Does Prayer Work?

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My prayer life stinks. Really. I don’t pray as often as I should, and I certainly don’t always pray for the right things when I do pray. I’ve mentioned Dr. R.C. Sproul before on the blog. I enjoy his writings. He is very descriptive and has a way of putting things so that my teeny brain can comprehend them. When my husband re-subscribed to Tabletalk magazine, he received a free copy of a little book called Does Prayer Change Things? from Dr. Sproul’s Crucial Questions Series. I’ve certainly asked this question many times over the years. Even more so as I’ve learned about the sovereignty of God. It could be argued that, if God is in control of all things (and He is), then why bother praying? If He knows the outcome (and He does), then why implore the King of Kings for anything?

In chapter two, Dr. Sproul addresses the question, does prayer change God’s mind? Or, does prayer change things. Obviously, we cannot change God’s mind with our prayer life. However, prayer definitely changes things. God’s will shall be done, regardless of that which you or I should desire or implore of God. This reminds me of an outlandish statement I heard a preacher make years ago. He was preaching on prayer and used an example from his own life. “I prayed for my Dad’s health every day after I got saved. I prayed for his safety.” He declared in vehemence. “One day, I overslept and hurried out the door, forgetting to pray. That day, my Dad died.” This preacher seemed to think that his prayers were the only thing keeping his father alive! Friend, if it’s up to me – in any way, shape, or form – to keep my mother alive (my father is already in Heaven), then she is in grave danger. My prayers do matter to God, but I have no weight to change His plan! I’m a sinful human being. Yes, I’m saved, but I’m flesh. I’m thankful that I can boldly bring my petitions to my Father in Heaven (Hebrews 4:16), but I’m also very grateful that His will be done.

So, why bother praying? We pray because God wants us to pray, and we are here to glorify God.

Chapter three discusses the pattern of prayer, which is from the model prayer that many people have memorized. This does not mean we are to parrot those words back to God, but rather, we are to use that prayer to outline our own. Dr. Sproul uses the A-C-T-S acronym for prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. I’ve been working to make this part of my regular prayer time.

Chapter five discusses the prohibitions of prayer, such as harboring sin in our hearts. He has a very  interesting analogy for this on page 73.

A few cautions to this book must pointed out. First of all, Dr. Sproul is Presbyterian. There are serious flaws to parts of the Presbyterian theology, the most glaring is the baptizing of infants. Secondly, Dr. Sproul is not at all Catholic, but is not averse to some points of their doctrine, which is clearly wrong when held to the light of Scripture. Dr. Sproul seems to like one of the Catholic prayers as an example of contrition. While I see his point, I have to say that a memorized prayer is rarely heartfelt, and in the context of Catholic beliefs, it’s a means of “earning” our way to Heaven – or someone else’s way to Heaven. However, as long as you’re aware of these differences and ignore them, you can glean much good from this little book about prayer.

There were several good tidbits throughout the book:

Regarding Thanksgiving:

God is never required to be merciful. As soon as we think God is obligated to be merciful, a red light should flash in our brains, indicating that we are no longer thinking about mercy, but about justice. We need to do more than sing “Amazing Grace” – we need to be repeatedly amazed by grace. (page 60)

The issue in the story [ about the one leper who returned to give thanks to Christ for healing] is not one of gratitude but of thanksgiving. It is one thing to feel grateful; it is another thing to express it.  (page 62)

On the practice of prayer:

To become accomplished in anything, we must practice. If we want to learn how to pray, then we must pray – and continue to pray. (page 88)

There is so much more to this book, even though it’s only a whopping eighty-eight pages! It got me thinking, searching, and most of all, praying!

May God bless you on this journey of life,

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14 thoughts on “Does Prayer Work?

  1. Wow. I really needed that! I struggle with prayer, especially with if God already knows the outcome (not His will but His omniscience), then why pray for a particular outcome since it’s already going to happen a certain way… because God already KNOWS the future. I can’t change His mind, because His mind already knows what is to come. Whether Mom is healed or Jess arrives safely is already determined. I hope I win!!!!

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  2. I stumbled upon this review and although I haven’t heard of this book it is definitely going on my to-read list. It looks interesting, and I too have a prayer life that’s in the dumps right now. Thank you for your awesome review!

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  3. Great post, Valerie. Been doing ACTS when praying after learning about it years ago and the way I do it, I read the scripture and pause to pray at certain times during my reading when the Spirit speaks to me about something. Sometimes the Spirit speaks to me about a sin or am simply discovering a new truth from the scripture or am reminded of God’s attribute, etc. so it can be a lengthy prayer time as the Spirit leads. When am in a rush I usually just wait to do my prayer time at another time when I can fully put myself into it….I know we all struggle in this area especially trying to find time to do it. But then again, if you’re like me, and I know most Christians do this, I always find myself talking to the Lord throughout the day even when am in the middle of a meeting or something. I believe that no amount of prayer can change HIS mind. Prayer changes us

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    • I learned about ACTS years ago, too, but haven’t worked to make it a regular part of my prayer time until recently. I’ve only heard of one other person who prays while reading the Bible, but then, I’m always trying to be in tune to the Holy Spirit, so I guess I do that in my own way. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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  4. Thanks for your comments on this book about prayer. The many trials my family has faced this year has brought me to the place of prayer. I found myself asking this very same question, especially when I felt some of my prayers were not answered the way I had hoped. I still have much to learn about prayer; but one thing God made real to me about prayer is, it is ‘Me talking to God’. Just as we want our friends and family to talk to us, God wants us to talk to Him. Enjoyed talking to you Valerie!

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