Does Prayer Really Work?

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Have you ever wondered if God really hears your prayers? If He really answers prayer?

How to Pray

Jesus prayed quite a bit. If you read through the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), notice how many times Jesus gets away to pray or prays where others can hear Him. Jesus' disciples notice how much Jesus prayed. One day when Jesus finished praying, they asked Him to teach them how to pray. Jesus told them what is now known as the Lord's Prayer (Luke 11:1-4). It includes all the things we should include in our prayers (Matthew 6:5-15).
  • Praise to God ("hollowed by Thy name")
  • Surrender to His plan or giving control of everything to Him ("Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done...")
  • Asking (requesting) God's provision for (Him to give us) our needs ("Give us this day our daily bread")
  • Confessing our sins, the wrong things we do, and asking for forgiveness ("Forgive us our trespasses ")
  • Asking for help in living for Jesus ("As we forgive (our debtors) those who trespass against us")
We are also reminded to pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Jesus told His disciples, " In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” John 16:26-28 (NIV)
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Does God Answer Prayer?

Yes, God always answers our prayers. Scripture says that over and over again. Here is one of the more famous passages:
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:9-13 (NIV)
The catch is that sometimes God's answer is not "yes." Sometimes His answer is "no" or "not yet."

What's the Secret to Effective Prayer?

God did not give Jesus everything He asked to have. Did you know that? Just before He was arrested, put on trial, and killed on the cross, Jesus asked His disciples to pray with Him. Jesus knew what was coming. He knew it would be very difficult and painful. So, He prayed and asked God to no make Him go through it. "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me" (Matthew 26:39 NASB). BUT, He didn't stop there. Jesus knew that God's plans are always for the best, so He finished His prayer saying, "yet not as I will, but as You will" (Matthew 26:39 NASB). Because Jesus trusted God and obeyed even when God said "no," He took our punishment for sin. We now have a way to get right with God and live with Him forever. (To learn more, see this video.) Paul didn't get everything he asked for either.
"God has shown me amazing and wonderful things. People should not think more of me because of it. So I wouldn’t become proud of myself, I was given a problem. This problem caused pain in my body. It is a messenger from Satan to make me suffer. Three times I begged the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.' So I am very happy to brag about how weak I am. Then Christ’s power can rest on me. Because of how I suffered for Christ, I’m glad that I am weak. I am glad in hard times. I am glad when people say mean things about me. I am glad when things are difficult. And I am glad when people make me suffer. When I am weak, I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIRV)
Why did God tell Paul "no"? Why do you think He sometimes tells us "no" too?

What if I don't know if God is telling me "no"?

Keep asking. Keep praying. Ask God to show you if your prayer matches His plan or if He will change your heart to match His.

Jesus told his disciples a story. He wanted to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said, “In a certain town there was a judge. He didn’t have any respect for God or care about what people thought. A widow lived in that town. She came to the judge again and again. She kept begging him, ‘Make things right for me. Someone is treating me badly.’

“For some time the judge refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t have any respect for God. I don’t care about what people think. But this widow keeps bothering me. So I will see that things are made right for her. If I don’t, she will someday come and attack me!’ ” The Lord said, “Listen to what the unfair judge says. God’s chosen people cry out to him day and night. Won’t he make things right for them? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, God will see that things are made right for them. He will make sure it happens quickly. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find people on earth who have faith?” Luke 18:1-9 (NIRV)
Keep believing that God will answer your prayer one way or another and keep seeking God's face. That means you keep reading the Bible, praying, and walking with the Lord, obeying Him and living for Him every day.
"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." John 15:7 (NIV)

When Should We Pray?

See for yourself.
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Not clear enough? Let's break it down a little.
"Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops." James 5:13-18 (NIV)
Do you want to hear more recent ways God has answered prayer? Ask a few Christians who've been living for Christ for a while to tell you one or more stories of how God answered prayer. You may be surprised at their answers. Missionaries have great stories of answered prayer as well. So what are you waiting for? Spend time in prayer today! The movie "War Room" provides great encouragement and more suggestions on how to pray (on top of being a great story and movie).
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