This is a funny question to me.
What is prayer? It’s talking with God. It’s communicating with God.
So, does prayer work? Well, yes. Anyone can talk to God. There is no magic formula or incantation you need to recite first.
But I have a feeling that the real question here is something else.
Perhaps, “Is God real?”
Or, “Will God hear my prayer?”
But I think the heart of the question is this: “Will I get what I pray for?”
And the answer is, no, sometimes you won’t. (Or perhaps often, depending on what you pray for most!)
God’s will is sovereign, and we don’t always know why He answers prayers the way he does. But He will do what is ultimately right, and that might not be what you want.
So what is the point of praying then?
In my Christian journey so far, I’ve found that prayer has gone from a discipline that happens at certain times, to more of a fluid, constant conversation with God.
When I was a teen, I began prayer journaling each day as a way to talk to God about my feelings and the things that were going on in my life. This was such a good foundation for my relationship with God, because it got me in the habit of looking at every situation through the lens of what God wants.
Over the years, this practice has waned, but I still prayer journal most days at this point. And, as mentioned above, there is a constant talking to God throughout the day.
My mum has been such a great encourager in this area. Any time I talk to her about a decision I need to make, or something hard in my life, her first words to me are “well, take it to the Lord and He will reveal the right thing to do”.
I am reminded of the old hymn, What a Friend we Have in Jesus:
What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
How many times do we stumble around, trying to carry a burden too big for our shoulders, simply because we have not taken it to the Lord yet?
Prayer sustains the intimacy of our relationship with Jesus – intimacy that we need in order to thrive!
I can think of many times, even daily, that God has answered my prayers. Whether it is through the unloading of burdens and the peace that comes, or prayer for a tricky situation at my husband’s work, which is quickly resolved, my life (and the lives of many Christians) holds plentiful evidence that God does hear our prayers, and he does answer them! (Even if not as we desire.)
But I want to share two “bigger” examples of answered prayer in my own life, as a testament to God’s love and desire to be in relationship with us.
The first example was from when I was 16 years old. I began dating a guy who was 19 and… fascinating. And I don’t mean in a good way. He lived a couple of hours away, so when I say we were dating, this mostly consisted of chatting online and sending each other sappy text messages late into the night.
I wasn’t even sure he was a Christian, and I knew that God did not want me to date him. But I was young and thrilled by his romantic words and gifts of jewellery. So I ignored God for a while, and dated him anyway.
We’d been together for about three months, and it was coming up to the time I would participate in the local Beach Mission.
As I stood in my room packing my bags for mission, I burst into tears as I was (finally) overcome with the conviction of the Holy Spirit that I needed to end the relationship. I knew there was no way I could spend the next 10 days serving the Lord, whilst being in direct disobedience to Him. I cried because I knew how hard it would be to break up with him, but also out of relief at finally being back in step with God.
The first night of mission, after we had set up camp, I snuck away to a quiet corner between two tents and sat down to call my boyfriend and break up with him. I was so scared I was shaking.
I tried to call him one, two… five times, but each time it just rang out with no answer. This was very strange, as throughout our relationship he always answered right away or responded to texts immediately.
A man who was a family friend and also a team leader walked past and saw me. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m trying to break up with X,” I said.
He sat down on the ground with me, and I explained my disobedience and my conviction to end it. He agreed this was a good idea.
Then he prayed with me, that God would calm my nerves and give me courage to end it definitively.
When he walked away, I took a deep breath and tried calling again. He picked up on the first ring. I won’t rehash the whole conversation, but I will say that I needed every bit of that courage!
Some may think it pure coincidence that my phone call didn’t go through until after we prayed, but I know otherwise. God wanted me to really lean on Him, so that He could reveal His strength in helping me deal with a difficult situation.
The second instance I’d like to share is regarding the conception of our daughter.
I was diagnosed with endometriosis when I was 19, so when we started trying to conceive a few years into marriage, we were disheartened but not surprised as the months kept passing by with no pregnancy.
At the time, I was deep into a phase of learning all about fertility issues. I’d read Taking Charge of Your Fertility, and diligently charted my own cycles. (It was a great feeling being so in tune with my cycles and knowing exactly what my body was doing!)
After 7 or 8 months of trying to conceive had passed, I felt the Lord lead me to do some more digging.
I looked back at my charts, and noticed that I had consistently felt ovulation pain on my right side, but never the left. I went through the filing cabinet and dug out the medical discharge report from the laparoscopy when I was 19 (this was to remove a cyst, and when they discovered I had endometriosis).
I remember there was a lot of medical jargon, but I could clearly see from the report that the cyst had been on my right fallopian tube.
The pieces started to come together in my mind. What if, I wondered, the surgical removal of the cyst on my right side had resulted in scar tissue and damage to the tube?And what if this scar tissue was preventing the egg from getting through?
Once again, I felt the Lord’s leading – He wanted me to pray that I would ovulate on the left side.
At the time I thought this was a bit ridiculous.
If you know what needs to happen, Lord, why don’t You just do it? Why do you need me to ask?
So, I explained it to my husband, and asked him to pray I would ovulate on the left side. And I spoke to my pastor’s wife too – “I know this sounds silly, but can you please pray I would ovulate on the left side?”
So we prayed quietly, this bizarrely specific request. And a few weeks later, I noticed my body gearing up to ovulate.
And for the first time, I noticed a distinct ovulation pain coming from my left side!(I never rejoiced as much over pain in my life as I did that day!) It shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did.
I was also surprised and elated a couple of weeks later to stare down at my very first positive pregnancy test (so that’s what it looks like, I thought).
And I was thankful that there was no confusion in my mind about Who had done this, or Who was in control the whole time. I knew that that was why God wanted me to pray so specifically – so His name would be even more glorified through clearly answering the prayer.
So my testimony on this matter is a loud and clear YES, prayer does work. God does listen, and He wants to hear from you.
What have you been putting off praying about?
It’s time to take it to the Lord.