I remember getting a baby card when our first daughter was born after our having three sons and the person wrote something to the affect of 'see, God does answer our prayers'. I took that to mean that God gave me what I wanted (which He did) because I wanted it. I'm not completely sure I agree with that.
While I appreciated the sentiment behind the message on the card, I felt that it was theologically incorrect. Now, I am no biblical scholar by any means but I have had some wonderful pastors who truly taught the Word. Not to mention that I grew up with Christian radio on nearly every day of my young life, listening to pastors speaking. So there is a bit of a foundation of Scripture in my life.
Right now, in this difficult season for our family, many people are supporting us and encouraging us. Our appreciation for this kind of support is unable to be described with enough words of thanks, so please don't think I'm complaining.
But something about the phrase "prayer works" bothers me. It makes it seem as though what we DO somehow makes something we desire happen-- as if we have chanted the magic words of a spell enough times. I don't believe that prayer is that kind of tool.
I totally believe that our prayers move the heart of God. Luke 18;1-8 is a good example of this. You can see a good explanation of that passage here. I like this explanation from that page a lot.
"Persistent prayer is the demonstration of faith in the character of God’s attributes and the chronology of his actions."
God's character is completely trustworthy and true. He loves us more than we can fully understand and therefore knows what is best for us. But what is best for us isn't always what we are asking Him for in our prayers. At the time I was given a diagnosis of cancer that was considered "hopeless" I came home and called my pastor. He spoke the truth to me when I told him that I just wanted to know that it was going to be okay. His words were, "that depends on what you mean by okay." Okay, you are going to be fine? Okay, you are going to suffer? Okay, you may die? Okay, that means you go to heaven to be with Christ? But for your family and friends, that is not the same kind of okay.
That's where the chronology comes in. For God, our suffering and dying may be part of the "okay" of our life because it means we are safe with Him in Heaven. We don't see the big picture.
So our prayers must be in line with the Sovereignty and Justice of our loving God. Only He knows the beginning from the end.
In Daniel 3 we read the story of King Nebuchandnezzar and Daniel. King N said 'worship me or die in a fiery furnace'. Daniel and his buddies said, 'we will NOT worship you for we worship the only true living God'. They went on to say in verse 17: "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is ABLE to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your majesty. But even if He doesn't, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up." So God was able to deliver them and He would rescue them either through a literal saving from the fire (which He did) or through their being taken into heaven through death.
I believe this story is given to us to see that the glory would go to God alone for whatever the outcome and to make sure that the young friends' faith was in God alone and not themselves. And that is how we should operate in our day to day lives.
So we pray. We ask God to heal our son. We have asked you to pray that God will heal our son. With all of our hearts we believe that God can and does do miraculous things through the power of His people praying together. But it is all up to Him and whether or not we can trust Him, regardless of the outcome.
I believe that prayer does change things. Mostly, it changes the people who are praying. God does answer prayers. I was taught that He answers in three different ways: 1) YES 2) NO 3) NOT YET
We always want the number one answer. But God wants us to become like Him through whatever means it takes to get us there. So, does prayer "work"?
I believe God works through prayer to help us see Him.