Why pray? It doesn't seem to make a difference.
I've felt that way before – that I've prayed and nothing happens. But I've seen and experienced too many healings as results of prayer to stop praying. So if I feel discouraged, there are a few things I check.
Am I really praying without outlining or willing an outcome? In other words, am I asking God to answer my prayer in the way I want it to be answered, or am I letting God answer my prayer in the way He wants to answer it? God's answers are always better than mine, even if they're not exactly what I want to hear. Every prayer should be a deep desire to be more trusting that God's "ways are higher" than our ways (Is 55:9) and that God knows best. There's no room for human will when we pray.
Is my prayer sincere? Do I really mean it? Or is it just wishful thinking that I do on and off? Or am I repeating words without really meaning what I say? If my heart's not really into it, then, of course, my prayers are not going to make a difference.
Am I expecting results? Am I confident that God will answer my prayer fully? If I'm not confident that God will answer my prayer, then why pray? Right after he gave his disciples what we call the Lord's Prayer, Jesus gave a great explanation of why we should expect God to answer our prayers.
"And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead?... Of course not! … how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him." (Luke 11:9-13 NLT)
Jabez is proof of this. We read in Chronicles that Jabez "prayed to Israel's God, 'Please bless me and give me a lot of land. Be with me so I will be safe from harm.' And God did just what Jabez had asked" (I Chron 4:10).
After I've answered these questions for myself, I realize that I can do a better job of praying wholeheartedly and effectively.
I think we need to trust more in God's ability and power to answer our prayers. We need to do what Jesus told us to do and go into our mental closets, shut out human reasoning, talk less, listen more, and then be willing to follow where God leads. God really is in complete control of our lives.
And sometime if it seems that prayer doesn't matter or doesn't really do anything, we can find comfort and hope in knowing that prayer has made a huge impact in others' lives. So if we figure out how to pray without conditions, pray sincerely, and expect results, then we'll find God answers our prayers in beautiful, unexpected, and significant ways.
Why pray? James Montgomery (1771-1854) answers this question in a poem. Here are some excerpts:
Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
unuttered or expressed,….
Prayer is the simplest form of speech
that infant lips can try;
prayer the sublimest strains that reach
the Majesty on high….
Prayer is the Christians' vital breath,
the Christians' native air;…
O Thou, by whom we come to God,
the Life, the Truth, the Way:
the path of prayer thyself hast trod;
Lord, teach us how to pray!