How does prayer work

“Ask and you shall receive”
“If you have faith as a mustard seed you can speak to the mountain to move and it will”
“You have not because you ask not”
These are a few examples of verses that lead us to believe God answers prayer. If the prayer is not for self serving purposes, but rather that God would receive Glory.
I was married for 42 years, my husband developed a heart condition that eventually took his life. We prayed fervently for his healing, that he would have more years to serve God and that the healing would bring glory to God. His death has not shaken my faith, but it has changed me.
Each time I’m faced with praying for someone who wants healing, I’m stuck. I can’t bring myself to pray for healing. Instead I find ways around it; I ask God to give them rest, strength, peace in the midst of the battle. Or that during this time God would speak and they would hear His voice and draw them closer to Him. Here’s one of my many questions:
What exactly is God’s word saying when it implies we can ask and receive. And where do we find this understanding in the Word? To a non believer it would appear this is a bait and switch technique. Bait: Asking God is simple and He always answers. Switch: ooops sorry, He doesn’t always answer the way we want.


@Ter. Your question is perhaps one that many if not all of us have asked or may ask. I know it is one that I have asked. How to pray and receive the results I have prayed for?

When I was faced with the diagnosis of cancer, in prayer I petition the Lord for the deliverance that I knew was a small matter for Him. I had been faithful. I had walked with the Lord from childhood. I knew, just knew I was the type of person GOD could get much glory from my healing. But the healing did not come as I had prayed.

I prayed feverishly but to no avail. It was even suggested by well-meaning people that my faith would be the catalyst if only I could believe. Other church members boldly demanded to know what I had done to deserve such judgment. Desperation was thick in my throat. I knew unbelief nor sin was my issue.

Doing this time I saw in a dream the cancer. Evil and devouring it search frantically for a way to reach me. But a clear wall stood between me and it. I begin to taut the creature, it could not reach me. But my behavior incensed it. I was assured that if I continued it would be a matter of timing before it would find a way to me. As the day of surgery approached I began to grieve. The operation may help but it would take away my ability to have children. I was young, single, and childless.

That was some time ago. Time will not permit me to tell you of the anger and torment I went through. Anger briefly stopped my prayers. But when my prayer resumed the Lord promised me I would learn of Him in a way I had never known Him before. That is a promise the Lord did keep and continues to keep.

I don’t often say it aloud because people want to decide what that means for me. What it indicates about my relationship with the Lord. But someone said this past May while describing me, that I had faced many different types of illness. I was somewhat startled to realize it was true. I have a long laundry list of which heart conditions are a part. But the discoveries the Lord has brought to my life simply take my breath away.

When I pray for others, regardless of the need; I no longer tell GOD what to fix or how to fix things. I don’t pray giving GOD directions, I have no way of knowing what is best for myself nor anyone else. But I know I can trust GOD. Whether the prayer is answered per my desire or not. Whatever the answer, it will be GOD’s best for me

That is certainly something I want for others as well. So I pray for their strength and for their understanding to be enriched. When it is appropriate, when I sense it is what GOD desires, I pray specifically as I am urged to do. GOD always answers and GOD’s answer is always the best. We can trust that.

The scriptures you reference are scriptures often taken in bits and pieces. That will happen when scripture is viewed out of context. Luke 11:2-13, Luke 17:5-10, and James 4:3, 13-15. And in our times these scriptures are often used like hip-hop references to the Will of GOD. They often become the display of ego or spiritual prowess. I know many who pray this way. It becomes about them. About what they can make happen because of their authority as co-heirs with CHRIST. But in my experience the asking is about the desire of our hearts, that’s not a bad thing, but often it is not the best thing if for no other reason then it can circumvent the Will of GOD for each of us.

There were times that JESUS spoke to a demon, an affliction, or wine at a wedding. But none of those prayers were about privilege, ego, desire, or prowess. I understand when He prayed from the agony and desire of His heart and flesh, as He did in the Garden of Gethsemane; that prayer concludes with the Will of GOD being done.

As I sought for words to share I was reminded of Psalms 103. GOD is aware of our fragility. But It was James 4:15 that seem to speak so clearly on your question.

" For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that." Also, Romans 8 is rich with instruction. Specifically verses 16-28 kjv.

Ultimately prayer is communication. And like any acquired understanding in any loving relationship, we commune with one another seeking the best possible answer for the best possible outcome. That practice makes for great human relationships. When communing with the Lord we have the added dimension of hindsight and foresight. Our communing is with the maker of all Universes. Do I trust His ability over my own?


Good morning C,

I so appreciate your thoughtful response. I feel the heartbreak and wrestling in your soul. Hearing it stirs me to become as a union agitator, compelled to add your plight along with mine before our unreasonable taskmaster. As I write these words they sound so dramatic and juvenile, I know. None the less, this is where my head goes.

I’m encouraged that you’ve found peace and purpose through the pain. Your story is the same response with a different twist that I’ve been getting for the last 16 months of questioning. So why do I keep trying to find a different answer? Why do I keep prolonging the wrestling match inside my soul. I can easily find comfort and sense while reading your story but as soon as I get about my daily routine, My thoughts again converge on the “why”.

I love your words, “I no longer tell GOD what to fix or how to fix things. I don’t pray giving GOD directions”. As I read them I was suddenly reminded of the words to a Natalie Grant song:

I tried to fit you in the walls inside my mind
I try to keep you safely in between the lines
I try to put you in the box that I’ve designed
I try to pull you down so we are eye to eye

When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you’re the one who holds it all
When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world.

I forget the incomprehensible distance between my thoughts and His. I forget the moment I take my eyes off Him, the moment I’m no longer focusing on His Word, His truth, His promises.

It seems I do know the answers to my whys but would rather be an obstinate child and continue to stomp my foot and demand the response I want. I didn’t realize it until I just wrote it - I think this is a conversation I need to have with Jesus.

I again thank you for your kindness to reach out to me. Please know your words are great encouragement.

Be blessed,

Teri Ramsdell


@Ter. Thank you for your response it was heart-lifting. Your obstinance is understood by the Lord. GOD is so patient and so true. When you are ready He will be there. Better than we can understand, the Lord is intimate with the pain and anger. Be well, be blessed. He sees you. You are seen and you are deeply loved.

1 Like