Unsettling question isn’t it? Heretical to think ‘no.’ That would be sacrilegious and disappoint your mama if she ever heard you say it. But dishonest to say ‘yes’; too many examples of good prayers coming back with bad answers. Even the question seems to sully something holy. When we think about something that ‘works’, we think functional. Efficient. Effective. ‘Work’ connotes a transaction. At work, we trade our effort for progress. We do a job and get paid.
So does prayer “work”? Does the quality and quantity of effort I put into prayer yield an outcome?
– Can I convince God to change His mind? Does He? Ever? There’s a couple of examples in the Old Testament when it appears He did. But I’ve never figured out if prayer motivated Him. Or even if an omniscient, never-changing God can, in fact, change His mind. May be an oxymoron.
– Does prayer change anything? Cliché: “Prayer doesn’t change things, it changes me.” If I’m already changed…truly surrendered to His will and the outcome He has for me, I don’t need to be changed. I just need to be held. And I don’t normally feel like I’m held when I’m begging God to make His will match mine.
-Are one person’s prayers more valuable than another’s? “Thanks for your prayers….they sure did work.” Like special bottle rockets were lit off. Must have caught God’s eye just right, ‘cause He heard those prayers and did just what we wanted.’ “I’m asking that guy to pray again next time. He gets it done. His prayers ‘work’!” Like rubbing a lantern and saying “Abracadabra” is going to convince the Creator of the universe He needs to pay attention.
I’m waking up to the fact that my prayers have been more about getting something from God than connecting with God. If what I want is to connect with God…to fellowship with Him…to feel His presence and rest assured in His love, then prayer always ‘works’. He’s present, available, and attentive 24/7/365. But is that what I’m really after most of the time?
Not entirely. I want God to draw close to me, but I almost always want God to do something for me too. I have more than one motive, and God knows them all. He knows why I’m coming to Him before I even start praying. God even acknowledges our mixed motives in Proverbs 16:2 “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the Lord weighs the motives.” Isn’t it cool that our Father sees into our hearts, knows all our motives for praying, and still listens?
Here’s a challenge. And I’ll take it too. Spend some amount of time with God every day for the next 4 days without asking for anything. Focus 50% of your energy and attention on telling God how you feel about Him… how grateful you are for what He’s done for you. Then focus the other 50% of your energy and attention praying “Here’s my heart Lord. Speak what is true” and listening to what He says. “Speak what is true about my character, Lord.” “Speak what is true about how I treat my wife.” “Speak what is true about my priorities, Lord.” Carefully write down what you hear. We’ll talk about what to do with it next time.
Question: Are you willing to take this step toward listening to God’s voice? Say so here…..
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