Good afternoon, everyone. Happy November.
I hope your day is bright and full of hope today. I know that the season of Advent has just begun so I thought that today I would focus on one of my favourite topics leading into Advent – prayer. So the question of the day is this: Does prayer really work? Does prayer actually change things in the world? I think we have all asked this question from time to time. I can see why many of us, not just skeptics and unbelievers, have asked this question.
Haven’t we all prayed for things that didn’t happen? We pray for someone to be healed, or we pray to avoid some bad turn of events and yet, our prayers were not answered. So again, does prayer actually work?
Well, Brandon Vogt says “the short answer is yes, prayer does work. It does change things”. But to grasp that, we need to change our understanding of prayer.
Many folks believe that prayer is straightforward: we ask God for something and expect to get it and this view seems to be supported by several Scripture passages. In Matthew 21:22 Jesus says, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, you will receive”.
The problem, is that view is too simplistic. Prayer doesn’t work that way, as a straight, formulaic transaction. The reason is because God is not a genie, He’s more like a father. He’s not obligated to give us exactly what we want, whenever we ask for it. Like any good father when his children ask him for things, sometimes the best response is “no”, or “not yet”.
A few other facts to keep in mind.
1) We shouldn’t just ask for things in prayer. This is just one type of prayer. At its centre, prayer is “lifting the mind and heart to God”. This may involve asking for things but it often involves contemplation, praise or reflection on scripture, which are all forms of prayer.
The “Our Father” is the perfect prayer because it comes from Jesus Himself. In that prayer we find petitions, such as our daily bread and forgiveness, but it also offers praise and thanks to God.
2) Prayer is meant to change us more than God. Most people see prayer as trying to change God’s mind and get Him to do something he maybe wasn’t planning to do. But in reality, prayer is meant to re-shape our hearts and attitudes. Prayer is meant to draw us closer to God so we can become more like Him, so that our wills are more aligned with His will, so that we want what He wants for us, and avoid what he despises so that we develop into the good and compassionate people God wants us to become.
3) God hears and answers every prayer. Think of a father analogy. Good parents sometimes say no to their child’s request. For example, if the child doesn’t ask politely, a father will wait until they say please which changes them and makes them more polite. Sometimes a father says no or not yet because it may not be what is best for that child ever or at that time.
Sometimes God is waiting upon us to make a few changes before he answers our prayers. If this is the case with you, and a specific prayer is not being answered, perhaps ask the Lord in prayer what He wants you to do or change in your life in order for Him to answer your prayer. Then step back for awhile and wait and listen to what he brings upon your heart and mind. Always a humble heart in us changing our ways with God’s clarity and guidance is so important.
Even when we ask for something in prayer and the answer is “no”, that still changes things. It changes us because it teaches us something about what God feels is best for us, or for the world. God decides not to give us this thing we asked for because our life would actually be better without it. He knows what our best future holds before we do.
Our prayers really do change things because God is forming us into the type of people who care about people, who pray for other people, who intercede for other people. He wants us to interact with them. He helps us to use the talents and interests he gave us individually to contribute to our families, our work, communities and the world. That is His divine plan.
Food for Thought as we head into our Advent and Christmas season for 2021. See you in December. Warm blessings, Mary Jane xo.