Help for Life Challenges

Will my prayer change the outcome? A simple realization that might soothe your heart and deepen your prayers

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I don’t have perfect answers to all my questions about prayer. But I’ve found a way to worry about them far less—and have far more meaningful prayers.
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I’ve asked myself a lot of questions about prayer over the years. Some of the biggest ones are:

  • Does praying actually matter?  
  • Won’t God’s will ultimately override my prayers anyway?  
  • Will my prayers change anything?  

Admittedly, I don’t have perfect answers to all those questions. But I’ve found a way to worry about them far less—and have far more meaningful prayers. And I’m going to let you in on how.

The Key to Moving Past Questions and Having Meaningful Prayers

First, we need to read the incredible Bible Dictionary definition of prayer:

“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part. Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.”

Many of my so-called difficult questions about prayer dissolve when I remember my true relationship with God. To understand this dynamic better, I find it helpful to think about my relationship with my mom.

Whenever things get especially demanding at work or school, I always appreciate calling my mom to vent. She is good at listening and validating.

While she does sometimes offer advice or suggestions, I’m always grateful for her willingness to be a sounding board. Knowing that she’s aware of my struggles and thinks I’m capable of solving these problems is the reason I call.

This impulse to call her is driven by a desire to feel seen and heard. I want that same instinct with prayer.

I often overthink the purpose of prayer, wondering how to make my prayers effective while trying to balance what I want and God’s will for me. However, when I think of the purpose of prayer as a way to connect with a loving parent who is concerned for my well-being and the well-being of those I love, I worry less by thinking more about the power of simply communicating with Him.

In President Jeffrey R. Holland’s most recent general conference talk, he said, “Brothers and sisters, I testify that God hears every prayer we offer.”

Heavenly Father is not just a good listener but the best listener. Oftentimes, when I approach God, I forget I don’t want a helicopter heavenly parent controlling my life. What I really want is the feeling that He believes in me and trusts me and the assurance that He sees the bigger picture.

But I also believe prayer is not only about being heard—there is also power in asking.

Will My Prayers Change Anything?

One of the hardest parts of prayer is acknowledging that God’s will must be done. But that doesn’t mean our prayers don’t do anything! President Holland said, “[God] responds to each [prayer] according to the path He has outlined for our perfection.”

I usually assume bringing my life into harmony with His will means I will not get what I ask for in my prayers. That is not always the case, however.

Sometimes His will is a prayed-for miracle occurring. President Russell M. Nelson even asked us to “seek and expect miracles.”

The Bible Dictionary teaches, “The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.”

In my life, I’ve noticed some of the blessings that are conditional upon my asking are feelings of strength, peace, comfort, and reassurance. God wants to give us these blessings, and He will if we put forth the effort to ask. In fact, the Bible Dictionary calls prayer “a form of work.”

For me, whenever there is talk of “effort” or ”work” needed to bring about a blessing or an outcome, I often have a feeling of panic that I need to do or be more. These insecurities might manifest themselves in thoughts such as, I wasn’t righteous enough, I need to fast longer or more frequently, or I can’t pray now and ask for help because I forgot to pray this morning.

But remember, President Nelson said, “The Lord loves effort” not “The Lord demands perfection.”

When we turn to Heavenly Father in prayer because He is our Father, we can find the connection that will ultimately help us trust Him more. When we ask for blessings He is already willing to grant, we can receive courage, peace, or comfort—which, for me, feels like a miracle.

► You may also like: This important line from general conference might help you worry less about your adult children

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