Have you ever wondered, do my prayers make a difference in what happens? Do my prayer requests influence God at all?

Prayer comes from the Latin word from which we also get the word precarious. In its Latin origin this conveys the idea of being dependent on the will of another. We pray when it’s desperate and we wonder—is anything going to change? That is, it seems like we’re in a situation where things could go either way.

Does prayer really matter, or are outcomes merely just luck of the draw?

Sometimes we’re led to believe that if we follow a certain set of steps, or live a certain way, then we’ve got a better chance of our prayers being answered.

But the big question is this…Does prayer influence outcomes?

It’s a good question, definitely a fair question…

Many Christians would describe it like this: In mysterious but sovereign ways, God has decided to allow prayer to influence and accomplish his will. He chose prayer as the means through which to involve his followers in his plan. Prayer is one way God accomplishes his purposes in, through, and surrounding the one who prays.

It’s tempting to believe God will do what we want if we . . .

Ask him.

Many of us pray to God as if he were a genie in a bottle. We hope that, if we’re lucky, he’ll hear us and act according to our wishes.

However, many faiths, including Christianity, paint a deeper and more intimate portrait of prayer. Rather than using God as a means to an end, within prayer God is the end. The believer prays, trusting in the character and power of God.

One of the chief purposes of prayer, then, is to transform the heart of the person praying to more closely resemble the heart of God. It’s not so much about getting tangible “results” from God. It is rather an opportunity to know God more fully, to better understand what he wants of each of us, and to establish a lifelong relationship.

Prayer is a lifestyle of humble dependence, of living in community and harmony with God, the source of life.

Show no doubt.

There are Bible passages that say a prayer request was granted because of a person’s faith.

In Mark 5:25–29, Jesus said to a woman who was hemorrhaging: “Daughter, your faith has healed you.” We also see a picture of this through Mark 11:22-24.

22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

But if we start thinking prayer, or faith, is some sort of equation (Do this and you’ll get this), we might…will…run into this dilemma at some point: You won’t get what you wanted.

The idea that you can just ask for something, show no doubt, and it just happens does not represent what prayer is all about.

If it is what prayer is ultimately about, then we run into some land mines when our prayers aren’t answered the way we want.

Like anything worthwhile, prayer is a process. It takes time, commitment, and discipline. Prayer is not meant to happen only in times of desperation. It is meant to be an ongoing conversation.

And that’s where it gets fascinating. As someone invests in and becomes more comfortable with prayer, one of the ways in which it “works” is in the growing trust that person gains.

Praying people have reported miracles and answers to prayers that they never would have imagined and certainly couldn’t have created on their own. They believe that prayer made the difference.

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