If Christians are honest about prayer we would admit that it is often a hit or miss enterprise. There are times when it seems that there are more misses than they are hits, and when God does answer our prayers (at least the way we think He should) we use that one hit as absolute proof that prayer works. So let us be honest for a moment, aside from anecdotal evidence, there really is no solid evidence that prayer does anything in this world. In fact, there are times when prayer seems to raise more questions than it answers.
For example, when my dog, Barkley (who is all of 20 pounds), got hit by a big SUV in January I thought he was going to die. As I rode the fifteen miles to the vet’s office I started to pray and I called a few friends and family and asked them to pray; it was a short time later that Barkley started showing signs of life, and then I knew that he was going to be alright. I am convinced that prayer saved Barkley’s life, but I can’t prove that it did. I have no idea what would have happened if we didn’t pray and so all I can go on is my feeling (hardly the stuff evidence is made of).
Here is the question this event raises in my mind: If I say that God saved Barkley’s life through the few minutes of prayer of faithful people, why didn’t God save my Uncle Tim from cancer based on the months and months of many faithful people? I don’t know, and from our perspective it makes no sense that God would save the life of a dog, but not the life of a person. Even for faithful followers of Christ Jesus there is a mystery to prayer that we cannot explain, and yet we still pray. Why is that?
Part of the reason is because we understand that prayer is an act of faith. Prayer is appealing to our Heavenly Father, who is unseen (Matthew 6:6), to intercede on our behalf. Yes, to the unbeliever this seems to be an act of lunacy (talking to an invisible friend), but to the follower of Christ Jesus it is a way of connecting with our Heavenly Father.
A second reason why Christians pray is because we understand that prayer is essential in ushering in God’s Kingdom. We discover this in the middle of the model prayer that Jesus gave to us; “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10; ESV). We pray because we want to join God in the work He is doing in bringing life to people, opposing evil, comforting people who hurt, and restoring creation.
As we pray a transformation takes place in our lives. We realize that for God’s Kingdom to come, for His will to be done, we, who are called by His name, must choose to do it. So followers of Christ give money to bring food, medicine, and water to people who desperately need it. Christians leave the comfort of their homes to live among the hurting and brokenhearted to provide hope and help for those who have neither. Christ Followers establish hospitals, food pantries, colleges, and other charitable organizations in order to help the most people as possible. Through it all, the Christian understands that the greatest need people have is for the Gospel of Christ Jesus, and so we spend time telling others about the hope found in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Christians pray, not because they want to avoid doing the hard work of ministry, but because they realize the task of making a real difference in this world is bigger than what they can do in their own strength. We pray so we can join God in what He is doing in this world and be part of ushering in His Kingdom of light and love. Ultimately prayer is not about asking for a miracle, it is about joining God in the work He is already doing in the world.
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