Does prayer change anything?
Does anything change when we pray?
A friend was facing some big exams and was very nervous about them so she asked me to pray for her. She did well in the exams and got high grades. I said we could thank God for answering our prayer, but she shrugged and said that it was because she was clever and she’d worked hard.
A young Mum I knew was diagnosed with a rampant form of cancer. All her Christian friends fasted and prayed for her. She died.
Does prayer make a difference? Or does God just do his own thing anyway? Why should we bother to pray? Is it worth it? Does it change anything?
When Jesus was facing his agonising death after the travesty of his trial he prayed, ‘Father, take this cup from me’ (Mark 14:36). At one level he really didn’t want to go through with it and was asking his Father to rescue him. Did his prayer change anything? God didn’t rescue him…Why? Because It was God’s will for him to die.
Sometimes it seems as though God doesn’t answer our prayers, or even gives us the opposite of what we asked for. But when we think about Jesus it helps us to get the bigger picture. Jesus chose to go through that terrible suffering and death because he knew at the bottom of his heart that it was all part of God’s cosmic plan to save the world. This was his part in the plan and he knew that his death was not the end of the story. He knew for certain that God’s plan would succeed, that he would rise from the dead (he’d already told his disciples that, Mk9:9, 31; 10:34), and that through all that suffering, he would come out the winner – and not just for himself, but for the whole world.
We each have a place in God’s plan too. We’re part of his Big Story. Just a small part. God’s plan for you is to be at your college/6th form. There are things he wants you to do there for him, and people to be your friends. He loves the people in your college/6th form and he wants you to show his love to them, because he wants them to know him. When you pray for the people around you, you are getting into the flow of what God wants for them. Maybe he will start to show you how he is working in their lives, and invite you to be a part of it.
Perhaps you won’t see anything change. Maybe things will get a lot worse before they get better. They did for Jesus. But we don’t give up because he didn’t give up. Every time we pray something happens in the heavenly world. We get into the flow of what God is doing.
We haven’t reached the end of the story yet. The end is going to be good!
Cathy has been working in mission with students all her adult life, in the UK and overseas. Two really big things in her life are her grandchildren and her honeybees.