Why Doesn’t Prayer Work?

The following is an excerpt from a longer paper titled “Why Doesn’t Prayer Work?”

  • March 17, 2017
Why We Pray

When we request something of God and do not get it, we may feel that our prayer did not work. Those of us who live in a consumer culture tend to view prayer as a transaction, a way to place an order or purchase a blessing. We then measure its impact by our level of customer satisfaction.

Jesus’s relationship with His Father was marked by different types of prayer, setting a perfect yet practical example of what a life of prayer looks like. Jesus dedicated Himself, often hours at a time, to prayer. When we look to the relationship between God and Jesus as our example, we see that prayer is vital to our relationship with Him.

genie in a bottle picture

Yet instead of imitating Jesus, we often fall into the habit of treating God like a genie in a bottle, thinking of our prayers like the magic words that force the genie to fulfill our wish. Then, when we don’t get the answer we want, we feel confused, upset, or angry, declaring that prayer does not work and is a waste of time and energy.

Maybe the reason our prayers don’t always work is that, at the heart of it, prayer isn’t about fixing things; it’s about a relationship. Prayer is the avenue of communication between us and God, and we need to approach it with the proper respect, intentionality, and commitment that He deserves. In Jesus, we find the perfect example of what it means to invest in an active, intimate relationship with God. In order for us to imitate His example, we need to understand why prayer doesn’t work the way we want it to, but rather the way God designed it to work.

Let’s dive into what the Bible says about prayer and consider how prayer can be a rich experience of our relationship with a loving and holy God. But remember, reading and talking about prayer is a waste of time if you have no intention of actually praying. G. K. Chesterton once said, “The difference between talking about prayer and praying is the same as the difference between blowing a kiss and kissing.” So let’s not just talk about praying; let’s do it.

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