I grew up expecting to pray. My dad prayed before every meal, and I knew my parents prayed in private. We didn’t have family devotions or family prayer time, but I knew prayer mattered.But did it change anything?
In high school prayer interrupted my desire to date a particular boy. I had a crush on one of the juniors. I was a freshman. He wasn’t a Christian. I was. If you know anything about Christian teaching, you know it is frowned upon to date someone outside of the faith. But the school dance was coming up, and I had hopes of him asking me. So I asked my mom in advance if I could go if he asked.
She said she would pray about it and get back to me.
Truth is, though my parents often gave into my desires—privilege of being the youngest—I fully expected her to tell me no. Dating someone who didn’t believe could lead to trouble. And honestly? I didn’t know this guy very well. I just thought he was cute. But to my surprise my mom came back and told me that if he asked, I could go.
I will admit, I was a little crushed when I heard he had asked someone else. But after the event? I was relieved. Turned out this guy was a bit of a charmer, and I would not have wanted to be put in that position of having to fend him off or worse.
I never did ask my mom why she said yes. Perhaps she had confidence that God would answer her prayer that he not ask me! If so, she got her wish.
But is that really what prayer is about?
I’ve thought much about prayer throughout my life. I have “journal prayed” for so long I could probably fill a small bookcase with my journals. In those journals, I’ve gotten pretty honest with God. I’ve poured out my heartache, my anger, my thanksgiving. (I could always improve on the grateful part.)
But it has been in those moments of emotion-packed honesty with God that I began to understand what prayer was meant to be.
Prayer is our intimate conversation with Almighty God. For the believer in Christ, it is our door to the Father’s house, that place where we are privileged to call Him, “Abba – Daddy”.
Some of us can’t quite relate to that because our earthly fathers were nothing like a dad to us. And daddy is one step closer to a father’s heart. Daddy is a child’s name for a beloved parent. God is our beloved parent, and He wants us to crawl into His arms in prayer and pour out our thoughts, our hearts, our longings, our hurts to Him.
Does prayer work?
I could as easily ask, “Does conversation accomplish anything between two close friends?” Of course it does!
We are closest to the people we spend the most time with, to the people we talk with and listen to. That’s what prayer is for those who love God, for those whom God loves.
When we pray, we enter His invisible presence as though we had entered His home and sat down to tea with Him. Does that sound disrespectful? I don’t think it is at all because even Scripture teaches that we will dine with Him and He with us.
Prayer can change circumstances because our loving Father knows when something isn’t right with our world and He cares how it affects us.
But prayer also changes our perspective on those circumstances and can give us the strength to endure them for as long as God allows them to last.
Perhaps He will respond in an instant. I’ve seen it happen when I prayed for one of my kids. And I’ve also waited twenty years for an answer when it seemed as though God was going to wait for an eleventh hour change.
Some of my prayers are still stacked in those journals, lining the walls of God’s waiting room. Some may never be answered in the way I hope.
And yet, sometimes God turns around and surprises me with reassurance to just keep trusting because He is doing His own waiting. Someday the joy will come for both of us.
The thing I hope I pass on to those who think prayer is useless or not meant for those trivial things like should I date a certain guy in high school—please rethink the matter. “Pray about everything,” means what it says. “Everything” can’t get any broader.
What things big or small do you pray about? Are you able to be honest with God and share with Him the very intimate longings of your heart?
My prayer for you is that you can see prayer itself in a new light—that it won’t be a chore or something to mark off a to-do list but a pathway to relationship with the Creator of the universe, the Author of Grace and Love. There is so much He longs to teach us. But it takes two to communicate.
May we learn to communicate well with Him.