reply, and thank you for your gracious answer. I got so excited about the question, and forgot about the context. 🙂

        • Not at all! This blog is totally driven by what you guys want to talk about. In fact, your comment inspired my next post!

  • Colleen Ashley

    Yes prayer is powerful, but I believe that through my experience, that even when a prayer does not get answered in the way we think, its not fair to blame God. When My son John died at two weeks old I never blame God , I believe this was an answer that we needed to bare, cause having my child around suffering until he could get a liver, would have been more thank I could bare and God promies He would never put more onn us thank we could bare

    • Colleen Ashley

      So even though pray brings uus closer to God,should we believe that how our circumstances turns out is because we think we should know more than God? I have prayed many prayers that has not turnout the way I want , but I just trust and believe that through this I learn that God’s ways are better than mind. I believe you can ask God to heal, but if the person don’t really receive hinderances can come in, so never get discouraged that God don’t hear you! I hope I gain better understanding of this all, and I hope that God help me to be teachable at all times!

    • Thanks for sharing, Colleen. I don’t think I knew about your son John. No wonder your love for God is so strong…it’s really come through some trials. You’ve probably heard me talk about my “I don’t understand” file in my head. We trust God even when things don’t work out like we thought they should. For things like your experience, I place it in the “I don’t understand” file and try not to let what I don’t understand take the place of what I know to be true….also trusting one day I’ll understand things more clearly. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” 1 Corin 13:12

  • Harrison this was a great post! I pray to just talk to God. Just to spend time with Him. Sometimes I feel as though it’s not interactive, even though I know God hears me. Maybe he just wants me to be quiet so I can listen.

    • Thanks for reading, Lori! I understand that. Sometimes I wonder if 90% of my prayer life is just trying to get my thoughts quiet enough to listen!

  • This is an interesting take on prayer, thanks for posting.

    I believe prayer works, I just don’t think it works the way we always want things to go. It’s always going to be His way, His plans, and usually it goes better than we expect it to, if we stick out long enough.

    And like you said, sometimes we need to spend more time listening, which is difficult sometimes, especially in our culture with what we’re surrounded with.

    But I’ve been finding that, God ALWAYS talked first, I never realized that until recently… could we start implementing in our prayers by doing this and seeing if He starts and seeing what He says/does more often and see what happens?

    • I like this thought that God always spoke first. The Bible says we love b/c He first loved us. In prayer, sometimes we feel like God is not speaking. Most of the time, though, I think we’re just not wanting to talk about what He wants to talk about. Our agenda is too focused. Listening gives us a chance to find out what is on his heart first. Seek first the kingdom and everything else will be added.

      • Exactly, sure, God wants a relationship with us, but what and how exactly?

        You’re right about the our agenda, it shouldn’t be that way. It should be about God’s.

        You can read it in Exodus and the conversations between God and Moses. Notice how they talk, especially up in the Mountains and then God commands Moses to do things? Just to give you an idea. 🙂


  • lakeiyam

    I love the proposal analogy. There are things that I’ve asked God for, things that I feel almost certain He’s placed in my heart and wants for me, yet nothing seems to be happening. And it’s fairly frustrating. But I realized when reading your post, that even when someone says “yes” to a proposal, they’re not married right away. There’s usually a time of engagement, of waiting and preparation before the actual wedding happens. It just reminded me that God has said “yes” but that maybe I’m in that waiting and preparation time. And that’s okay, because He’s already said yes. And God’s not one to break His promises.

  • I just started following your blog, and this post caught my attention.

    I will also guess by now,( that is if you have read my posts,) that i have a very different perspective and understanding regarding God.

    I love god with everything that i am, and above all i fear, worship and bow to him.

    Great things have happened to me and the experience greatly humbled me. Most important through this experiences , i started seeing god in a very different way from what i have been told, read and taught since i was a child. I am now 33.

    My personal understanding of god is that he doesn’t answer prayers but rather effortlessly blesses the choices that we make if we stay persistent in them with great hard work, and only if what ever it is that we seek comes from a very good , unselfish ,clean , most humbled and vulnerable heart. And when all comes to pass we give glory and praises to him for with just his name alone we have had hope and faith through it all.

    Why do i pray? very interesting question. I pray because i know all is possible if i stand by his name and only him alone. I pray because i know he can , i pray to praise him, i pray for everything that i know i cant self reach as a human eg health, patience, understanding , respect , love and many more that can help make me be a better person every day. I am very far from being perfect , so this are the areas that i mostly pray for. They are beyond me and only god can reach for me here.

    I don’t pray to god for money, a car , job, or even marriage. GOD has already given me the gift of life and all the senses. With all this, i have the power and tools to create and be what ever i want . So instead of asking for what i already have or can do i ask for wisdom as to how i can use all this for my self not against my self. We are our own greatest enemy .

    A very good friend of mine was told me a quote that they have read somewhere.”The opportunities that we so seek are not in God, not in time but rather in within us.” To me ,instead of waiting on god, i believe god is waiting on us to celebrate the gift of life and give glory to him. Not to complain everyday about the same problems which most we can fix. I understand god can punish us for simply just complaining , i mean who in their right senses wouldn’t get tired of hearing the same waning every day? Our parents here can not tolerate such childish behavior , why then should we expect the parent of all parents to ?

    I find god to be very simply and i find his love even better everyday because i have come to understand that he doesn’t work for me, he is not my slave but rather my master and creator . I am not sure whom of a father serves his children even after they are long grown ?

    • Thanks for your comment. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts here. I would love to hear more about the great experiences that have helped form your understanding of God! I look fwd to reading more of your posts.

      • thank you, i was a little worried as to where there you will understand my views on god, after all you a pastor .

        and yes yes god is good and god is way too giving and god is forgiving….