Why Prayer Works, and its True Purpose
By: Vanessa Bonilla
Take a moment and the think of the person you are closest to in this world. What classifies that person as the closest? Is it because they know you best or because you know them best? I would guess that it’s a healthy mix of the two.
An essential piece of any healthy relationship is honest, open, and ongoing communication. We want to feel seen, heard, and loved. We want a sense of belonging. We long to know and to be known.
Our most important relationship is the one we have with the Lord. Just like with our earthly relationships we can’t have a flourishing, life-giving relationship without communication. This is what the Bible calls prayer.
When we first begin to approach God, we don’t know Him well so we don’t know how to talk to Him. If we don’t pursue knowing God we end up only talking to Him when we have a request to make of Him. If this is the extent of our communication, we begin to believe that prayer doesn’t work.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:3
James helps us understand this a bit more. What is a wrong prayer? Wrong prayer is not the words we use but our motivation. We get to know the Lord through His word and through the Holy Spirit. If we are not engaging with Scripture we will most likely go to the Lord seeking to gratify self-centered passions which are inconsistent with his revealed will.
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7
Jesus shows us two conditions for answered prayers: abiding in Him and His words abiding in us. When we spend time in the word of God our prayers will be shaped by what we read.
That said, let’s not skip too quickly over the abiding part. Miriam Webster defines abide as: to bear patiently, endure without yielding, to wait for, and to accept without objection. It is in this space that we see the true purpose and value of prayer: learning to abide. It is in this space that we learn to trust. Trust leads us to see every outcome as an answered prayer because we trust our life to the One who truly knows us, knows our future and is tirelessly invested in meeting our deepest needs.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
Here Paul reminds us that the Lord is close to us. He cares for us.
Prayer is the antidote to worry, to our anxiety, to our loneliness, to our broken hearts, and to our pain. So we pray, because we know He is close, we know through His Word that He cares, that He loves us, that He longs for a deep relationship with us.
Prayer works not because we get everything that we ask for, but because we are felt, seen, heard, and loved by the Most High.
- During your quiet time write down attributes of God from the portions of Scripture you’re reading through, which encourages you to abide in Him.
- When you pray speak openly! He already knows you more than you know yourself so sharing with him teaches US to be transparent and more willing to abide.
- When you don’t know what to pray for start with thanking Him; “thank you Lord for running water and a healthy body.” This will remind you how mindful God is of you and how many needs of yours He’s already met and continues to meet.
Vanessa lives with her husband, Eli, in Brooklyn, NY where she homeschools their five children. Vanessa is also the Children’s Director at her church. She loves fire pits, friends, and spending time with her family.