Prayer Works, but How and for What?

tumblr_lucgimrWFW1qhmhdfo1_400Prayers work!

I’ve seen it posted and heard it said so many times in the context of someone hearing good medical news, getting a job, receiving money, etc. When we get what we want or hear others get what they want, we declare that prayers work…but what about when we don’t get what we want?

Are prayers only about the result? Is the primary goal of our prayers a tangible, positive outcome?

Maybe we should get into the habit of emphasizing the process of prayer more than the outcome of it. I’m not saying the outcome isn’t important, but we need to keep our motivation in check.

Do we pray because of what we want or because of who we want?

In other words, how selfish are your prayers?

Of course, we want our loved ones to suffer as little as possible, but what if that holds them back from struggling through issues that will help them grow? Of course, death stings, but it is also coupled with relief much of the time. Of course, we want to be able to support ourselves without asking for help, but what if we need to learn a lesson of biting off more than we can chew, or what if asking for helps teaches us about humility and helps us build trusting relationships?

When we pray because we want an outcome more than we want a relationship with God, are we truly trusting God’s authority? I’m not saying we shouldn’t pray specifically–I believe we should–but the focus has to be on God first. As we utter His name, we have to acknowledge His authority. We have to be willing to assume a humble position. We have to long to rely on Him.

If we pray with boldness, claiming God is who He says He is, we can take every specific need and request to Him, along with our praises and gratitude. Then, whatever the outcome, we know He’s present and He’s working. We deepen our trust with Him. We won’t always understand what He’s doing. We certainly won’t always like His timing. But our relationship with Him will grow.

Prayer works because it brings us closer to God. Prayer works because it demands we offers ourselves to God. Prayer works because our willingness to submit to God changes us, comforts us, challenges us, and encourages us to persevere in obedient faith.

Lesson from Nature: Interruptions as Reminders


I was surprised to see trees in the middle of the road. I laughed at the signs, directing drivers to go around. I assume very few would run right into the tree. Perhaps they just wanted to make sure everyone knows which side of the tree to go around. Wouldn’t it have been easier to take out the tree when they made the road? But then I thought,

…if only we allowed more interruptions to be reminders.

We don’t have to clear everything out of our lives just because it’s convenient. We can get so determined to get from point A to point B that we want as straight a line as possible. But when we focus on the horizon, we don’t take the time to notice what’s around us. Slowing down to avoid bumps, debris, or even trees in the road helps us notice what would otherwise be a blur. It certainly might be easier to create a straight line, but what would we miss along the way? How might we “zone out” and reach our destination without experiencing the journey.

We easily become results-oriented. We consider what we need to do, then attack it (or sometimes, we avoid it). Accomplishment is revered as a strength. The farther we get, the more kudos we get from others and the better we feel about ourselves. But what are we missing in the process? Just because we feel good about something doesn’t mean it’s something good.

God isn’t content with good enough. He has the best in store for us…if we’ll trust Him along the journey. He’ll give us moments when we speed down the road, perhaps even faster than we want at that time. He’ll give us seasons in which we feel stuck but learn patience and perseverance. Then, there are the times the road seems to be straight but has a little swerve in it. As we avoid the tree, we notice something beside the road: a glimpse of beauty, a warning sign, or a hidden trail.

Pay attention. It’s our journey, but His road.

I know, Lord, that a man’s way of life is not his own; no one who walks determines his own steps.

(Jeremiah 10:23)


Lesson from Nature: Help or Harm?


The holes were huge. This was no normal woodpecker. It had to be a mammoth woodpecker on steroids. Okay, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. Actually, I did a bit of googling and am pretty sure the holes were created by pileated woodpeckers. Who knew a woodpecker could be so large?! According to Wikipedia, “Adults are 40 to 49 cm (16 to 19 in) long, span 66 to 75 cm (26 to 30 in) across the wings and weigh 250 to 400 g (8.8 to 14.1 oz), with an average weight of 300 g (11 oz). Each wing measures 21.4 to 25.3 cm (8.4 to 10.0 in), the tail measures 14 to 17.4 cm (5.5 to 6.9 in), the bill is 4.1–6 cm (1.6–2.4 in) and the tarsus measures 3.1–3.8 cm (1.2–1.5 in).”

How does a woodpecker that has a beak with a pretty small tip make that kind of a hole?

One peck at a time.

We can do a lot of damage, one peck at a time. We can also make huge strides, one peck at a time. We need to know which we are doing…destroying or constructing…because sometimes it’s difficult to see the difference.

Is the woodpecker harming the tree, or is it creating a place to live? Yes. Both.

What are you doing with the choices you’re making on a daily basis?

Think about the things you do over and over. What is that repetition accomplishing? Is it something helpful or harmful? Is it helpful for you but harmful to others, or vice versa? Don’t convince yourself that you can’t accomplish much, either harm or help, with the small, insignificant choices you’re making. It doesn’t take long for a series of small, insignificant choices to have big, significant results.

Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)