Ask Your Preacher
Does prayer really work??? I pray for situations to change in my life, and they don't. I do the best I can to try to get ahead, but it seems like more frustrating things end up in my path. Furthermore, it seems as a slap in the face to my faith. I watch those around me who barely believe in God live fulfilling lives. What does God want me to do?
Up In Arms
Dear Up In Arms,
Prayers do work, but God still has veto power. We are told to pray that “if the Lord wills, we will do this or that” (Jas 4:15). Jesus taught His disciples to pray for the Lord’s will to be done (Matt 6:10). Part of prayer is that we need to learn to trust that God knows what He is doing. We are entreating the Creator of the Universe with our problems, and just like any loving father, our Heavenly Father sometimes says, “No” to our requests. As every parent knows, children sometimes ask for things that aren’t in their best interest, or they ask things unaware of the bigger picture. God wants to give us good gifts (Matt 7:11)… sometimes that means that He answers our prayers by giving us something different than what we expected.
Now, let’s talk about those prosperous unbelievers that you are seeing. Your frustration is valid, and David had the same frustration. In Psalm 73, David talked about his animosity toward the success of the ungodly… he said it made him so mad that he almost fell away from God (Ps 73:2). However, David finally concluded that the ungodly were not blessed because their entire existence was slippery and dependent upon their physical prosperity (Ps 73:18). Only God’s people have an eternal hope that gives us comfort regardless of how life goes here (Ps 73:27-28).
I am feeling very sick right now, and I have a question: why do I still feel the same though I have already prayed?
Ill At Ease
Dear Ill At Ease,
There are two reasons that God might not have answered your prayers yet. The first reason is that He is ignoring your prayers because you aren’t a christian, or you aren’t living faithfully. Read “Whose Prayers Count?” for the list of things that will make God turn His back on your prayers.
The other reason is that God’s timing is different than yours. God answers our prayers according to His will, not ours – in fact, we should pray that the Lord’s will be done (Jas 4:15). Having said that, it is perfectly appropriate to keeping praying until the answer is clear – God is pleased with the consistently prayerful (1 Thess 5:17). He wants you to ask over and over – until He gives you an answer. David prayed vehemently for the life of his child until the child died (2 Sam 12:22-23). Paul prayed for his sickness to be removed three times until God told him to accept the pain (2 Cor 12:8-9). Cornelius’ prayers were constantly before the Lord until Peter was sent (Acts 10:4-5). Even our Lord prayed in the garden repeatedly that He might not have to die on the cross (Matt 26:39). The key in all these circumstances was that the requests ceased when God answered. Once God made His decision apparent, whether it was yes or no, acceptance began.
God never gets tired of hearing from His children. Christians are to constantly seek Him in prayer. The most direct example of this is Christ’s parable of the unjust judge in Lk 18:1-5. Christ taught that parable so that “men ought always to pray, and not to grow weary”. God wants to hear from His people. So don’t stop asking for help; He is listening. We are so sorry for your illness, and we will pray for you as well.
Does God listen to everyone's prayers or just really faithful people's prayers? How faithful do you have to be for your prayer to be heard? Do you get heard more often the more faithful you are?
Wondering How It Works
Dear Wondering How It Works,
In short, who is praying and how they pray matters. God says that a righteous man's prayers do a great deal of good (Jas 5:16). That would by default mean that an unrighteous man's prayers wouldn't do much, if any, good at all. God told Israel that their ungodly lifestyles meant that He wouldn't hear their prayers at all! (Isa 1:15) There are other things that will stop your prayers from being heard:
- Treating your spouse badly (1 Pet 3:7)
- Praying for "show" (Lk 20:47)
- Praying selfishly (Jas 4:3)
- Praying without gratitude (Col 4:2)
There is no doubt that the Bible teaches that we should examine ourselves before approaching God in prayer. A wrong attitude or lifestyle can seriously jeopardize our prayers effectiveness. The flip is also true though! Proper attitudes and behavior are rewarded:
- Asking for wisdom (Jas 1:5)
- Consistency (1 Thess 5:17)
- Godly living (Jas 5:16)
- Asking without doubt (Jas 1:6)
When we are constantly praying, trusting in God's strength to answer, humbly seeking his wisdom, and living lives that befit God's servants, we can expect powerful results! Prayer is perhaps one of the greatest tools in a Christian's arsenal (perhaps also one of the least utilized). The Bible is how God speaks to us; prayer is how we speak to Him. Just like a child asking their parent for a privilege - how we approach God makes all the difference.
I know that we pray to God, but I have a problem when people say we cannot talk to Christ. Did Stephen not talk to Christ as he was being stoned? Did Paul not beseech the Lord three times? Are Christ and God not one? Is Christ not our Advocate and Mediator? What’s your take on talking to Jesus?
Deep In Conversation
Dear Deep In Conversation,
The example of Stephen is clearly a case of someone talking to Jesus, but you must remember that Stephen was looking at Jesus at the time (Acts 7:55-56)... this isn't your average prayer – if Jesus was standing in front of you, you wouldn't call it prayer, and that is exactly what happened to Stephen. Also, the example of Paul in 2 Cor 12:8 isn't a good proof text because it could be referring to Jesus or the Father – both are referred to as ‘Lord’ in the Bible. This is an issue that brethren have mixed reviews on. Personally, we don't feel comfortable condemning someone for praying to Jesus, but at the same time, the example we see throughout the Scriptures is that of praying to the Father… especially since that is the way Jesus taught us to pray (Lk 11:1-4). Jesus specifically said there would come a time when we wouldn't ask Him anything, but we would pray to His Father and the Father would answer our prayers that are prayed in Jesus' name (Jhn 16:23). The problem with praying to Jesus is that we simply don't have any examples of it in the whole New Testament.
I've found if I pray in bed that I always fall asleep mid-prayer, so much so that I can use prayer to relax myself to sleep if I'm having trouble drifting off. My question is this; is it disrespectful to God to use prayer to fall asleep, or is having God be the last thought of my day better than anything else I could be thinking about to distract myself to sleep?
Talking In My Sleep
Dear Talking In My Sleep,
This is one of those questions that is left up to each person’s individual wisdom and conscience. You have already vocalized both arguments. On one side, it could be viewed as disrespectful that you are always falling asleep mid-conversation with the Lord… after all, it is no different than if you were talking to a person late at night. If anything, it is even more important that you show proper respect and reverence because He is more than a person – He is our Lord and Master (Heb 12:28).
On the other hand, an equally valid argument could be made that you fall asleep because of the closeness of the relationship and the peace that comes from being near your Father. After all, we are told that prayer and joy are closely knit together (Ps 1:5-7), and we are also told that prayer helps to alleviate suffering (Jas 5:13).
In short, you must examine yourself and decide which category your behavior fits into.