How Does Prayer Really Work?

Prayer can be a confusing practice in the life of the Christian. Some mock it, claiming it is nothing more than deluded self-talk. Others have difficulty understanding why we need to ask God for things He already knows He will provide. For many, the seeming lack of answered prayer can cause us to doubt God’s goodness, or even his existence. This week, Vince and Jo discuss the nature of prayer and suggest some helpful ways to understand how God uses it to relate to us and to work in our lives.


Hi @Interested_in_Prayer, I think you would be especially interested in this podcast on prayer from Vince and Jo!


Oh thank you - I will look for it.


Thanks RZIM for this podcast!

I’d be curious to learn more from others on Connect -
A question I’ve recently wrestled with this summer is the role of praying for the salvation of non-believers. I’ve heard messages from RZIM and others urging us to pray for those that don’t know Jesus, some describing prayer as a “super-power.” It makes sense – it feels natural that when talking with God I’d pray for those I love that don’t know Him, that’d they’d know His grace and peace and salvation too. However, I’m a bit confused. Does their salvation somehow hinge on my prayers? And in the bigger picture, does everyone have the same, equal opportunity to know Christ?


These are really thoughtful questions, @wbowman. I can see where the discussion on prayer, especially the fun and useful metaphor of prayer as a kind of super power, would lead you to ask the first, and then that question might get you wondering about the second.

I think we can find a way to an answer in another metaphor of prayer, one used by Vince in this episode, which is asking our Father for what’s on your heart. The Lord Jesus used this metaphor as well (Matthew 7:11). As a part of that, we see that God gives good gifts (also in James 1:17). It hardly needs saying that saving anyone is very good and gives God glory (Ephesians 1:15-16). However, if He made the saving of anyone home on your prayers, that would not be a good gift to you. The weight of it would be disastrous for you. To see why, let’s say that you pray for the salvation of an unbelieving friend. If your friend is cut to the heart and repents, believing on the Lord Jesus, then, if it hinges on your prayers, you might have grounds to boast, because it wouldn’t have happened without you, and so become proud, ending up opposing and opposed by God (James 4:6). This would not be good for you! On the other hand, if your friend does continues in unbelief, what then? If their salvation hinges on your prayers, are you at fault (how could you even tell)? What do you do in that case? Pray harder (whatever that means)? We as people are just not up to the task, and eternal destinies are on the line. This is not a good situation for you! Much better that we ask our Father for this good gift and leave the huge responsibility with Him. He’s already claimed it anyways. (Ephesians 2:8-9, John 6:44)

As for your second question, I’m not sure what you would consider an equal chance for everyone to believe. However, I do know that when I consider this subject, my faith in the perfect justice of the Lord is very comforting. In the end, no matter what the path to get there we will all recognize that God was just in all His judgements (Revelation 19:1-2, Genesis 18:25).

There are, no doubt other right ways of approaching your questions. Perhaps others have a more in-depth answers to offer. Thank you for asking them! It was helpful to me to have to think through my response, as much needed practice in this. It also prompted me to re-read J. I. Packer’s “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God” which I can heartily recommend as a short work of very clear thinking that touches on many topics closely related to your questions here. I found it to be very approachable and useful (to say nothing of convicting in the area of zeal for evangelism).

I hope you found something in this helpful to you.

1 Like

Hi there,

Love motives us…because God first loved us while we were yet sinners.

Truly, abide in the Love of God, in Jesus…and continue to pray because you love others.

Salvation is of God! No one knows the mystery of how God works salvation in the life of an “unbeliever”. Such were we…Dead to God…and yet, He has given us life in Christ.

There was nothing in me that generated salvation…It was a gift …
His grace…start to finish…

We have confidence in Him alone…so, we continue to come to Him alone…seeking His mercy and grace for others.
The farmer has patience…
He tills the ground and sows the seed…
He waits for the appropriate rains from above…
God gives the increase…
When the time is right, the farmer harvests what God has given.

1 Like