Prayer, or self deception?


Right up front I want to ask a pardon for the strength of the title (and the content).

Also, I want to express my reluctance, for multiple reasons, for posting this. One thing I fear when expressing my difficulties here in the forums is that I may come off as to convincing and hurt someone elses faith when in fact what I hoping for is to strengthen my own.

Having said that I’ll get to my point. What evidence do we have that, not only prayer works, but that prayer has any meaning at all? I do know that we are instructed in sacred scripture to pray. In fact Jesus “taught us” to pray by praying Himself the Our Father in the presence of the apostles. This tells me that prayer is desired by our Lord. However, frankly, I see no evidence of prayer (at least my prayer) working.

We are told God answers all prayer but sometimes the answer is no, or not now. Is this a copout? If I pray for the conversion of someone why would God elect to say no? Or not now? Maybe we can draw some conclusion to this question that we believe makes sense but it is difficult to draw a conclusion as to why, when I pray for many people to convert, God says no, or not now to all of them.

Never has a person I have prayed for, converted.
Never has a person I have prayed for, recovered from a serious illness.

We have examples, and many, of people who prayed for a loved one to overcome huge odds to recover from an illness, or disease and the person survived. My response to this is; but of course. If the odds are 1 million to one that someone will survive an advanced terminal form of cancer, and 1 million people suffer from the illness, 1 person (statistically speaking) will recover. This is not a miracle it is statistics.

Saint Monica prayed for years for the conversion of her son. Her son converted and became one of the greatest saints and theologeons in the history of the Church. How do we know Saint Monica’s prayer had anything to do with it? How many saints have prayed for thier childrens conversion and the child was not converted?

Simply put, it appears to me we have no (zero) evidence prayer works. This makes me wonder if we have it wrong. In other words, I can pray that a person (Joe) will survive his tour in Iraq. Does God hear my prayer and say, “Mike you have this all wrong, what becomes of Joe becomes of Joe, the laws of nature are in place and what rolls out rolls out”. Did God design the world in a way that what ever will be will be and our prayer is meaningless? Of course, believing in God I believe He can intervien if He choses (after all he created the world). But did He elect not to?

Some here may tell me they prayed for this or that unlikely event to occur, and it occured. But again, I have to site probability for this. How many other people prayed for the same thing and got different results?

Frankly, when I hear “pray for him/her”, or pray and God will help you discern this or that, I can’t help but feel very doubtful it has any meaning.


There is no need for an evidence. There are miracles, of course, there are plenty of people whose prayers were rewarded by God - but faith is about trusting God and accepting the fact that we cannot force him to grant us what we seek, that He is inscrutinizable, that His ways are not our ways and that all we can do is accept His will.
To me, the fact that Jesus taught us and instructed us how to pray (what, when - incessantly - and how) is enough. Prayer is for the salvation of our souls first and foremost, not for extracting something from God. It is not about “asking and being given” only, it is “being on speaking terms” with the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. To be able to pray is God’s gift, nobody would be able to pray if the Holy Spirit were not working in them.
Prayer is for itself, not for something you wish for.
Just accept that with humility and faith - these are the means towards Heaven, that’s what I have been taught to believe.


If you’ve prayed for someone to convert and they haven’t (yet), one possible explanation for that is free will - God may want them to convert, but he won’t force them against their will.

Second is that conversion can take time, especially for a stubborn person - remember St Monica praying for 20-some years for St Augustine before he converted? Have you prayed for anyone for that long? That’s real faith!

As for cures for illness - often suffering serves a purpose - it increases opportunities to grow in holiness, either in the sufferer or in those around them. So sometimes more can be gained by offering up or using the suffering than by an instant and miraculous cure.


I can appreciate this. However it is still troubling. It brings up the question how should one word ones prayer? I struggle with this often. (not to pick on Joe again but) If I pray for Joe’s conversion, should I say, “Please convert Joe’s heart and draw Joe closer to you Lord”, or should I say, “I hope for Joe’s conversion and for Joe to tuen his heart towards you Lord”?

This may sound silly, but when I pray for something such as this I struggle with the wording. If I say “please” I almost feel as thought I am testing God, or putting Him on the spot.


What becomes of Joe doesnt become of Joe. One could pray for Joe to survive. And that is good, but what if Joe wont and in the process something will come of it, that only could come if Joe dies. You may not know of what happened until you meet Jesus and He tells you later then you will go OH I understand, I see.

As the saying goes “we dont know the half of it” thats why every prayer is not met. Ever watch “Bruce Almighty” when Bruce was 'God" he did that and it caused chaos. (If you havent he basically said yes to all prayer requests) Its a movie but it showed the truth of answered prayer.

Is one truly praying “thy will” or how Id rather see it. Sometimes we dont know whats best because we simply dont know the other half.

We are children who have a Father who we can put our trust, who has given us promises and shown that He has never broken one. (Unlike our eartlhly parents) God is worthy of all our trust, if He says Hes all over it and in control, then we have to simply trust that it is taken care of.

Start with trust then work on the rest :slight_smile:


I don’t think you need to be scrupolous about how to word your prayer. Just pray with faith and trust and a good intent. God can see your heart, better than yourself. Pray, and leave the rest to God.


Through my journey I’ve seen many answered prayers and many unanswered prayers. Usually if I’m praying for myself, my prayers get answered (assuming I’m asking for good and holy things.)
When it comes to the conversion of others, my prayers seem to have had little success. You mentioned St. Monica. I believe she was praying for him for many years before he was receptive to God’s grace. Keeping this in mind, modern culture seeks instant results. Perhaps patience and perseverence is required when it comes to these mysteries. A person’s free will certainly comes into play. Even our Lord was unable to convince many to repent and live for the truth.

Ultimately, whether our prayers are specifically answered or heard is a matter of faith. Often, prayers can be answered in ways we do not ask. To some this seems like a cop-out; I respectfully disagree. God is not a vending machine of graces: If we push the right buttons, will get the candy bar we want. If God answered all prayers in this fashion, we would easily be tempted to use Him.

Finally, correct me if I’m wrong, but there seems to be a deeper issue here. I’m not suggesting this is a secondary problem; it just seems that you’re discouraged in the faith. I would encourage you to broaden your prayer intentions, write them down, and revisit them to see how many “answered” prayer you had. I think you would be surprised.

I encourage you not to let this question go until you have satisfaction. When you emerge through this, your faith will be deeper and stronger. Pray to God that He’ll give you answers concerning this issue. :wink:

I also want to offer you a free copy of my book. It’s about my supernatural conversion story from agnosticism, to Evangelical Protestantism, to Catholicism. If you would like a free copy, please send me a private message. I believe you’ll be encouraged.

God bless you!


Let me say a couple of things:

First, imagine a world in which all prayers were answered (for better or worse) and you knew it, somehow. Everyone, even skeptics would at least try and find out it works, they would then know that God really exists. Great right? A few things follow from that, not the least is the destruction of free will to believe in God. From my experience it seems that God took great care to make sure that we must develop faith, because faith is one of His qualities and must be exalted. reductio ad absurdum.

Secondly, I can say with confidence that im sure most of us here at some point have been frustrated and angry with prayers not being answered, or answered in the way we did not want them to end up. I think its better to be frustrated and actually feel something than to be like Job’s friends and just let it be.


God answers all prayers.

He has answered small requests like returning a lost cat to me, or finding some item in a second hand shop because I had little money to big things like saving me when I fell down a cellar with a 20foot drop or curing someone I love of a certain serious illness.

I too have prayed for the conversion of my brother for four years he hasn’t yet come back to the faith.

We have to believe and hope in God, He restores all things.

If we lose faith because we don’t see instant results then what kind of faith do we have?

A day is like a thousand years to God so if we pray everyday for 50 years or more for the same petition we have spent little time in prayer! This is why life should be prayer and we offer our life for God’s Will and for our petitions which mine are the Priesthood and Consecrated Religious, Vocations to the Priesthood, conversion of people to Jesus and Peace on Earth.

Jesus said to lay our lives down for others and in offering our daily life to God for others we do just that in all that happens in life all the work, all the sufferings, all the happiness, all the love etc etc. and then life is a prayer before God; a Living Prayer.

Keep praying and believe you have received what you asked and continue to have hope.

In my Living Prayer of life


I appreciate the many good answers, thank you.

Two conclusions appear to emerge (from my understanding) and they may somewhat help explain or qualify each other to some degree.

  1. We do not *expect, *and I use “expect” carefully and with reserved meaning, God to answer our prayers as we would logically assume He answer them. In other words I pray that my neighbors new big dog (fictional story) does not bite and severly hurt, mame or disfigure a child in the neighborhood. There is no apparent good that can come from some child being permenantly disfigured because some dog attacks them. But the child is attacked. We are to accept this as Gods will and continue to pray for things such as this not to happen.

  2. We are not to look for any evidences at all of Gods answering our prayers. By evidences I mean something measureable by our common methods of measuring. Such as the use of statistics or some other form of conclusive results.

If the two above conclusions are reasonable, it would appear the atheist has very solid ground to stand on when he may suggest that an alternative reason that the above two conclusions are reasonable is that in fact our prayers are nothing more but wishful thinking on our part.

Wouldn’t it appear, that our apparent disconnect from God’s will and our will ( the child being disfigured) so often (I’d suggest more often then not ) give the atheist statistical evidence for his argument? If I were to argue this way in a professional setting when attempting to make decisions, my decisions would be well recieved.

If prayer is only conversation with God and Gods will cannot be changed two questions emerge.

  1. Why would God desire us to have a one way conversation, asking things that appear for the good, with no chance what so ever of altering the turn of events?

  2. Shouldn’t we refrain from asking God anything at all and only pay worship and praise to God? What useful purpose is it of mine to pray in a requesting manner?

I feel almost the fool for requesting my friend who accidentally fell out of a bucket truck while hanging Christmas lights in front of a Saint Mary’s Catholic church and has been in a coma ever since (not a fictional story).


Certainly I’ll pray for your friend :crossrc: - that he (she?) may get better if it be God’s will, that God may take your friend lovingly to Himself, if that be His will. And that either way those affected by your friend’s injury may take what good God wants them to take out of it.

Who says events can’t be altered? Look at Moses pleading for the Israelites in the desert in the OT - saved them from being zapped by an angry God! Look at Mary in the NT - made the miracle of Cana happen. Elijah, Elisha and Jesus, and I think Peter as well, all raised people from the dead and did many healings and other miracles of course.

Maybe your prayers for your friend are even now helping to keep him alive, or strengthening his loved ones! Certainly nothing will change if you DON’T pray about things. Even if the only thing that changes is your own perception or reaction to what’s happening, that’s beneficial - maybe not to God, but to you! And that’s not one-sided conversation. That’s God speaking to your heart or the heart of the one you’re praying for, simply saying ‘be not afraid’ :yup:


I think Msgr Paul Glenn puts it aptly. This is an excerpt from his book entitled " Apologetics" published in 1931.

Q: “Well, if God is immutable,He is utterly changeless how can my prayers make any difference? If God’s decrees are all from eternity how can they be affected by prayers offered in time?”

A; God’s eternal decrees need not be affected. God has prepared from an eternity,an answer to EVERY prayer that can be possibly be made; and such answer is part of his eternal decrees. Of course the prayer must be offered, else the prepared answer cannot be given. Hence, the necessity of the prayer…

… Still, we need not go to Scripture for a proof of the point in question. Reason makes the matter clear. God, the all perferct Father of Men, has implanted in the hearts of His children a longing for his gifts and a tendency to ask for them; and this would be futile on the part of God if prayer could not be effectively offered: and God performs no futilities, for He is all wise. Thus our prayers DO make a difference, a great difference, and ALL THE DIFFERENCE. The ETERNAL answer is waiting in every petition - but the petition MUST be made. The boundless gifts of God await the offering of diligent prayer ---- and ONLY the diligent prayer must be offered. There is no prayer that a man can offer to God that God has not known (foreknown as we say in our time limited way), and for which He has failed to answer from an eternity. There is no more impious remark than “There is no use praying; everything is fated and fixed.”

Nihil obstat. *Rev. Weigand, Censor Deputatus
Imprimatur. *James Hartley, Bishop of Columbus

Hence, if you DO NOT make the prayer, there is NO ETERNAL answer that can be conceived.

Have a nice day, hope it helps, and God bless,

(I really love this book of Msgr. Glenn. He makes very clever machine gun arguments.)


faith is a response to God’s grace, and His grace is sufficient for us. God is our Father, so please don’t struggle with the wordings of your prayer. He knows you, knows your heart, hence there is no need to phrase it properly.

God answers our prayers according to His will. And he doesn’t always answer our prayers in big, explosive ways. He often does it in small things, that we may learn to trust Him in every aspect of our lives.

Another thing would be resting in the Lord. Sometimes we want something so much we kinda run ahead of God, and start doing things and setting things up in such a way that we lose sight of our original intentions and plans.

I have been praying for the conversion of my parents too. Nothing big seems to be happening, but over the years I have noticed small changes in their behaviour that has encouraged me somewhat.

I pray that you will continue to talk to your Father in heaven, because He loves to hear His children talk to him!!


**Don’t worry, you should not shake anyone that is firm in their belief. We probalby could have all written a similar thread at some point in our prayer life. I have faith in my prayers being answered, but the calming effect prayer has on me is one of my biggest joys. When I have prayed for my family I know I have done all I can do to help them. I have received much grace from prayer and I know it has helped me get throug tough times. **

**I will say a prayer that you begin to feel the strength and grace of your prayers. I have begun to make my requests more open. I pray that God’s will be done in matters of like and death. I pray that God opens someones’s heart to hear his Word. I pray for resolve in difficult issues. I think that has helped me to see God’s will. **


what’s the purpose of prayer? it is not primarily about petitions although that is one form of prayer. The purpose of prayer is first to praise God, to express our love, obedience, adoration and trust in Him. It is to conform the mind, heart, will and intellect to His. It is to thank Him for all his gifts, mercies and grace, and to acknowledge that all comes from Him, nothing comes from us. It is to express contrition for our sins and to beg his forgiveness. Only then is it about our petitions, for ourselves, and intercession for the needs of others. If the first primary expressions of prayer are missing the intercessory prayer avails little.

We do not judge prayer by how well it “works” for the simple reason that we are not in any position to “judge” God’s actions. That is extremely arrogant to question God’s plan, God’s timing. God does not act in response to our prayers. God acts according to His eternal divine plan, not in response to our non-negotiable demands. Our prayer is a response to God. He initiates, we respond, not the other way around.



Thank you. I needed this. I have been fighting to get my children back from their grandparents for about a year now, and this is after I accepted their offer to take them while I got my life stable. They don’t want the children to have any part of me. In June after tehy were allowing their son to move the kids out of the state I finally got a day in court where the judge ordered the children be brought back. There was mediation scheduled for July, then it got pushed back by my ex. My little girl started school on Monday. The first time I have missed any of their firsts. My son started on Tuesday (he is in a Pre-k class in the same school). I have been praying. I have prayed to saints, I have prayed to angels, I have prayed to Jesus, I have prayed to God. I have prayed and prayed more than I have ever prayed in my entire life. After my exhusband didn’t show up today and it got rescheduled for October I feel deflated. I am hurt and angery, and I just want to know what God wants me to do. I just spent the last hour writing in my journal asking why he is ignoring my requests. What I am doing wrong? What do I do next? I have no idea, but I do feel better about my prayers. I will keep praying, and I hope that my prayers get answered in the way that I think they should. Otherwise why would I be praying for it if I didn’t think it was best.

Okay enough rambling. Thanks…


St. Robert Bellarmine wrote a commentary on the Psalms during which he refers to this verse.


1] He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
who abides in the shadow of the Almighty,

St. Bellarmine goes into great detail on this verse. I am giving you his reflection on the word** dwells**.

"The next word dwells, means a great deal. It is a little word, but full of power and energy. Notice that what is said in not ‘he who trusts’ or he who confides,’ but he who dwells.’ This is to bring home to us that we are not to fly to the Divine protection as men do to a tree or a doorway when it rains, but rather as little boys are wont to rush to their fathers’ arms when anything frightens them. We see them playing with their companions in the streets, but no sooner does the least thing go wrong, than they are off home as fas as their small legs will carry them. it never occurs to them to doubt the security of home. They know that they have mother and father there who would gladly give their hearts’ blood to protect them.

But people who seek refuge from rain under a tree, have a good look round first, and it is only when no better shelter offers that they run willy-nilly to the tree.

**Why is it that some men implore the Divine assistance without receiving it and seem to put their trust in God without being protected by Him?

****The reason is that they do not really dwell in the aid of the Most High, nor take shelter under the Providence of God as in their Father’s house. **

The rather make sporadic dashes to it in time of trouble, as they do to a tree when there is a sudden shower. It is therefore very necessary for us, dear brethren, to get into the way of always and instinctively turning to God. We must try by constant exercise of holy confidence to build for ourselves a house where we may abide safely when the dark hours come. And we must carry our trusty house about with us wherever we go, just as we see the snails do. They wander here and there and everywhere and yet they are always a home."

I will conclude with some more scripture for your meditations.


29] The LORD is far from the wicked,
but he hears the** prayer** of the righteous.


17] The** prayer** of the humble pierces the clouds,


16] The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.


His ways are not our ways and His thoughts not our thoughts. His thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are above the earth.

IE. He has a divine plan orchestrated for our salvation.

Imagine for a moment that St. Augustine converted in the five minutes following his saintly mother’s first prayer for his conversion. Would his life story have been as compelling? His story has likely brought many to the faith.

Likewise, Fr. Corapi’s dear mother prayed for years for him. Had he converted immediately as a young man, we would not have the Fr. Corapi we all know and love today. Maybe he would have become a priest anyway. His story would not be nearly as compelling.

The same goes for the long line of Protestant Scholars who pray for knowledge and wisdom in seeking the truth but don’t become Catholic for years. During their non-Catholic years some of them are even anti-Catholic. Oh, the stories they tell once they come “home to Rome”.

Sometimes (indeed most of the time) we don’t know the outcome of our prayers. We can be certain that God is pleased with our prayerful efforts and that He has our best interests (eternal salvation) and those of the people for whom we pray at heart. My muslim brother has quite a few people praying for him. When God finally does touch his soul to bring him back, he will be a strong witness to muslims.

Don’t worry. God loves the person for whom you are praying infinitely more than you do.


May God bless you and keep you.

When a child asks for something, but does not get it immediately, has the request not been heard?

To the child, surely, denial of immediate gratification of needs is a hard teaching.

We, as children of God, ask for many things of Him. Some of these are good for us. Some of these are not. God grants what He grants, but always for our good, as parents fulfill requests or do not fulfill requests with an eye toward what is truly good for their children.

This is why I believe Christ taught us to pray “Thy will be done”, rather than “Please give me this.”

God knows our needs better than we do, and without our voicing them. Prayer is not efficacious simply because we sometimes get what we ask for. It is efficacious because it helps us build a relationship with God, and helps us practice the charity which was Christ’s greatest commandment.


Mijoy2, I understand where you’re coming from. Have you always felt this way about prayer or is this something new? Does it matter if you pray for little things or for big? ( I mean this with regard to you, because of course nothing is too big for God.)

If it is a new thing you’re going through I have to tell you that the experience of not having prayers answered is something that I’ve gone through for a time. It got to the point where I felt, like you expressed, that it was better just to praise God and not to ask for anything because it wouldn’t be given. Now I can truly say that it was a period of training.

That period was preceded by a time where it seemed like all I had to do was want something (I didn’t even have to formally request it in prayer) and it came to pass.

Then suddenly, things changed and there was drought - sometimes driving me to the point of despair. Still in those times encouragement would come in the form of “little” requests granted. What was at once a gift and a source of frustration for me in that “dry” time was that intense prayer would be met with an infusion of strength to bear all trials. The frustration came from my wanting the trials to end rather than my being made strong to endure them. I believe now that the point was to teach me the attitude of “Thy will be done” in all things.

Maybe nobody can fully address the way you’re feeling right now because I truly believe that just as we are each unique, so are our spiritual journeys.

Maybe we are not meant to understand everything in this life but we are meant for relationship with Him. So keep on talking to Him; don’t give up.

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