DOES PRAYER REALLY WORK?
We can sense the frustration in today’s first reading of someone who seems to be calling on God in distress and yet nothing appears to be happening. Is prayer nothing more than mouthing words that can have no real effect on our situation? Is God simply playing with us?
A good question to ask is “What do I think I am doing when I pray?” Often we are letting God know what we feel and asking him to change things to the way we want them to be. At worst we end up thinking that we are informing God, and at best we find ourselves pouring our heart out.
Pouring our heart out is no bad thing. In fact, it’s what Jesus asks us to do in prayer. We don’t actually have to use any words to do this: we can simply and silently place ourselves consciously in God’s presence. And when we do this, we may find ourselves listening to God rather than talking. God is able to penetrate our busy thick skins and communicate his word to us.
When we are aware that God wants to get through to us, we are on the first step to letting him change us. For prayer is not about changing God but about conforming ourselves to the will of God. This does not mean that we stop praying for people in need, for things to be otherwise, but it does mean that we start to ask God to mould us, to allow ourselves to be used as part of his plans. God will often turn our ideas upside down in prayer, especially by pointing out that we don’t understand the whole picture.
If we seem to pray and pray and nothing happens, then either we are doing something wrong or God couldn’t care less. It’s more likely to be the former. Prayer does work when we put our own interests second and ask God to change us.