Many Christians don’t know what prayer really is. To many believers it’s the prescribed speech we convey at church or when the pastor prays for the congregation. To others it’s the formal act of speaking to God while on our knees, and to some it’s a quick request to God to do something to help us when we need something we can’t do ourselves. So, it is a legitimate question to ask; does prayer really work?
We need to learn what prayer is before we can know if it works or not, and we need to know what kinds of prayers God actually listens to – which ones He considers important.
Let’s start at the beginning. Prayer is the means of communication that we have between us and God, and there is no “official” or “preferred” time to pray to please God. He will hear us whenever we pray. It’s like a private internet link for each individual Christian to be able to talk to God whenever we want. Every Christian can pray to God regardless of culture, background or financial status, Acts 10:34. We talk to the Lord through prayer, but He doesn’t usually respond by speaking directly to us. He talks to us through His Word.
Before we can pray with any merit, we must believe that God is our Heavenly Father and the Author of our Salvation. We must come to Him in reverence and with respect knowing that He is the Creator of the universe and the Judge of the nations, and that through His Son, Jesus, we have been redeemed back to Him – making our relationship with Him a personal one. And we must realize that because it’s personal, God always listens to what we have to say.
So why don’t all of our prayers get answered if He always listens? God is Omnipotent, the same yesterday, today and forever. He does not change a thing to be with us; we have to change our ways to be like Him. It’s us who sinned and broke the original bond between God and us, and so it’s us who have to repent, accept Jesus as our Saviour, and then make the changes to meet God’s standards. We do this through the Holy Spirit who Jesus gave to us, and through His Spirit we are able to communicate with God in prayer.
What Prayer Is Not
Prayer is NOT a public display to impress people, and there are times we’ve all heard and seen this in church. Matthew 6:5 says, “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”
Prayer is NOT an obligation we fulfill such as a public prayer at church or a request in a prayer group, yet we have no heart or confidence in it. Mark 7:6 says, “He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me’”.
Prayer is NOT a ritual performed as an act of obedience. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”…Matthew 23:27
Prayer is NOT an organized set of words that draws people into a church through their own lusts or desires. Matthew 23:14 says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.”
Prayer is NOT a prefabricated set of words; it’s not a formal repetition that we pray to God about specific issues, as some religions contend. “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” … Matthew 6:7
How to Pray
God is a living being, our Heavenly Father. We can only talk to Him when we pray from our heart – as in a child to a father. The words we speak are our own and they come from the heart – our heart to His. We might use incorrect grammar or the wrong words, but God hears our heart and our intent, and He doesn’t sit with a pencil ready to correct us.
We need to pray according to His Word and we can only do that if we read and study the Bible. We know we can pray for healing and we know that it’s God’s Will to heal us, as stated in Matthew 10:8. We know that God hears the prayers of His children, James 5:16, and that God wants us to prosper and be in health, 3 John, 1:2. So we can pray for these things and know that we’re praying according to His Will as stated in 1 John 5:14 because we know His Will, and we know that He hears us when we pray according to His Will.
When we pray and ask God have to have revenge on someone who hurt us He does hear us, but He won’t respond because we’re asking for something contrary to His Will. We don’t have the right to tell God who to judge or who to punish, but we do have the responsibility to pray for them. “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” … Matthew 5:44”.
So, we need to understand God’s Will so that we can pray according to His will. As we grow in the Lord, He will always be there listening to our prayers and encouraging us through His Spirit to read certain passages of the Bible to inspire us. And as we continue we’ll learn why some of our earlier prayers didn’t get answered and what prayers are being answered now.
When to Pray
There is NO designated time that we need to put aside to pray. Some of us prefer to spend the morning with the Lord as we praise Him and thank Him for things, and lift others up to Him for healing and salvation. Others prefer afternoon or night. Since it’s from the heart, God is always ready for us. But all the hours before and after are also open to prayer. It’s wonderful to keep the prayer line open constantly so that we can talk to God throughout the day non-stop. We might see someone in a store or on the street who needs healing and we can quietly lift this person up to God. We might see something beautiful and praise God for His creations. We may see a puppy run into the street and we can pray that God spare it.
Does prayer really work? Yes, it does. When we pray from our heart to the Lord, and when we pray according to His will, and when we believe that what we are praying for will come to pass, as stated in Matthew 21:22, we will see our prayers answered, Matthew 21:22. Sometimes it’s not right away, and sometimes it’s only after coming to the Lord faithfully and fervently, and even then the results may not be what we were expecting. But God sees the big picture and all the circumstances that are involved in our prayer, and He sets things in motion so that we have the perfect answer and not just the one asked for through our limited knowledge.
God loves us and it brings Him great joy when we talk to Him in prayer.
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”… James 5:16