Does Prayer Really Change Anything?

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Have you ever wondered if prayer really does work when all is said and done? If so, you're not alone.

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16b (NLT)

Our coffee mugs sit empty, but we still cup them in our hands as if the warm porcelain between our fingers might anchor our wobbling souls.

The clock pushes hard toward the school day’s end, and we know we’ll soon be collecting kids in the carpool line. But for now, we linger in the coffee shop, two women sharing the mess of life over a table dotted with crumbs.

My throat swells with a lump of tears, and I can’t think of anything to say. Words feel like a paltry bandage for the open wound my friend has revealed.

Her marriage is flailing, and her hope is, too.

Drizzles of despair roll down her cheeks, and my stomach churns with empathy. I know of the soul aches that throb loud at night and the pangs of disappointment that hover somewhere just beneath the heart in the waking hours.

I want to fix those lifeless eyes, but mere words can’t rebuild the shards of a shattered union. So with a whisper, I offer the one thing that has saved my marriage a dozen times from landing in the give-up-and-walk-away grave — “Could we pray?”

My friend fiddles with the ring on her finger, then divulges her doubt: “Do you really think it will change anything?”

The weight of her honesty steals my breath.

And suddenly a poignant memory flashes into my mind and pushes me through the years …

I’m 9 years old again, curled up in a ball of trembling misery, with no words to explain my pain. I just know I feel broken inside because of that girl who teases me on the playground.

“I don’t want to go to school anymore,” I tell my mom who’s perched on the edge of my bed.

She nods in understanding but doesn’t endorse my plan to flee. Instead, she murmurs, “Let’s pray for her.”

I lift my head off the soggy pillow. “Do you really think prayer will change anything?”

I wait for my mom to assure me that prayer will, indeed, transform my foe into a friend. But she just wraps her arms around me and sits long in the silence. Finally, she exhales a jagged sigh and says, “Honey, I can’t guarantee that prayer will change her heart, but I know it will change ours …”

The whirr of the espresso machine echoes off the walls, and my friend shuffles in her seat, her question dangling between us.

I glance at her wedding ring and answer with a sliver of truth I learned as a 9-year-old. “Prayer always changes something …”

Prayer may not always work in the way we expect, but prayer does work.

Our key verse promises, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16b).

Prayer’s no magic wand, but when we humbly place the cries of our hearts into the hands of our mighty God, something wonderful happens.

Prayer may not instantly fix our quandaries, but it will invariably affix us to our King.

My friend reaches across the table and twines her slender fingers through mine. “Will you say the words?” she asks. “I don’t have any left.”

Closing my eyes to hide the burning tears, I begin: “Dear Jesus, we don’t know what to do with this mess, but we know You are in it with us …”

I’m not sure what to say, but I trust God hears the cry of my heart. And as we bow our heads over those empty coffee cups, we become more aware of the One who can fill the depths of our need with the riches of His grace.

And slowly, silently, hope swells.

Dear Lord, give me faith to pray even when I don’t have words to say. Help me see past the pain and look to You for ultimate hope and guidance. Lord, we know You are in the business of bringing dead things back to life, even marriages that barely have a pulse. Help me trust that You alone can change the God-sized problems in our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:

Romans 8:26b, “… We do not know how to pray or what we should pray for, but the Holy Spirit prays to God for us with sounds that cannot be put into words.” (NLV)

Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am with them.” (NLV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:

What situation in your life feels hopeless? Bring it to God in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to speak on your behalf.

Meditate on the promise in Matthew 18:20 this week and arrange a time to meet and pray with a friend or two.

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