My mother runs marathons. Her name is Cathy and she’s run the Chicago marathon twice, and has her eye set next on the Disney marathon. For years, she has gotten up before dawn to run. For her, running is exercise and the place where she finds solitude, peace, and refreshment. Unfortunately, this past Sunday I found out that a foot injury has been keeping my mom from running.
My first instinct was to pray for her. I asked God to give her healing so that she can return to this activity that she loves and enjoys so much.
Will God answer my prayer? Does prayer work? Does prayer change anything?
These are very old questions. If you have ever struggled to understand why we pray, you are not alone. What I want to do in this short blog post is offer several thoughts on the impact of prayer. I believe based on Scripture that the prayers we offer to God can and do have the power to change things, including a foot injury. The clearest Scripture on this topic is from the book of James: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).
The Gospels are also full of examples about the workings of prayer. One of my favorite stories is from Luke, where the angel Gabriel tells Zechariah (father of John the Baptist) that “your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son” (Luke 1:13)
How often have you heard the words, “I’ll pray for you”? Some may hear these words as nothing more than a churchy way to say “I’ll think about you.” Martin Luther would have heard it as the words of someone obeying what God commanded, that we pray boldly to God. “Thereby we are required to praise the holy name and to pray or call upon it in every need” (Intro to Luther’s Large Catechism).
The Bible shows that God has willed for our prayers to “work.” But we need to be thoughtful about what this means. Prayer works by drawing us closer to God’s own heart—as we spend time with the Lord. Prayer works when we cry out to God in faith about our needs or the needs of others. Sometimes God responds to our prayers with a miracle. Sometimes God answers our prayer much like we had hoped. Sometimes our prayers seem to go unanswered. Why? Could it be because God has something better in store for us?
Patiently, lovingly; sometimes prayer works most powerfully as we wait on the Lord—believing that God is good and will respond to our prayers with love (Matthew 7:7-11). To wait this way is to have faith, and faith itself a gift from God.
Peace and prayers,