Prayer and the Lessons We Can Learn


prayer“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”—James 5:16(NIV).

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” This quote from Mother Teresa led me to reflect on my own prayer life.

I’ve been struggling for months, actually over a year, with an unanswered prayer. When I say struggling, I don’t mean wrestling with God’s lack of response to my pleas. I’ve heard that still, small voice saying, “Be patient. Wait on me.”

The Holy Spirit’s reply to my prayer is an answer, not just the answer I would like at this time. Waiting on God has reinforced three things I already knew: First, I am learning to be more patient. Second, He is teaching me to trust Him more. Third, God knows best what I need.

Putting Our Faith in His Hands

In Mark 9, a man whose son is demon-possessed approaches Jesus. The father wasn’t fully convinced of Jesus’ power to deliver his son, but he asks anyway. In verse 24, the father says, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

At least the father was being honest. How honest are we when we approach God in prayer? Do we really believe He’ll respond to our requests or do we just “hope” He might have pity on us and respond with a resounding “Yes?”

In a article, author Lori Hatcher writes, “This passage (Mark 9) debunks two of the greatest misconceptions about prayer—that if we have enough faith, God will answer our prayers, and if we don’t, He won’t. Scripture doesn’t support the idea that great faith produces great miracles and small faith prevents them. Instead, God tells us to ask in faith, believing that He can and will answer our prayers in the way He knows is best. Even frightened, tiny, mustard-seed faith like this father had can and does move the hand of God.”

What’s the Bottom Line?

Says Hatcher, “The bottom line is not how much faith we have that matters, but who we have faith in.”

If our faith is in God, then no matter the answer to our prayer, we know He has our best interests at heart. That’s one I struggle with, too. I want to convince God sometimes that what I’ve asked for in prayer is best for me or for a loved one.

Why, when I prayed every morning over several years, did a loved one die from cancer? Why didn’t God heal him or her? Was my faith in God’s ability to heal in question? Should I have asked God “to help my unbelief?”

God, Please Help My Confusion

I’m often confused by Bible passages promising an answer to our prayers. For example, in Mark 11:24, the author writes, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Contrast that passage with 1 John 5:14-15: “And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.”

My question is: Why didn’t God heal those I interceded for faithfully each morning? Did I not have enough faith?  Why were my prayers unanswered?

God’s Not a Genie in a Magic Lamp

I know God answers prayer. He has answered many of mine, both immediately and after years of praying. He’s also answered the prayers of friends. But there are some petitions left unanswered. Can we expect God to respond as if He were a genie in a magic lamp?

There’s no magic involved. We’re all sinners in need of grace. That amazing grace we sometimes take for granted.

Whether our prayers go answered or not, we need to believe in the goodness of our sovereign God. He is the One who works out His purposes for each and every one of His children.

I always love hearing from my readers. Please feel free to e-mail me at with your thoughts, or visit my blog for more inspiration at If you need a speaker or workshop leader, you can contact me at the above e-mail or through my website. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

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