“I pray, but it doesn’t seem that anything changes.” Many people have made a comment such as that to me throughout the years. I have personally experienced similar feelings at times. Does prayer make a difference?
We have all known very good and Godly people who pray, and are prayed for, yet still suffer intensely. We have also known people who appear to care little for God, who seem to manifest small portions of goodness, and who probably place little importance on prayer. Yet, they seem to flourish. The problem of evil and the question at hand, “Does prayer make a difference?” are interrelated. The scope of that discussion, however, is not the intent of this brief post, nor could it be. I am thinking more about the simple query from those of us who do believe in God and do believe in pray. For us, does it matter or does it change anything?
In my mind the answer is definitely, “Yes.” I have personally experienced many things in my life that defy logic and could only have happened as a result of God’s action, and these having been matters of fervent prayer. I have seen people in dire circumstances recover when the only lifeline for them was prayer. So, yes, I believe prayer makes a difference. However, there are still those other times. You know what I mean, don’t you? There are those times when we wear out our knees and cry out our tears, feeling all the while that our petitions go unheeded.
Of late, it seems that my community of faith has been bombarded by bad news. A number of infant children we know have experienced critical illness. Several of our friends are threatened by advanced stage cancers. A string of violent crimes has been committed in our town. Unemployment rates here are still extremely high. We continue to pray, but does prayer make any difference?
On the one hand we might conclude that prayer does not make any difference, if we presume that our prayers are only intended to move God to some action on our behalf. What if, however, prayer is more about changing us? Then what difference does prayer make?
My personal reflection through the years is that the biggest difference prayer makes is in me. It humbles me. It reminds me that I need assistance from a power far superior to anything I bring to the field. It places me in proper alignment to my sovereign, my savior, my Lord. Prayer, particularly and ironically prayer that receives no immediate gratifying response, pulls me closer to God.
What I am seeking to express can best be captured by slightly twisting the original question. Instead of asking, “Does prayer make a difference?” try asking, “What difference does prayer make?” Go a step further and ask, “What difference does prayer make in me?” Now, instead of viewing prayer as divine arm twisting aimed at forcing God to do something we want God to do, we are forced to consider prayer as the humbling of ourselves to God and toward God’s purpose for our life. Then, suddenly, we may be reminded of the greatest prayer ever offered. Jesus, while facing his pending journey to the cross prayed to our heavenly Father, “not my will, but Your’s be done.” (Luke 22:42Luke 22:42
English: World English Bible - WEB
42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
WP-Bible plugin, NIV) That kind of prayer does make a difference, eternally, and undeniably.