At times it may seem like what’s the point in praying? God has a plan and a will. Isn’t He going to do what He wants to do? Do my prayers matter? While this is exactly what Satan wants us to believe, it’s not true! Join us as we check out what the Bible says about prayer, biblical accounts where prayer did convince God to change His plan, why God doesn’t always answer our prayers, and how to pray. You and your prayers are important! God wants to hear from you!
“Prayer is possible because Jesus Christ has removed the barrier between us and God—a barrier caused by our sins. You see, sin separates us from God, and because of that we have no right to come before Him. But by His death on the cross, Christ paid the penalty for our sins and removed the barrier. God then gives us the privilege of coming into His presence when we commit our lives to Christ.” (Billy Graham, “Prayer 101: How do I Talk to God?“)
What Does the Bible Say About Prayer?
Malachi 3:6 tells us that God does not change (For I am the Lord, I do not change). God is perfection. While His character will not change, our prayers can change His mind! Why would the Creator of the universe bother with our requests? Because He loves us! (“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV) Out of His great love, He tells us throughout the Bible about the importance of prayer. God is your heavenly father and He wants to hear from you!
- God loves you so much that the Holy Spirit is praying on your behalf.
Romans 8:26 (NIV)
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
2. Always be in prayer!
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
3. Don’t hold anything back – tell God what’s on your mind!
Philippians 4:6 (NIV)
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
4. Your prayers have power!
James 5:16 (NIV)
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Biblical Examples of Prayer Changing God’s Mind
There are numerous examples throughout the Bible where God changed his mind and actions due to prayer:
In 2 Kings 20:1-11, the prophet Isaiah told Hezekiah, king of Judah, that he was going to die soon. Hezekiah, still in the prime of his life, was ill. Hezekiah was proud and both Judah and Jerusalem, as well as himself, were going to receive God’s wrath. However Hezekiah repented and continued to pray to God for healing. God forgives Hezekiah, heals him, and gives him 15 more years. If Hezekiah had not prayed, he would not have received that blessing!
“In Genesis 18:16-33 we see the patriarch standing before the Lord, actually praying for Sodom and Gomorrah and pleading that the Lord would reconsider His plan to destroy the evil cities. Abraham began by asking the Lord not to wipe out the cities if he found fifty righteous people there. God agreed, but fifty righteous people couldn’t be found. So Abraham prayed again. Going back and forth in conversation with God, he gradually worked the number down to just ten.
But there weren’t even ten righteous people in either of those dark, unhappy cities, and God did move in judgment against them. But Abraham learned that he could reason with God in prayer — and make a difference.” (Robert Morris, “Why Keep Praying? God Changes His Mind“)
“In Exodus 32:9-10, we read that God was on the knife edge of destroying the whole nation and starting over again with Moses. But Moses pleaded with God to turn aside from His intention of judgment and spare the people.
And what happened then? We read that
The Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people. — Exodus 32:14
Could that be right? The Lord, the God of the universe, relented from a course of action that He had planned? Yes, that’s what Scripture says. Another translation puts it even more starkly:
So the Lord changed His mind about the terrible disaster He had threatened to bring on His people. — NLT, emphasis mine.
But why? Why would He do that? Because Moses prayed.
One microscopic dust speck of a human being on one little dust speck of a planet in the vast universe called on the eternal Creator of all to change His mind about the destiny of a nation.
And that’s what God did.” (Robert Morris, “Why Keep Praying? God Changes His Mind“)
“We can see the same dynamic in the story of Jonah. After his wet-and-wild encounter with the great fish, the runaway prophet did some repenting of his own and set out for Nineveh to deliver the message God had given him:
Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown! — Jonah 3:4
Did it happen? Was Nineveh destroyed at that time?
No, it wasn’t. Not in forty days, and not in forty years. Nineveh remained as a city for possibly one hundred fifty years. Why? Because the people of Nineveh changed their minds about the way they had been living, and God changed His mind about destroying them.” (Robert Morris, “Why Keep Praying? God Changes His Mind“)
Why Isn’t God Answering My Prayers?
Ok so I am praying, and praying, and praying. Yet God has not answered my prayers! I don’t understand! Lysa TerKeurst wrote a great article on this topic:
“Have you ever cried over something so much that you run out of tears? Your swollen eyes just give out and dry up while a current of unrest still gushes through your soul. And you look up toward heaven in utter confusion — “Why isn’t God answering my prayers?”
And there’s someone else in the Bible who was right there as well.
She felt provoked and frustrated. Her anguish was so intense that she wept and would not eat. Before the Lord, she cried out in bitterness of soul, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant … then I will …” (1 Samuel 1:11b, NIV).
These words describe and articulate the deep distress of a woman from thousands of years ago, and yet here I sit in modern times relating so completely. They are from a woman named Hannah, found in 1 Samuel 1.
Hannah’s tears over her empty womb were made even more painful by her husband’s other wife, Peninnah. She had many sons and daughters and made sure to rub this fact in Hannah’s face every chance she got.
There’s a common thread that weaves through Hannah’s story, and yours and mine. We can all be found desperately wanting something we see the Lord giving to other women. We see Him blessing them in the very areas He’s withholding from us. We look at them and feel so hurt and unfairly set aside.
Why them? Why not me?
Then the seemingly unjust silence from God ushers us from a disturbed heart to a bitter soul. And we start to feel something that contradicts everything we hold true: If God is good, why isn’t He being good to me in this?
And in this moment of raw soul honesty, we’re forced to admit we feel a bit suspicious of God. We’ve done all we know to do. We’ve prayed all we know to pray. We’ve stood on countless promises with a brave face. And still nothing.
What do we do when our heart is struggling to make peace between God’s ability to change hard things and His apparent decision not to change them for us?
We do what Hannah did.
Instead of pulling away from God in suspicion, she pressed in ever closer, filling the space of her wait with prayer.
Oh, how I love her unflinching faith. Where barrenness and mistreatment by Peninnah could have caused Hannah to completely lose heart, she refused to be deterred from trusting in God. She possessed a faith that was not contingent upon her circumstances, but based on what she knew to be true about her good and faithful God. A faith that led her to pray with so much passion and boldness in the tabernacle that Eli, the high priest, accused her of being drunk (see 1 Samuel 1:12-18)!
And though eventually her cries of anguish gave way to the cries of her newborn son, 1 Samuel 1:20a uses very clear words to let us know Hannah’s answer didn’t come right away: “So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son … ” (emphasis added).
It took time. But make no mistake. God’s timing, though not the same as Hannah’s, was perfect timing.
And the timing of Samuel’s birth was imperative because Samuel was destined to play an integral role in the transition from the time of the judges to the eventual establishment of kingship for the Israelites.
God hadn’t made Hannah wait to punish her. He hadn’t been callous or indifferent to her cries. And He’s not ignoring those of us waiting either.
God loves us too much to answer our prayers at any other time than the right time.” (Lysa TerKeurst, “Why Isn’t God Answering My Prayers?“)
How Should I Pray?
The Bible also guides us on how to pray. In Matthew 6, God tell us to pray without an audience and just open your heart to Him. Big fancy words do not make the prayers more powerful. God already knows our needs – just talk to Him. Even Jesus’ disciples repeatedly asked for His help, and so should we. On one occasion they said, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).
Matthew 6:5-13 (NIV)
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one.[b]’
Resources to Check Out
Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Trustworthy; Overcoming Our Greatest Struggles To Trust God
God’s character is perfect and will not change. He is loving, wise, patient, compassionate, and so much more (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). However our prayers do have the power to change God’s mind. When you pray, just say what’s on your heart! Don’t worry about using fancy words – God just wants to hear from you. The more you pray, the more comfortable it will become. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the privilege of prayer—a privilege that is possible because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Thank God for the privilege of prayer and learn to speak to Him daily. Our personal relationship with God is the most important relationship in our lives. Nurture it, cherish it, protect it!