Whether you’re in a consistent prayer routine, only pray occasionally, or have never tried it before the question “does prayer work?” is a natural one to ask. After all, with no tangible way to figure out if God hears us when we pray or check the “status update” of our requests, there’s room for questions and doubts to creep in. Prayer requests that seem to go unanswered only add to this tension.
We have good news – prayer does work! Let’s unpack the reasons why we can trust in the power of prayer in our lives:
What is prayer, and does prayer work?
Let’s address an important question first: what is prayer? Prayer is simply talking to God. When we tell God about what’s going on in our lives, ask him for help or wisdom, and thank him for who he is and what he’s done, that’s prayer.
We can talk to God about anything, anytime – and he hears us! Jeremiah 29:12-13 says “when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”
If God listens to us, then, is praying effective? Does prayer work? Dutch missionary Andrew van der Bijl once said, “Our prayers can go where we cannot...there are no borders, no prison walls, no doors that are closed to us when we pray.” If we look in the Bible, 1 John 5:15 says, “since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.”
When we pray, we aren’t just putting our thoughts and hopes out into the universe – God hears and receives our prayers, and he acts on them!
What if God didn’t answer my prayer?
It’s normal to question if God moves through prayer, especially if you prayed for something that didn’t work out the way you’d hoped. Sometimes we pray for children but are unable to have any. Sometimes we pray for relatives to recover from disease only for them to die. Prayer doesn’t prevent us from going through hard things, but the presence of suffering in our lives doesn’t mean God is ignoring us when we cry out to him.
Prayer is powerful. It’s a great way for us to tell God what we’re hoping for, but he isn’t a vending machine. We can’t expect to get exactly what we ask for when we pray, because God may have something different in mind for us.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’”
It may feel like God’s ignoring you or letting your prayers go unanswered but consider that he is responding – just differently than you expect. Sometimes God’s answers to your prayers will be a “yes,” but other times, they may be a “no” or a “not yet.”
Are we called to have a prayer life? What does that mean?
The Apostle Paul specifically encouraged us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 when he says “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Did you catch the call to action? Never stop praying. But is that even realistic?
In the 1600s, a French man named Brother Lawrence devoted his life to finding a close spiritual intimacy with God. After he passed, a book was compiled that featured many of his teachings, called “The Practice of the Presence of God.”
In this book, Lawrence challenges us to look for God in everything we do, everything we see and experience. He says, “Think often of God, by day, by night, in your business and even in your diversions. He is always near you and with you; leave him not alone.”
Having a prayer life doesn’t need to be complicated. Think of it like having an ongoing conversation with God. If you have a close friend or relative that you text throughout the day, your prayers to God can be similar – check in with him as you go about your day, give him updates, and ask him questions. Like staying in touch with a friend, having a regular rhythm of communication with God can help your relationship with him get stronger.
So, does prayer work? Absolutely! God moves through prayer, even if it’s in ways we don’t expect. Prayer also allows us to strengthen our relationship with God and grow closer to him. As you take time to develop your prayer habits, take a look at some of these additional resources:
What is Prayer, and Why Do We Pray?
Are We Supposed to Pray to God?
Bible Reading Plan: 7 Days of Prayer
4 Ways to Engage with the 7 Days of Prayer
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