Do You Ever Feel As If Prayer Doesn't Really Work?

Do You Ever Have the Feeling that Prayer Doesn’t Really Work?

Prayer is hard work, perhaps because it’s hard to quantify. I can spend fifteen minutes praying or fifteen minutes cleaning the bathroom. The results of one are far more obvious than the other–at least in the moment.

But what about the long term “results?”
And exactly what do we mean when we talk about “results” in our prayer life?

Do You Ever Wonder if Prayer Really Works?

If you measure the effectiveness of prayer by a life that goes according to your whims and preferences, you may actually conclude, “No, I guess prayer doesn’t work.” However, scripture is clear that our prayers are offered in cooperation with God. In effect, when we pray, we contribute to the advancement of God’s kingdom here on earth.

Elisabeth Elliot frames the dilemma with characteristic clarity:

What, after all is said and done, do you want above all? Is it ‘Thy will be done?’ If so, leave it to Him.
Is it ‘My will be done’? Don’t waste your time and God’s by praying. Have it your way.”

In our “have it your way” culture, we need new eyes and a new heart to receive the wisdom of praying with open hands and leaving the “results” to God. And that’s exactly what God has given to us with the new birth:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

A Question to Ponder

Do you pray with open hands and a “Your Will Be Done” mindset or has prayer become your Do-List for God?

“What do you want above all? Is it ‘Thy will be done?’ If so, leave it to Him. Is it ‘My will be done’? Don’t waste your time and God’s by praying. Have it your way.” #elisabethelliotquotes

Now, Let’s Talk Books…

Little Prayers for Ordinary Days

My youngest grandson is only two, but already he has an awareness that his days are full, that some days go better than others, and that he needs someone even more present than his parents with whom to process life. Little people pray little prayers, and every ordinary day comprises countless opportunities to practice the presence of God by verbally bringing him into the activity of the moment.

Little Prayers for Ordinary Days is a tool for parents, grandparents, and other shepherds of children’s hearts, a bright arrow of intention pointing out those moments for God-talk and then offering the gift of words to get the conversation started. Whether a child is just waking up or reading a book, trying something new or simply engaged in the hard work of waiting (ugh!), God is present.

God’s ears are open to their joy and their complaints. He is even present to help when there’s cooked broccoli for dinner again!

Every page features delightful illustrations with winsome drawings inspired by artist Liita Forsyth’s own students, and each prayer is an invitation for children to frame their experiences in prayer–the good and the not-so-good. Spiritual formation can happen over a shared read aloud as children (and grown ups, too!) delight in the presence of God within the ordinary. The mundane activities of daily life are a launch pad to meaningful connection with the God of the universe.

Holding You in the Light,

Little Prayers for Ordinary Days is a tool for the shepherds of children’s hearts, a bright arrow of intention pointing out moments for God-talk, then offering the gift of words to get the conversation started. @ivpress @IvpKids

Do You Wonder If God Is Okay with Your Questions?

Curiosity has been my strange companion since my recent diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease, so I’ve created a resource to invite you into curiosity along with me! God is not some grumpy parent, silencing his children and condemning our questions. 

This line of thinking sent me on a biblical scavenger hunt for questions posed by the Bible’s authors. What were they asking and how should this affect the questions I’m asking and the way my curiosity is framed?

To receive your copy of “Half a Dozen Biblical Questions for Entering (and Enduring) Hard Times” simply enter your email and then click on the button below…

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I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and an affiliate of The Joyful Life Magazine, two advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase any of the books or products I’ve shared, simply click on the image, and you’ll be taken directly to the seller. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Many thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.

Photo by Ash from Modern Afflatus on Unsplash

51 thoughts on “Do You Ever Have the Feeling that Prayer Doesn’t Really Work?”

  1. Your topics always get me thinking. 🙂
    This one is complicated and therefore difficult to explain but I will give it a go.

    As I have matured, both in flesh and spirit my prayer life has evolved. Once I was old enough to grasp the wisdom of getting out of my own way I realized that I am merely a receiving station. I have no will of my own anymore. In recent times I pray for deliverance from evil, protection from tragedy (which is mostly Divine intervention from stupidity on our part) and, for back up, that He grant us Grace because we mostly do not know what we are doing.

    This ongoing debate over ‘letting go and letting God’ vs classic misinterpretation of ‘ask and ye shall receive’ misses the point of prayer, which is the simple choice between seeking His will and desiring to BE His will.

    When I don’t know what to pray, I get quiet so the Holy Spirit can petition in the heavenly language I cannot understand. The prayers of the saints are like sweet odors at the throne.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with and am challenged by the way you’ve expressed all this. I also struggle with prayer as a “do-list” for God, so that listening posture is a tough one for me to find. And yet I need to take myself by the scruff of the neck and GET there. Prayer becomes an affirmation of the unseen reality that there is a living and all powerful God, very active behind the scenes. I want to align my will with his, but how can I if I never let myself get to really know is heart?


  2. It took me a long time to learn that prayer isn’t so much about me getting my will as it is conforming my heart to His will. Plus the fact that so many Bible people didn’t see the answers to their prayers or the fulfillment of God’s promises in their lifetimes encourages me that God is working even when I can’t see.


    1. I am learning, too, that prayer is an affirmation that God is at work in invisible ways. And those invisible workings are really more important than the things I might try to accomplish “instead of” praying.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think what gives you comfort and strength has to be a good thing but I think in no way should you deffer your own responsibility to someone/thing else. Ultimately it’s up to you to get the job done, but if you need strength through prayer to do so, then I guess it does work for you. #Dreamteam


  4. I’m glad God is open to all our questions and conversations together. I’ve learned to readjust my expectations through the years of what is God’s work alone to do and what is the work God wants me to do (with his help). It’s helped me. Always much more to learn about God!


  5. Reading Psalm 119 fascinates me, watching how King David volleys between ‘I trust You, God’ and ‘but, but, but.’ Too often I catch myself playing the current version of that same old game.

    One difference is that, since the first Pentecost, we have Emmanuel – Jesus is still with us in Holy Spirit. When life overwhelmed the Apostles, Jesus took them to a quiet place and addressed their physical needs of hunger, thirst and rest. But Jesus did not stop there. Explaining the parables and events, the Teacher taught them – a key element I often forget to wait for. James 1:5 instructs: If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

    Frequently I am so busy wearing myself out with volleying my ‘but, but, but’ I miss the winning toss full of ‘it is written’ wisdom from above . . . that restores my soul. Thank you, Michele, for this needed reminder!


  6. There’s so much here – such goodness and wisdom. This: “we contribute to the advancement of God’s kingdom here on earth” – I love that sentence. In the last 7 years, I’ve learned about selfless prayer – instead of praying for what I want, to pray God’s plan – whatever it is – into the lives for those around me. I’ve also learned that no matter the outcome of a challenge, God has the “all is well” solution (2 Kings 4:26). Yet, I’ve also learned to boldly go see my Father about answered prayers, unanswered prayers, promises and dreams He’s put in my heart. Yet, and He guides me into understanding, to seeing things His way, and how to go forward, whatever His plan is. I am thankful learning to bend to His plan doesn’t break you! Also, thanks for the book review. This would be a good little birthday gift!


    1. Learning to bend to his plan! I see this all the time when our Maine birch trees are under a load of wet snow or ice. They bend–sometimes all the way to the ground–but they stay whole and spring back when the load falls off.


  7. I may have mentioned here before that over 20 years ago I started keeping prayer cards instead of prayer lists. That way I have more room to write the request and the answer when it comes. I’ve saved the 3 x 5s as proof that God DOES answer prayer (though sometimes not the way I would have liked). The stack is now over 4″ tall! Then there are some cards written in 1999 when I started, and are still in the “active” pile. Answers still pending!


  8. I’ve wrestled with this a bunch myself. Praying Thy Will be Done is always good, and as Jan Karon has Father Tim say in her novels, it’s the prayer that always get answered; yet the Word tells us to keep on seeking, asking and knocking. I think really the point of prayer is the sharing of what is on our hearts. I mean, He knows. But He wants the fellowship of us seeking Him.


  9. I pray with an attitude of ” thy will be done” now. It hasn’t always been that way, I see that as I age and my relationship with him grows and I continue to mature things become easier.
    Visiting today from Inspire Me Monday #1&2


  10. I love the perspective here on prayer. Sometimes I get so focused on [my expected] outcome, I forget the true purpose of prayer. Prayer IS hard work, the work of love which is willing to exchange my heart’s desire for His.


  11. A needed reminder to leave things in God’s hands if I really want to demonstrate that I trust Him. Although if I’m honest, sometimes it is hard to know what I should be doing or if I should be doing nothing. Bottom line is that I always need to rely on prayer and God’s Word to guide me.


  12. I think I tend to do a bit of both; using prayer as a request line but usually ending with more of “whatever you think is best” vibe since most of what I am praying for is really rather minor in the grand scheme of things and yet somehow feels so important at the time!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Prayer has always been hard for me. I feel it is so monotonous as I pray the same things over and over. That book sounds so good. I will look into it for my grandchildren.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that it’s challenging to keep our prayer life as a conversion instead of a do listnfor God. And as long as we are struggling, I think we are making progress. It’s when we stop struggling that we’re in trouble.


  14. That Elizabeth Eliot quote is a hard hitter. But, it’s one hundred percent true.

    I’m featuring your post this week at the Sunday Sunshine Blog Hop, but I’m also copying down that quote for myself.



  15. Michele, praying for God’s will to be done (as opposed to my own) has been a life-changing practice over the years, but even now, it sometimes takes me a while to remember to do it. (My own will can be pretty strong, I guess.) I appreciate Elizabeth Elliot’s way with words so much …


  16. I forget to pray. I get so caught up in trying to fix things myself, I sadly forget to pray first. I am trying very hard to begin and end each day in prayer. And trying to word my prayer in general sort of way. I think God embraces our very specific requests but I tend to pray for comfort and strength rather than a cure for cancer.


    1. I find myself getting very caught up in the details of my little world while the global needs go flying by. I’m trying to be more selfless in my prayer life. Thanks for sharing about your own struggles and priorities!


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