How Does Prayer “Work”?
The entire Bible is filled with words which describe the importance of prayer. There is simply no way to get around how important it is…but is it important to followers of Jesus? In my experience as a pastor I have seen that prayer is just not very important to many people. Why? I think it is because in the minds of most people, prayer doesn’t “work”. And if you don’t think prayer works, then you won’t do much of it. But how does prayer “work”; or can we evaluate the effectiveness and necessity of prayer based on the answers we get or do not get? Here is how I understand when prayer “works”. Prayer works when my attitude agrees with God even when His actions don’t agree with me. Prayer is not primarily about getting the answers we want. Prayer is about adjusting the attitude that we have. We see this in Matthew 26 in the Garden of Gethsemane. The best “pray-er” to walk the face of the earth is Jesus Christ. Just before Jesus is arrested, He goes to the garden and He prays three times. The first two times He prays this: “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” After each of these prayers He goes back and finds His disciples sleeping. The third time He prays the same words but this time when He comes back to His sleeping disciples, He gets up and says, “Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand”. All three times Jesus prays for the Father to take away the cross; yet always in submission to the will of the Father. But the third time, Jesus’ attitude has now adjusted to that of the Father. And Jesus doesn’t ask this again. Jesus’ prayer worked…His attitude agreed with the Father even though the Father’s actions didn’t agree with Him.
If we understand that with prayer, our attitude is more important than the actions of God we will not stop praying simply because we aren’t getting the answers we want. The answer is not the issue. When prayer “works” is when I spend time talking with and listening to God and when He adjusts my attitude to match His attitude about the issues that are important to me. When that happens, prayer “works”; regardless of whether I get the answer I’m looking for. If you are frustrated in prayer, or if you’ve given up on it, I encourage you to start praying but pray in a way that focuses on your attitude. Pray scripture such as the Psalms back to God. Let Him have access to your mind and your attitude…and then prayer will really “work” for you.