Families and friends pray for those struggling in the grip of despair and addiction. But people still struggle. People are still lost.
So what does it mean? Is it that God doesn't listen? Doesn't he tell us to ask for what we need? Isn't he a good Father who will take better care of us than our protective earthly fathers? Then what the heck is going on? Isn't prayer about asking for what we need? If I don't have my prayer answered, am I not asking right? Not faithful enough? Do I have some sin that has made God deaf to my prayers? (My grandmother gave me that fear years ago.)
I really don't like those questions. It seems like it is a trap. If I answer one way, I have no faith. If I answer another, I am a fool.
Still, I don't think prayer has a soda machine mechanism-slide in a buck twenty five, push a button, and out tumbles your bottle. I might be wrong. People have told me that before. Not that I believed them...
When I consider prayer, I think of aligning myself with God. It isn't so much about what I want as it is about who he is-me remembering, me learning to submit to his will & to align my desires with his (not the other way around).
As I pray for those in the path of a storm, certainly I pray for that storm to lessen or disappear, just as Jesus calmed the storm at sea. When I pray for those in desperate struggle, I pray for their peace. More than any other command throughout the Bible we hear, "Don't be afraid." Easy for God to say, right? But when I am willing to surrender my will & desires to his, it isn't as difficult. Why? Because I know him.
I look to the Bible for some help on prayer because I am certainly no expert and my pastor always tells me he doesn't know so I should just look things up anyway.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus taught his students to pray by reminding them who God was and what God was about BEFORE they asked for needs or forgiveness. When the believers prayed in Acts, they didn't pray for an earthquake and a filling of the Holy Spirit. They prayed gratefully for all God has done and what he was doing BEFORE they asked for boldness. Just reminding myself of all that God can do, has done, and promises to do yet...well, that goes a long way in answering any of my prayers. God will answer in a better way than I could ask. Really, if the believers had just asked for God to kick the butt of the chief priests, and he did, the believers would have missed out on the gift of the Holy Spirit.
I am probably not a very good pray-er. I pray in amazement. I pray out of gratitude. I pray to wrestle for my friends. I pray because I miss him if we are out of touch for too long. And for me, that conscious contact, that's what prayer is good for.