Unquestionably prayer works. No doubt. Absolutely!
Well….most of the time. Maybe sometimes it doesn’t.
I guess it depends on what you’re praying for.
The answer really is: yes, prayer works, but not all the time.
I believe that God hears prayers but decides which ones to pay attention to, which to answer, when to answer and always how to answer.
Many times I have found my prayers answered, but the answer wasn’t what I thought it would be, and it certainly wasn’t when I wanted it.
And many times, the answer is: “No.” Sometimes its, “Not now, maybe later”; sometimes its, “No, not never gonna happen.” And sometimes I just don’t know whether or not I will ever get an answer.
But that is no excuse for not continuing to pray.
Maybe the best thing about prayer is praying without receiving an answer. Why?- because it strengthens our trust and our faith. Sometimes we need to make our faith happen instead of having God verify it. What I mean is simply this: faith is described as believing in something that can’t be proven. In Hebrews 11:1 faith is described this way:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
That means, to me, that whether or not my prayers are answered, it is the act of praying that demonstrates my faith, and whether or not my prayer is answered, my continuing to pray strengthens my faith.
As silly as that sounds, it is what faith is all about: believing when there is no logical reason to believe.
The world tells us that if you can’t touch, see or smell it, it isn’t really there. The world will believe in prayer if the prayer comes true every time, and you get exactly what you prayed for.
That’s why the world will never believe, because that isn’t how prayer works.
God wants us to be faithful, but what we really are is fickle; if we get three prayers answered in a row, and the fourth isn’t, we stop believing. There’s just no “brand loyalty” left in the world.
In Luke 18:1-8 Yeshua (Jesus) tells the parable about the widow and the unrighteous judge. She pestered and bothered and nudged the judge so much that he finally gave her justice just to be rid of her. Now, God doesn’t answer prayer just to get rid of you, which is a good thing, but He does expect that we continue to ask in the face of rejection.
Why? If He is a loving God and Father who wants only the best for His children, why make us go through that?
The answer: I don’t know! I would guess, from what I read and my personal experience, that God is testing us to make sure we are truly faithful and not just trying to get a free lunch. For all I know, every single prayer I have ever made may be answered in the resurrection. Of course, some of the prayers I have made on earth will not make any sense, or have any value, after I am resurrected, but who knows what that is like?
When I was just beginning to know the Lord, when I wasn’t sure about who Jesus is (at that time I had no idea His real name is Yeshua) and I wasn’t even sure about God, I remembered hearing that if you smile, especially when you are sad, you will feel better. I thought, “Maybe if I pray to God as if I really did believe, it would help me to believe?”
Looking back now, knowing what I know and having experienced what I have experienced, I am amazed that I was so wise. Doing what a faithful person does DOES help make you faithful! When I prayed I felt better, even just thinking that there was a loving, omnipotent, omnipresent Spirit that wanted only the best for me and was listening to me. And the fact that this Spirit was able to do whatever I asked, well- that was just icing on the cake.
Eventually, praying as if He was there became knowing He is there. And praying to Him did result in receiving answers, even though many times I didn’t recognize those answers as being answers. Sometimes the answer to prayer is so well camouflaged we can’t see it until we suddenly take a different view of the past. Then we realize, “Hey- ya know what? That was the rabbit!” (you need to love Bugs Bunny to get that reference.)
So, keep praying, no matter what. Whether or not your prayer is answered, whether or not that answer is “Yes”, “No”, or “Fuggedaboutit!”, just keep praying. Prayer strengthens faith, and faith is how we are saved, so it really doesn’t matter that much if your prayers are answered or not.
The real reward of praying comes from continuing to pray.