Why does prayer work?

Are you confidant that prayer works? Are you confident that your prayers can make a difference in the lives of other people? The Bible contains many examples of prayer, but Genesis 20 actually gives us insight into why prayer works. 

Genesis 20 tells us about Abraham’s sojourn in Gerar. What does this passage tell us about God’s control over the actions of man? Notice God’s statements in verse 6.

Gen. 20:1 ¶ Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the land of the Negev, and settled between Kadesh and Shur; then he sojourned in Gerar.

Gen. 20:2 Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.

Gen. 20:3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married.”

Gen. 20:4 Now Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, “Lord, will You slay a nation, even though blameless?

Gen. 20:5 “Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.”

Gen. 20:6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.

Gen. 20:7 “Now therefore, restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”

Map of IsraelGod stated very clearly that He prevented Abimelech from touching Sarah. In other words, in this instance God intervened and did not allow Abimelech to exercise his free will. It does not say that God always prevented Abimelech from exercising free will, but in this instance He did.

What does this mean for us? If God prevented Abimelech from exercising  his free will, can He prevent us from exercising our free will? Can He intervene in our lives and prevent us from sinning? Yes, He can. This does not mean He always prevents us from exercising our free will, but He can do it if and when He wants to.

This explains why prayer works. God is able to answer any prayer and achieve any outcome because He is able and willing to intervene in human life and cause or prevent any human action.

This should influence the way we pray. If God is able and willing to prevent people from sinning, would it make sense to ask God to prevent us and our family and friends from sinning?  Would it make sense to ask God to prevent us from exercising our free will in certain situations? Would it make sense to ask God to intervene in our lives and the lives of our family and friends and force us to make good and wise choices? The next time you see someone sinning or about to commit a sin, consider asking God to intervene in their life and prevent them from exercising their free will so that they can’t commit that sin.


Further Reading

How much can we push God?

Do you really believe God can do anything?


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“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”