Does prayer work?

Maybe you’ve occasionally wondered if there’s any point to prayer. Does it work? Is God listening?

We doubters ought to go back and reread James. Here’s James 5:16 in a few different translations:

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (ESV).

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (NKJV).

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (NASB).

The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective (NRSV).

James apparently thought prayer worked, and you and I ought to believe him. He gives this example:

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit (James 5:17-18).

Perhaps we think that of course God answered prayer back then . . . but we live in a different time, a more hands-off age.

But that thinking doesn’t work. There’s nothing in the Bible that suggests God ever stopped hearing and answering prayers.

Do you believe that?

A “non-answer” from God might be a couple of things:

It could actually be that he’s not answering because I’m walking outside of his will (and therefore not a “righteous” pray-er). For example, Peter wrote that a man who’s not treating his wife well will have an impotent prayer life.

It could also be that what we’re asking isn’t according to his will; if so, we wouldn’t want him to answer it anyway. I’ve begged him for things he later showed me that I didn’t need.

And it could be that he’s already in the process of answering our prayers, but he’s doing it according to his own timetable. Remembering that he exists outside of time helps us work through apparent delays. He knows the end from the beginning, and some things just don’t need to happen right now.

But does he answer?

Absolutely. The prayer of a child of God who pours out her heart to him is powerful and effective.

Believe that, and then pray accordingly.

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