Does Prayer Work? (John 14:14)
Does prayer work? This is a loaded question that cannot be answered in a simple blog post. Though, it is a question that many of us struggle with. Jesus makes a promise by saying in John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” If this is a promise from Jesus, then why does it seem like He doesn’t answer the prayers we have? Was it only meant for the disciples? Are we lacking in faith? Why are my prayers unanswered?
An understanding of prayer that I had stems from when I was finishing my undergraduate studies. I joined campus crusade and became the leader for the prayer team. We would take all the prayer cards as a group and pray for all the students weekly. I started to see God answering prayers when I spent asking him in regards to others. God was working through me and this began to build up my faith in my personal prayers.
William Temple once said, “When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t, they don’t.” This is true in many cases when we pray. We don’t always happen to see big miracles, but just these coincidences that seem too good to be true. Things seem to happen just the way we asked. I’ve come to understand more about prayer as I grow in my faith, through my personal experiences in walking with God. Below are a few of these thoughts.
Jesus’ Prayers did not Focus on Himself
Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.Luke 22:31-32
Jesus had more care about others than He did for Himself. Jesus sought to build up those who followed Him. He often prayed for his disciples and looked out for others.
How often do we focus on ourselves instead of others? When we pray, it is often for what God can do to help us. I need this, or I want this. Why does our focus tend to be inward? It is simply because we are born selfish due to our sin nature. We look to have God help us instead of helping others. This doesn’t mean that God will never answer a prayer if you pray for something in your personal life, but what are your motivations behind these prayers?
You pray for a promotion and the guy who doesn’t deserve it, gets it instead and you get mad at God. You pray for a wife/husband but God doesn’t provide and you blame Him. We want to make God out to be Santa Clause rather than our spiritual Father.
So you may ask, are you saying that we can’t pray for things in regards to ourselves? That i’m not saying. Though, let me ask you a question in return. Which is more powerful of a prayer? You praying for God to do something in your life, or you confessing to someone and having them pray over you?
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.James 5:16
So then, why don’t we focus on others instead of ourselves as Jesus taught? Jesus says in Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Seek to pray for others and how you can reach these people. Then watch how God changes the way you view prayer and faith.
Jesus Looked to do His Father’s Will, not His Own.
My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.Matthew 26:1
Jesus never looked to do things on His own, He always sought to do the will of His Father. His focus was on the Kingdom of Heaven.
We usually end up praying for our personal goals instead of letting God take the front seat of our lives. The more we align with the direction that God wants to take us in our lives, the more we start to see Him working in and through us. We need to draw near to God and He will draw near to us. (James 4:8) It is when we do this, our prayers start to align with God’s purpose and mission and prayers are answered, sometimes miraculously.
Praying vs. Free Will
I do believe there are some limitations to prayer in regards to free will. As much as we want to have everyone in our lives saved and believe in Jesus, this does not always come to pass. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of Calvinism and Arminianism, it is ultimately not up to us if something chooses to follow Jesus and to accept the invitation from the Holy Spirit or if God calls him or her to Himself.
We also do not know what God is doing behind the scenes. Jesus teaches us to pray without ceasing and reach out to those who do not know Jesus, even if we believe it may not work. Stephen F. Meyer, a famous Intelligent Design advocate speaks of his personal salvation in which his mother had a Bible full of prayer notes dedicated to him. It was not until after her death and in which he found her Bible that Stephen ended up accepting Jesus as his personal Savior.
In short, I do believe Jesus’ message in John 14:14 speaks to us even today. When our prayers are not about our desires and we seek to follow the will of God instead, we start to see the power of prayer more than we could before.