I am choosing to do two things with your comments. First, I will take seriously your inquiry into how prayer works. Secondly, I will share with you my insight into prayer based on my experience and understanding. Arkdrey, you aren’t alone in wondering if prayer really works.
While Jesus was praying, He was asked, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John [known as John the Baptist] also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). They could have asked Him anything. They could have asked, “Lord, teach us how to turn water into wine” or “Lord, teach us to raise the dead”. Instead, they asked Him how to pray, and what He did was teach them how to build a personal relationship with God. Then and only then could they be ready to learn how to pray as a group with an understanding of what a solemn assembly is all about.
For me, prayer is an interchange of love between the Father and I. The desire I feel to pray is His love drawing me to delight in Him. I only need to respond. For Christians, prayer is “communion with God.” It’s the medium of divine revelation. Through prayer, we actually experience relationship with God. The quality of our prayer life then determines the quality of our relationship with God. You asked in your comment: I’m curious as to what you think prayer actually accomplishes in reality beyond people reciting and reenforcing their preferences?
Prayer is talking with God and listening to Him, and it’s enjoying the presence of God. Prayer is my initiative to meet God, whether I am asking for favors, singing in celebration, or crying out in distress.
In thirty-five years of ministry as a teacher, Pastor and Chaplain, I’ve never met a person or been in a crisis where anything I said or did was a better help than prayer. Prayer can take many forms, including worship, confession, thanksgiving, praise, petition (asking for what we need and desire), a ministry of presence, waiting (silent listening and sensing of God).
Regardless of what shape or size it comes in, prayer is my best effort to engage God. My goal through prayer must be to know God better, to experience the fullness of relationship with Him. Through prayer, I honor Him. We give something back to the Almighty, something He desires greatly. God reveals Himself to us in the “prayer closet”—a quiet place where we cannot be distracted in our time with Him.
God desires relationship, but for many years, I was preoccupied with works and with self. When I prayed, it was a preconceived line of thought followed by a list of needs, and I was often impatient for results. In my mind, God needed to provide fast results, and if one prayer wasn’t sufficient, I took measures into my own hands. Hey, at least I gave God a chance to perform, and then I did what any good Christian should do, right? But I was still missing the point.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 3:10, “My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”
Communication for me is the transfer of meaning.The fact is that we have a God who loves to communicate. And the reason is that communication is the starting point for any relationship. That’s why he actually prefers it when we come to have faith in him through prayer, instead of through politics or logical arguments alone. God doesn’t just want to satisfy a curiosity we have, He wants to enter into a friendship with us.