Does Prayer Really Work?
From time to time in my role as a pastor, I am asked to reflect on the nature of prayer and how it works... or in some cases whether or not it works.
I've come to accept that my attempts at answering those kinds of questions are not all that satisfying to anyone who is going through a difficult season, or who prayed fervently and nothing worked out the way they hoped.
Full disclosure... there are times when I struggle with my own answers, too.
The fact of the matter is that we all tend to go into moments of petitioning the Almighty with a great deal of hope that whatever we're praying for will turn out in our favor.
And when it doesn't, it can create some cognitive dissonance that our head just has to resolve. In other words, we have to make sense of it somehow when our prayers don't get answered the way we wanted them to be.
I have stood with families by the hospital beds of their loved ones who were ill, praying for healing alongside them---healing that never came. I have also been a witness to miraculous recoveries, positive outcomes in the face of insurmountable odds.
Why does one family get what they want, and the other doesn't? It's a question that theologians have wrestled with for centuries.
I recently read something from Fr. Richard Rohr that gave me additional insight into the efficacy of prayer, how it works, and upon whom it works. Let me share it:
We ask not to change God but to change ourselves. We pray to form a living relationship not to get things done. Prayer is a symbiotic relationship with life and with God, a synergy that creates a result larger than the exchange itself. Prayer is not a way to control God, or even to get what we want. God gives us power more than answers.