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Does Prayer Really Work?


prayer 1The doctor shot off a prayer before the surgery.

The linebacker knelt by his locker before he took to the field.

The nervous senior said a quick prayer before going into the interview.

The jury of the world hasn’t cast its final vote yet. The decision on the usefulness of prayer is still out for the count. Some studies show that it makes a difference in a person’s recovery, but then others say it’s only a placebo that offers a false sense of peace.

I’ve been on both sides of the effectiveness of prayer question—the side of defeat when a good prayer gets met with silence, and the side of victory when the impossible happens and my answer comes.

Before I go any farther, I should predicate this by saying that “prayer” in this sense isn’t merely talking to God, but making a request of him. I point this out because the most famous prayer of all, The Lord’s Prayer, is more about honoring God than asking for stuff. And in every children’s Sunday school class I’ve ever taught, if I were to ask the kids what prayer was, the answer I’d be expecting to hear would be “talking to God,” not giving him a list of wishes and wants.

But I think with the world, the idea of prayer leans more toward a person getting something from those words he says rather than conversing with the Almighty. And that’s the question the world hasn’t settled yet.  Does it work? Does praying bring results?

PRAYER 2I have a friend who prayed to God and asked him to save his sister. She’d been in a bad car wreck, and when she died, my friend said God didn’t exist because he didn’t answer, and that was the end of his belief in God.

I know someone else who prayed for God to free her from an abusive situation. She prayed for over ten years for relief, but it never came. She didn’t stop believing in God, but she did stop hoping for a miracle. Eventually, she got out of there, met a loving man, and started a family. Nearly twenty years after she had prayed for his help, she realized God did answer her. He gave her more than she’d asked for. It just took a long time. Her abuser repented, her heart was healed, and she was blessed with the kind of family she never knew even existed.

prayer 3Two different people, but was it two different answers?

Maybe if my first friend would have continued to trust God, he would have found something to give him hope in his darkness. He would have felt God’s presence with him as he grieved. He would have found assurance of life.

But instead he decided there was no God. He severed the relationship.


Perhaps that’s a key to prayer that the world is missing. It’s not just asking God for things or even simply talking to God, but it’s part of a relationship. Does it work? Maybe that depends on the relationship. There are people in my life that I know and love and trust. When I ask them for help, they don’t always do it the way I want them too, but they usually try to do their best. To someone who didn’t know them as well as I do, they might think them mean or thoughtless, but I don’t. I know they care.

Does that doctor, linebacker, and student from the beginning of this post know to whom they’re tossing up that quick request for help? Do they know that he loves them and cares? Do they believe that he can bring good from the bad and will never give them more than they can bear? Do they have a relationship with God? Do they know him?

That just might make all the difference in how they receive the answer he offers.