I never thought of prayer as controversial until the last 10 to 15 years, when a transition began to be noticeable. When someone or a loved one was experiencing a serious crisis or illness, people used to say “Our prayers are with you” or “I’m praying for you.” As culture shifted in a decidedly more secular direction, the statement became “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” Today it not uncommon to find prayers dropped altogether and people say “Our thoughts are with you.”
I’ve wondered how long a thought lasts, as thoughts can range from deep to fleeting. Does a fleeting thought count in offering consolation?
Perhaps wondering what might have happened to prayer, R.C. Sproul asks a basic question: does it matter?
In “Does Prayer Change Things?,” Sproul takes a succinct but hard look at this endeavor called prayer. He doesn’t limit himself to explaining what prayer is, but instead expands his discussion rather alliteratively to six aspects: the place of prayer, its purpose, its pattern, the practice of prayer, the prohibition of prayer, and the power of prayer. Right up front he provides his overarching perspective: “Prayer to the Christian is what breath is to life, ye no duty is so neglected.” It’s a privilege and a duty, and “any duty can become laborious.” And prayer requires work.
Sproul uses the Lord’s Prayer as both a guide and a suggested pattern to follow, suggesting the familiar “ACTS” acronym (Adoration-confession-thanksgiving-supplication). It is a discourse or deep conversation with God, and over time, as one becomes more practiced in it, it becomes far mre about God and far less about self and the needs of self.
Sproul is the author of numerous books, articles, sermons, and speeches on Christianity, church history, theology, Calvinism, and related topics. He leads the teaching fellowship Ligonier Ministries, based in Sanford, Florida. “Does Prayer Change Things?,” originally published in 1998 and revised in 2009, is No. 3 in the Crucial Questions series, now including some 25 topics and free as eBooks.
“Does Prayer Change Things?” is simple and straightforward, designed for a general audience. It’s filled with insight and wisdom, and can be useful for both new and experienced Christians.