(From my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.)
I pray because prayer works. If I thought prayer didn’t work, I would not waste my time praying.
Prayer works by actually praying, a lot. To pray is to be in relationship with God. Deep interpersonal relationships communicate, a lot.
Praying “works.” What does this mean? As I see it:
Praying brings me into relationship with God, experientially. I meet with God, in prayer.
I experience and sense the presence of God, with me. This is important because experience, not theory, breeds conviction.
I engage and co-partner with God in his redemptive mission.
I experience God’s guiding hand, and can empirically corroborate this. I have multiple accounts of this written in 3500+ pages of journals over the past forty years. I have read countless stories of God's guidance from among the 4000 students and pastors I have taught.
I have seen things happen and change as a result of praying. I have hundreds of journal pages attesting to this. I can make a case for the causal efficacy of praying as co-laboring with God.
A life of praying recalibrates, daily, my heart to the heart of God.
A life of praying has changed me. For the better, I believe. Note: for the Christian theist “better” is understood in terms of the “best” that is Jesus.
A life of praying renders me less anxious, less fearful, and less lonely. Again, this is a palpable, existential, living reality.
Praying changes things and changes me. I experience brokenness within and see breakthrough without. Therefore, I pray.
The 4th-century theologian John Chrysostom, in a moment of joyful realization and remembering, wrote on the efficacy of praying:
The potency of prayer hath subdued the strength of fire;
it hath bridled the rage of lions,
hushed anarchy to rest,
appeased the elements,
burst the chains of death,
expanded the gates of heaven,
rescued cities from destruction,
stayed the sun in its course,
and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt.
Prayer is an all-efficient panoply,
a treasure undiminished,
a mine which is never exhausted,
a sky unobscured by clouds,
a heaven unruffled by the storm.
It is the root, the fountain,
the mother of a thousand blessings.
(From The Divine Liturgy of St John Chysostom)
I pray because praying works.