Prayer can be an incredibly divisive thing! Every so often the news breaks of somebody having been suspended from their job for having the cheek to offer to pray for a colleague or customer. I offer to pray for people all the time and spend a lot of time in prayer myself, but I’m a vicar. It sort of goes with the job!
Sometimes I get into a debate with people about prayer and whether it works or has any purpose. It is a conundrum for example that at this time of the year there will be those praying for hot, sunny weather because holidays are coming or because of their events. But what about those prayers that are being offered by farmers and gardeners for rain! Who wins? Which prayer is God going to answer? It can root you to the spot. “If I pray for this, someone else is going to be praying the opposite, so what’s the point?”
You also have the big question about whether everything we do is preordained by God anyway. To believe that everything we do and everything that happens has already been mapped out by God means that prayer is pointless because it will happen anyway! Fundamental to the concept of prayer is the belief that it changes something. Otherwise what would be the point? Prayer is communication. For a Christian prayer is communicating with God himself. Other brands of prayer are of course available. But if we are offering prayer to the Christian God then I do believe that something changes, even if it is only in me. Just in that moment of focus on God something is released in me and I am made a little bit more like him. I became a Christian when a prayer was answered. I was in a fix and prayed a prayer of desperation that if he was real he would help me.
Within twenty four hours problems had been solved and I was awestruck. I knew I had to find out more about God and only then started going to church. He hasn’t always answered my prayers so spectacularly but I have experienced enough to know that prayer works! It can never be proved. There will always be the sceptics. That is why we need faith! God will be God though. He knows what is best for us and will answer prayers appropriately. No is also an answer. It is why prayers need to be able to allow him to act. Praying to win the Lottery probably won’t work, but praying to have enough money to live and be given the help to survive and do what he wants us to do probably will.