does prayer work

Prayer Is Always the First Best Option

There are so many heartbreaking events taking place in the world today. From the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq to racism and mistreatment of our own in Ferguson. We've hardly had time to process innocent girls being abducted in Nigeria, airplanes disappearing over the ocean and being shot down, conflicts in the Ukraine, Israel and Gaza, wars and rumors of wars that continue to rage in other parts of the Middle East, and unrelenting genocide in Syria. It's all coming at us at a dizzying pace, leaving so many reeling, uncertain of the the best plan of action.

Many times now I've seen people posting prayers for these world events: calling on God for his help and mercy and guidance in the midst of our messed up humanity. And several times I've seen well meaning others responding to these prayers saying "and then what?" or "how does that help?" 

As Christians, it's important that we know the power and importance of prayer. We shouldn't call on God as an excuse to do nothing (James 2:16), but we also must realize that God can do more in a moment of believing prayer than we can accomplish in our entire lifetime of striving in human effort.

Faith is, after all, by very definition, believing God exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6) For those of us that already believe in God, the next step may be to trust that he hears and responds to us when we call on him, even on a global scale. 

John Bunyan said, "You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed." So when the world rages on, prayer is always our first, best option. Go to God. Trust that he will respond. Call on him on behalf of the world. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand." Prayer is the substitute God has given us for worry and anxiety, so it is important that we pray and trust God to meet our needs.

Here are a few tips on how we can be even more effective as we pray to our God who hears us:

1. Pray right away

Don't just say you'll pray for people, really pray for them! In the past year, I've started to pray immediately for people after I say I will. Take a moment right wherever you are, and pray in Jesus' Name for the need. Continue to pray throughout the day as God reminds your heart of the need.

2. Pray with trust in God's mercy and goodness

We can easily pray to God out of a worried heart. But God calls us to pray with faith. (Mark 11:24; James 5:15) If you sense you are praying from worry, begin to ask God to turn your worry into trust. Let the Word of God and past answered prayer build your faith in God's incredible provision. Thank God for all he has done, even while you ask him to meet new needs. (Philippians 4:7)

3. Pray more than once

We don't have to pray a long time for prayer to be effective. One single prayer uttered in faith in God and according to his goodness can move mountains. But Scripture also gives us good examples, encouraging us to keep on praying until we see God answer us. (Luke 18:1-8; Daniel 10:1-14; Colossians 4:2)

4. Turn your praying into worship

Nothing effects prayer so much as faith in who God is, and what he can do. The most powerful prayer is really just worship in disguise. Don't think of God as a genie in a bottle. Yes, he loves to hear and meet our needs, but he is so much more than that. Seek to know him more, and spend your life in worship. God is our treasure. Let's pray with David, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you." (Psalm 73:25-26) "Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always." (1 Chronicles 16:11

"I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." (Psalm 121:1-2)