This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name . . . (Matthew 6:9).
Ever prayed for a parking place? I have.
Ever made fun of people who pray for a parking place? I have.
Praying for a parking place isn’t wrong, but there are some problems with that kind of praying. It’s a genie-in-the-bottle kind of praying. We rub the lamp with our ‘prayer’ and get our wish. It is, in a word, immature.
But our mockery of that kind of praying is equally problematic. With our dismissive laughter we are saying that we don’t believe God actually cares about little things like parking places. And we are also saying that should a parking place open up for us it had no connection with the prayer we prayed. But let’s forget about parking places for now. What we’re really talking about is our confidence in prayer.
Does God care about what I care about?
And furthermore, does talking to God about it really make a difference?
In other words, does prayer do anything?
The Key to Our Confidence
A story is told about George Muller (1805-1898), who was making a journey by sea from England to Quebec. The ship encountered a very dense fog. Muller informed the Captain that he had to be in Quebec by Saturday. The Captain informed Muller that they would never be able to reach their destination by that time. At this, Muller invited the Captain to join him in praying about their predicament.
After Muller had prayed the Captain was about to speak a prayer when Muller stopped him. He placed his hand on the Captain’s shoulder and told him not to pray. “Firstly,” he said, “because you do not believe God will . . . and secondly, I believe God has and there is no need whatever for you to pray about it.”
When they stepped out of the cabin the fog was gone.
I’m impressed with Muller’s praying, but I suspect I most often resemble the Captain – willing to pray but lacking confidence that it will matter. When Jesus told us to pray “Our Father in heaven” he was not simply giving us words. He was giving us confidence. That opening phrase holds the key to our confidence in prayer.
God Cares, and God Can
When we say “our Father” we are saying God cares. God our Father knows what we need and looks upon every need with tender compassion. Nothing escapes the notice of our heavenly Father. What concerns us concerns our Father. Knowing that God truly cares gives us confidence.
And when we say “in heaven” we are saying that God can. God is not bound as we are bound. Our limitations do not apply to our heavenly Father. As the Psalmist said, “whatever the Lord pleases he does, in heaven and on earth” (Psalm 135:6).
“Our Father in heaven.” God cares and God can. If we don’t believe that, why pray at all? The very act of prayer assumes confidence in the presence and power and compassion of God. And that confidence isn’t something we conjure up. Jesus gives it to us by giving us words to pray: “Our Father in heaven.”
How’s your confidence today? Where do you need confidence as you pray this morning? Linger a while with the opening phrase of the Lord’s Prayer and live this day knowing that God cares, and God can.
O God, by the power of your Spirit, give us confidence in our praying and then let that confidence follow us through this day. Remind us moment by moment of these truths: You are our Father, and you truly care about our lives. And you are in the heavens, able to do what we cannot do. We will rest in you, prayerfully, confidently, expectantly. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
 From Glenn Clark, I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes, cited in Reuben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, 293.
One thought on “Does Prayer Make a Difference?”
Oh Mark,this is so insightful. Thank you for sharing.
I will read,pray, and reread this.
Best to you and Marnie.