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    Ask a Christian - Thread: What Good is Prayer?

    1. #1
      Josiah's Avatar
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      Question What Good is Prayer?

      In our prayer request forum, stravinsk raised this question.....
      IMO, it is best raised not in that forum, but is certainly worthy of a thread all it's own, and so is offered here:


      Quote Originally Posted by stravinsk

      May I ask (and in spirit of those kinds of prayers that ask for instant healing, assurances of things that may not be true etc) - what kind of witness Christians hope to share when and if those prayers are not answered to their liking?

      I don't mean to be mean - but Christians mostly seem to pray to God as if He is the Magic Genie in the Sky. Like an obese person praying they magically get thin or don't develop heart problems all while stuffing down massive amounts of animal fat and cholesterol into their body.

      Because God doesn't seem to typically answer these types of prayers with Miracles like "instant weight loss" or "magical artery clearing".

      On a board like this one, I was beaten down by a bunch of hopeful people (and staff at the time because the deluded all wished to complain about it) for doubting someone would be healed of terminal brain cancer simply on prayers. It turns out I was right - their prayers didn't do jack. The person suffered and died despite all their prayers. Just like millions do every year - because someone is always sick and dying of something. It was not as if I was being mean - quite the opposite - because you see the "widower" status next to my faith designation? I was in the same position at one time - and I know how cruel false hope is.

      So, I ask - what is the point?

      The only good I can see is that if people actually pray for God's Will - and to the extent they are able - align themselves with it. Like curing Scurvy, pellagra or beriberi with actual knowledge - this seems to be how God typically acts in His Creation - and not on exceptions to the rule - Miracles.




      .

      YOUR reply?

      Christians, why pray?

      What about unanswered prayer?

      Can there be a "false hope" in prayer?





      .

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    3. #2
      Josiah's Avatar
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      Stravinsk,


      It's a good valid question .... and one I think a lot of agnostics raised. Some Christians do, too! I think it was Mark Twain who commented that when he was a boy, he prayed for a fish hook but didn't get it - and that taught him that there ain't no God and no use in praying.


      First of all, friend, I DO believe that our prayers CAN change things. Do I have any solid, scientific studies that prove that? No. And part of the reason is that there is no way to prove that prayer is the reason for the change. No matter what example I might present, your (quite logical) response might be "that would have happened without your prayer." You see my point, I'm sure.


      Second, your question raises the very real issue of "unanswered" prayer. Perhaps I'll touch on that more later (because I'm not SURE there is such a thing) but certainly, undeniably, things don't always go as we express. I don't doubt that Samuel Clemens never got that fish hook. Different Christians here may give you different thoughts on this, but here's mine: God is not our pet who rolls over when and how we tell Him to.... God is not a thoughtless machine who just spits out according to what buttons we push and commands we give. Prayer is part of our RELATIONSHIP with God. God is not an lifeless machine but our Father. God listens to our prayer - but doesn't necessarily subsitute the instructions of our words. Maybe what Mark Twain actually desired - in his heart - was regular food for his family (a fish hook simply being how he thought God might accomplish this).


      Third. This is harder, friend.... but more important. I think often God doesn't so much change THINGS as change US. Maybe Mark Twain needed changing so that he could be an instrument for feeding himself and others? When I was a boy, I remember my Mom and I would have nightly prayers. Prayers for me was a long list of "give-me's". That's becuase my faith was small.... and I was self-centered, mostly about promoting me. I probably through of God too much like Santa Clause. But I think I grew out of that pretty early. I remember by the time I started school, those prayers were instead a long list of "Blesses." I thought of all the people in my life (even pets, lol) that I wanted God to bless in one way or other (I could get pretty instructional, lol - as if God needed MY ideas and suggestions!!!). I began to learn about things in the community, people at church..... and my prayers turned to them. This was PARTLY because my faith matured.... and partly because I just matured a bit (I'm still working on it, however). And in time, I understood that sometimes, how God could bless is not so much by changing the situation (although that always can be an option) but by changing them. My prayers began to be "Strenghen our friend" or "comfort so-and-so" or "may this person feel your love and presence." I think by middle school, I understood that God works in people and not just in situations.


      Fourth. And then it dawned on me. I think I had to get to a certain maturity (mentally, emotionally and spiritually) but my mom sensed I had. We'd talk about my prayer.... and she lead it to, "what can we do here? How can God use us?" I think I was a middle schooler. I remember two cases very, very powerfully - both served to teach me much about God and about prayer. The first, our church was working with an orphanage in Mexico. There was a video shown in church and I was APPALLED, I could not believe the poverty and needs. I prayed for those kids.... And Mom asked me what I could DO. I became quite passionate in working with the church, I worked hard to raise some money and other things. God could have just made some clothes and food appear (hey, He did just that with the manna in the wilderness.... for a widow during a drought) but in this case, He answered my prayer, a bit, by changing ME. The other case came a bit later, as I became passionately pro-life. I was maybe a freshmen in high school. Mom worked hard to get me to see the human side here, and not just the moral. How difficult an unexpected pregnancy is... how the mother's parents and the father of the baby often put a LOT of pressure on her to get an abortion (and why), how freightening this can be for the mother.... I prayed for those moms.... and then I looked for ways I could help them. Our church again was helpful because it was involved in a "pregnancy alternative center" there to help moms who choose to keep their baby. It weird..... a young teen BOY.... wanting to help. All the counselors and staff were, of course, women... I understandably was kept "in the back" but I did everything from secretarial work or janitorial work to cleaning the storeroom to helping one of the husbands deliver washing machines and refrigerators or sofas or whatever the mom needed. And those counselors talked HARD to this young teenage BOY; I "grew up" and gave a lot of thought to things in ways young teen boys don't. I don't KNOW, for sure, that any moms were specificially helped by what I did... but I hope I was an instrument, a tool in the hands of God, a means by which God was answering prayer. I learned (the hard way): Be careful what you pray for, God just may make YOU His means to answer it. And what a privilege when He does..... turns out TWO get blessed in the process.


      FIFTH. Often, God's answer is coping. You mentioned the wife - praying with all her heart and soul - that her husband of 60 years survives this heart attack..... but he does not. That example, my friend, is a good one because at every funeral are people who prayed - earnestly - for a different outcome. Grief being perhaps the toughest thing anyone does - and Christians do it, too. We live - now - in a broken, fallen, busted world.... a world where God's will is not perfectly done, a world where God weeps. In the present state of things, God does not so much come to suddenly clean up everything, He comes to love and forgive, to bring His mercy and grace, to comfort and empower us - in the midst of the mess. It's not a peace because the storm has ended, it's peace in the middle of the storm. I'll forever remember when my grandpa died. He was in Wisconsin and me 2000 miles away and that hurt - I SO much wanted to be here, but took comfort that Jesus was there. I wanted to hug him one last time - but knew Jesus was doing that. Death is a horrible thing, a consequence of this fallenness, but it happens. Grandpa - and grandma and a grandson who loved him SO much - found comfort and strength in knowing God.... being in relationship to Him..... knowing God hears and cares and loves. Prayer changes us - not just in terms of our thoughts and ACTIONS, but also our emotions. I would have gotten though grandpa's death without faith, without prayer (billions do) but I SO appreciate the comfort and strength I had as a Christian. And knowing that I can cry to God - and He hears and understands.


      Not the scientific proof you probably want.....


      Blessings to you, my friend!



      - Josiah



      .
      Last edited by Josiah; 10-09-2017 at 04:14 PM.

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    5. #3
      MoreCoffee is offline Silver Member
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      Quote Originally Posted by Josiah View Post
      In our prayer request forum, stravinsk raised this question.....
      IMO, it is best raised not in that forum, but is certainly worthy of a thread all it's own, and so is offered here:

      YOUR reply?

      Christians, why pray?

      What about unanswered prayer?

      Can there be a "false hope" in prayer?
      Stravinsk is right. God is not a vending machine whose "coin" is earnest desire for something. God loves human beings. Love may not mean granting an earnest desire.

      May God grant wisdom to his people according to his will as he desires and at the time he desire it to be.

      Prayer for others ought, in my opinion, be couched in terms of accomplishing God's will. Jesus said it in the prayer that Catholics say at every mass. "Thy will be done, as in heaven, here on earth".

      The matter of daily bread and forgiveness are present in Jesus prayer lesson "Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive the trespasses of other"

      And the matter of motives and occasions for sins is also present in his prayer lesson "lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil"

      To this we say "amen".

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      My wife is answered prayer from God and if anyone disagreed with me on that face to face I'd punch them right in the nose...

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      I think people that ask whether God answers prayer, or more explicitly why doesn’t God answer prayer, are only interested in getting God to answer in a specific way.

      What we all need to recognise is that answers come in many ways, lets all remember that No is also an answer!

      In the case highlighted by Josiah of a terminally ill person with cancer who died, it is likely that God’s answer was to take that person home to heaven, I know of a number of people with similar experiences.

      So prayer is always effective but we need to stop bringing unreasonable expectations along with our requests. All we can really do is ask and wait in faith for Him to abswer the best way He knows.


      Pete from Peterborough UK

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      Quote Originally Posted by Tigger View Post
      My wife is answered prayer from God and if anyone disagreed with me on that face to face I'd punch them right in the nose...
      I can't help but chuckle at the post

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      Quote Originally Posted by Josiah View Post
      In our prayer request forum, stravinsk raised this question.....
      IMO, it is best raised not in that forum, but is certainly worthy of a thread all it's own, and so is offered here:

      YOUR reply?

      Christians, why pray?

      What about unanswered prayer?

      Can there be a "false hope" in prayer?
      .
      I pray because I like to keep the lines of communication open between myself and the Almighty. God's not a genie. He's the Creator, Sovereign and Savior of the Universe. To pray merely for gain misses the whole point of prayer, which ought to include confession and praise as well as petitions. Scripture says that when we ask for things before God in prayer for the wrong motives, we should expect to receive nothing as a result. As well as keeping the lines open between me and the Almighty, prayer also is a reflective tool, when we speak before the Lord, we should reflect on the words we speak before Him. I don't believe in unanswered prayer.. just that on occasion the answer will be " no." If there is a " false" hope in prayer, that might be because we're missing the point of the whole exercise. What we could be doing is adding the whole " not my will, but Thine be done" caveat to everything we pray. Again, the One we address our prayers to is our Royal Sovereign. We can ask, but never demand, good things of Him and either we'll receive what we ask for, or we won't.

      Submission to God's will ( whatever it may be) is no easy thing, but asking for the gift of the Holy Spirit to live lives of joyful subjection to the will of God should really be an integrated part of anybody's prayer life.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Confessional Lutheran View Post
      I pray because I like to keep the lines of communication open between myself and the Almighty. God's not a genie. He's the Creator, Sovereign and Savior of the Universe. To pray merely for gain misses the whole point of prayer, which ought to include confession and praise as well as petitions. Scripture says that when we ask for things before God in prayer for the wrong motives, we should expect to receive nothing as a result. As well as keeping the lines open between me and the Almighty, prayer also is a reflective tool, when we speak before the Lord, we should reflect on the words we speak before Him. I don't believe in unanswered prayer.. just that on occasion the answer will be " no." If there is a " false" hope in prayer, that might be because we're missing the point of the whole exercise. What we could be doing is adding the whole " not my will, but Thine be done" caveat to everything we pray. Again, the One we address our prayers to is our Royal Sovereign. We can ask, but never demand, good things of Him and either we'll receive what we ask for, or we won't.

      Submission to God's will ( whatever it may be) is no easy thing, but asking for the gift of the Holy Spirit to live lives of joyful subjection to the will of God should really be an integrated part of anybody's prayer life.
      Prayer is never unanswered just sometimes the answer is no. We pray for many things but what is the will of God for us in our lives? Whatever it is He will not grant what will lead us drom that or will hurt us in some way. As for healing life and death is decided by God notus. When you prayed for healing did you seek God and see what He had to say? Prayer is always answered and at least for me I take comfort in prayer and feel a peace when I pray usually
      Isaiah 40:31

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      Quote Originally Posted by psalms 91 View Post
      Prayer is never unanswered just sometimes the answer is no. We pray for many things but what is the will of God for us in our lives? Whatever it is He will not grant what will lead us drom that or will hurt us in some way. As for healing life and death is decided by God notus. When you prayed for healing did you seek God and see what He had to say? Prayer is always answered and at least for me I take comfort in prayer and feel a peace when I pray usually
      When I prayed for healing, I trusted God to work to answer my prayer and He did, but He did not do so without means, namely, not without the doctor and the medications he prescribed. So also do we discern God's will for us in the Holy Scriptures. What applies to us collectively as Christ's Church applies also to me as a Christian. Of course I would pray and search out the Lord's Word in whatever situation I found myself in.
      Last edited by Confessional Lutheran; 10-09-2017 at 07:44 PM.

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      One thing to add is that in our prayers we show love for our neighbor through our empathy toward them.
      "Christianity does not require more work but more trust." Pr. Jonathan Fisk
      "Bearing fruit does not make you a branch. A branch is a branch because it grows from the vine." Pr. Jonathan Fisk

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