What If Prayer Doesn’t Work?

vending“It doesn’t seem like my prayers work.”

Now there’s a conversation starter. You just have to inquire—what do you mean, they don’t “work”?

“Well, it seems like none of the stuff I pray about ever happens. Ever. It’s like God’s not listening. Or if He is, He’s not answering.”

I felt like the smart kid in the front row. I KNEW the right answer to this one—I had the perfect platitude to put a quick end to this discussion.

Well, you know, sometimes God says YES, sometimes NO, sometimes WAIT, but He always answers.

Fortunately, I managed to stifle the smart kid for a moment. “So you told me that you talk to your mom every Sunday night, right?”

He looked a little confused by the sudden left turn. “Yeah, we talk for at least an hour.”


“Why? Well, I miss her. Haven’t seen her since I came here, so we just talk. I tell her what I’m doing, how things are going, stuff like that.”

“And that helps?

“Yeah, it helps a lot. I always feel better after I talk to her.”

“Do you ask her for stuff?”

He obviously thought it was a strange question. “Not really. We just talk.”

“And how do you think it would go if you spent the whole time asking for stuff?”

He smiled. He saw where this was going. “That would be pretty weird.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet your mom would get tired of being treated like a vending machine.”

“So you think that’s what I’m doing when I pray?”

“I think Jesus wants us to get to know Him, just like your mom. He’s a person. And He wants you to talk to Him the way you talk to your mom.

“Maybe prayer’s more of a conversation and less of a shopping list.”

“But aren’t we supposed to tell Him our needs?”

“My opinion? Of course! He wants to hear everything that’s going on. But I get a little nervous about the notion of ‘praying harder’ as if the intensity of your prayer might change God’s mind. It’s like there’s a right way or a wrong way to pray, and if you do it right you’ll get what you want.

“Be careful thinking you can manipulate God with your faith or whatever. And be careful thinking you understand how God’s working or how he answered a prayer. Because He always responds, but sometimes it’s long-term or in ways you have trouble seeing.”

This is a smart guy, and you could see the wheels turning. After some silence he said, “So Jesus is a person, not a vending machine. And the point of prayer is conversation, not results.

And prayer is like talking to my mom?”

Not bad.

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Copyright by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site ww.relentlessgrace.com

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