Does Prayer Do Anything?
1 John 5:14,15 …If we ask anything according to his will he hears us…we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
As I was watching my Cornhuskers play last night I found myself contemplating this passage, the outcome of the game and the location of my red pen. I do not generally pray for the outcome of such things. Should I? Would it change the outcome? Can God be changed by prayer? If He can be, is He a cornhusker fan?
It seems silly to pray for the outcome of a game, but when I was in the last football game of my high school career, it did not seem silly. It was the most important thing in my life so I prayed earnestly that we would win. We did not. What gives? Why did God say no?
John says that motive has everything to do with it. Ninety percent of my prayers are about me and my will. John says however, that it is only when I ask in line with God’s will that He hears my prayer and answers it. In my self serving mind, I find this just to be another way of saying that God is going to do what He wants to do whether or not I ask for it. So Why pray?
For me, the answer is in looking back to my most desperate prayer in my most desperate hour. When life fell apart in spectacular fashion, I immediately started begging God for protection from consequences. I had turned my back on him for months, but suddenly I was trying to make deals with God. Get me out of this God. I’ll do anything. I’ll never wander again and I’ll be a missionary in Africa…
This, I think is the kind of self-serving prayer that God turns a deaf ear to. A week later, when I went to treatment, I started praying the right way. I stopped asking God to fix the situation and I started asking him to fix me. I changed my disposition towards God and thus, God started working on me. Did my prayer change God’s plan? I do not think He would have forced himself on me, so yes, from my point of view, God started working differently in response to my prayer.
Does this mean that I am wrong then if I pray to find my red pen? Should I not bring my desires to God? Of course this is not wrong. I talk to God all the time and I tell him my desires. I do not perfectly know God’s will but through prayer, I become more aligned with it. Is prayer then just changing me to bring me into God’s will? I think that does absolutely happen, but there are many examples in the bible where God appears to change plans according to the prayers of his children.
I try not to get too hung up on how God can change the direction of the universe when He already knows the outcome. It makes my head hurt and I do not think it helps anything. John says pray. He says ask of God. If what I ask is in line with what God wants, He will bring it to pass. In the context of my desperate prayer to fix me, God absolutely started working with me differently when I prayed for his will.
That, I think is the hardest prayer, that God’s will be done. It is of course, always the right prayer.
My Cornhuskers lost, but I found my red pen. So there’s that.