Prayer Works…Or Does It?

You and I’ve seen (or possibly used) the phrase “Prayer works.”  Often times, the person speaking/writing has prayed about something and whatever their need or desire has come to fruition.  Aunt Sally’s cancer is in remission.  The kid has made a smooth transition and made friends.  You’ve passed your college exam.  After all, prayer works!  It’s easy to say God is good.

But what if the cancer doesn’t go into remission?  What if the kid struggles with socializing and has no friends?  What if you bombed the exam?  What if the person you’ve prayed about for so long dies?  Are we quick to say “Prayer works?”  Does the phrase “God is good!” roll off our tongues?

My answer is this:  When we find ourselves in a religious setting e.g. church, small group, Bible study, around Christian friends, we say things we don’t really mean.  We say things that we think those around us expect to hear.  But often we don’t really believe it.  So we say “God is good!” or “Prayer works!” while a small voice from within tells us that we didn’t get what we wanted.  So it doesn’t really “work.”  This is the time our faith is really tested.

Here’s the thing:  What is prayer?  Because how we answer the question means everything.  To say “Prayer works” means we see God in a certain way.  We tell Him what we need and He responds with the way we want.  This is the Santa Clause mentality.  But is that really prayer?  I want you to consider this definition of prayer.  Prayer is removing the focus off of me and acknowledging God.  In other words, when I see God for who He is, the last thing I think of is bringing a “laundry list” of desires to Him.  When I know that He is developing me into the person He wants me to be (Romans 8:28; James 1), I’m assured that although my prayers may not be answered the way that I want I know He knows what’s best.

There’s a teaching within the Church that holds God controls everything.  The theological idea is called determinism.  So God caused Aunt Sally’s cancer.  He doesn’t allow the kid to socialize and gain friends.  He “needs” that loved one in heaven so he causes that person to die.  Have you heard that?  Can I offer a one-word summary of this idea?  BULLCRAP!  It frustrates me to no idea when I hear well-meaning believers to use words/phrases that fly in the face of the God of the Bible.  It’s just not well thought out.  God is the giver of life.  He doesn’t need anything!

There are things that hold an enormous mystery.  In other words, we pray by faith.  And we realize that there are times when God doesn’t answer the way we want (or is silent altogether).  And we continue to pray – acknowledging God and His knowledge.  When we see prayer as being acknowledgement of God (and not about us) it changes the entire scenario.

In summary: prayer does work.  But it works being in that it eliminates me as being the center of the world and places the focus where it should be (God).  Obviously, this takes a tremendous amount of faith.  So that when I pray and don’t get the answer I desire, I know God is more powerful than anything in creation.  Therefore, I know God is working out all things.  It’s that God focused mentality that flies in the face of the Santa Clause mentality of which we’re aware (and often times proponents).

Push back?  Tell me about your idea of prayer.

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5 Responses to “Prayer Works…Or Does It?”

  1. I once prayed that my uncle would be healed. That my mom would not die. I fasted. I promised things. I thought if I was only “good enough”… and after… “What did I do wrong?” “What didn’t I do?”

    Then time passed. And someone else I knew got really sick – we were fearful for her and we prayed and fasted… but this time God allowed healing and life. Someone else I knew got really sick – and again God allowed healing and life.

    I learned that I cannot pray for God to bend to MY WILL. I learned that prayer is a two way conversation. I learned I live in a broken world.

    “God is the giver of life. He doesn’t need anything” – and yet He loves me. In all things – I know this much is true; there is freedom in this knowledge that he truly loves me and that I can see that love on the cross…

    My idea of prayer (in times of dispair): I am like someone who is downing in deep water… but I have learned that if I stop thrashing – I can focus on the cross – I will begin to float and I will be carried to a safe place.

  2. Mike for me prayer is one of the ways ways that God communicates to me. The intent for me in prayer is to listen more than talk as this still silence allows God to communicate with me. This change in my prayer life has allowed me to draw closer to God. I do believe that God answers prayer but it’s not about my will but His will.

    God sees so much more of the complete picture and this allows me to trust and have faith that whatever the answer I can fully lean on and depend on Him.

    I agree with both you and Maria, “God is working out all things” and “I cannot pray for God to bend to MY WILL.”

    There is great comfort for me in knowing that our complete healing does not come this side of heaven. I also take comfort in our God’s mighty shoulders. We can cry out He understands and gets us more than we even know ourselves.

  3. Sharon Graf Says:

    Very good thoughts. I agree 100 percent !!! Ditto to it all!! PRAISE GOD WE CAN REACH HIM!!!!!!

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