The Efficacy of Prayer

by Olufunmilayo

Recently I had a short crisis of faith – more like wandering. It all started when I read one of the assigned readings I had from a class on Managerial Decisions Making. In the class, I had learned about motivated reasoning – how people tend to be biased based on strongly held beliefs and make decisions based on those beliefs even though those beliefs might not be true. A reference was made to an article with regards to prayer – “Statistical Inquiries to the Efficacy of Prayer”. The paper argued that while billions of people believed in prayer, it was not efficacious. Before stumbling on the article, I had never really considered a statistical approach to looking into prayer. And it got me wondering if there was any evidence to refute the claim that prayer did not work.

I became introspective and thought about all the prayers I prayed most especially when I was young for my parents, and never came to pass. During our daily morning devotions, I remember we would pray that my mother would become a “perm sec”. As a civil servant, being a “perm sec” was the climax of civil service based on her trajectory and we prayed and confessed that she would become one for over 10 years. At the time she retired, she was just a level or two away. But at best, that prayer was not answered. I also thought about sick people who we had prayed for but still died anyway. More so, I thought about the incessant prayers and prophecies that had been pronounced over Nigeria without any significant changes over time.

In my mischievousness, I even suggested to a friend that we should introduce a new index for Nigerian pastors and prophets. The index would be something called something like “Prophecy Accuracy Index”- on a scale of 1-10. We will review messages and video clips from past prayers and prophecies they had made for over 20 years and see how many of those prophecies of prayers came to pass and then assign a number for each pastor. However, time would not have allowed me to perform such a ridiculous experiment.

Yet still, my mind was bothered about if prayers work and if prayer on its own discounted for hard work and other externalities could provide results. A part of my mind knows that prayer works because I’ve prayed at other times and I know my prayers were answered with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is another part of my mind that still wants to prove statistically that prayer is more efficacious than I could ever think if appropriately administered to situations.

For now, I’ll live by the simple scripture that says, “the just shall live by faith”. And hope that one day, someone does the work of confirming what I think is true in my gut.


2 Replies to “The Efficacy of Prayer

  1. Mindless of the kind of prayer we pray, it is God that answers. We pray (or let me say ask; for prayer is more than asking) along the lines of what we feel, see, Know or think. This God however, does not see like we do. He sees the motive, the past, the present, relate it to the future, considers it locally, places it in perspective relative to the globe, and generation, then He gives the best answer.

    If my toddler is asking for food, because I see the past (what he ate in the morning) the present (the weather is cold at the moment) and the future (what I have planned for dinner)….with all these and more considerations, I will give him the best food for now. It may be or may not be what he is asking for. But he will be satisfied, because he is just and he is living by faith in ‘mum will not let me go hungry’.

    God sees the past, the present, the future at the same time. He sees the locality, the globe (whole world), and the unborn generation at the same time. He sees the intent, and the functionality of the request. Above all, He has His plans. With all these factors, He gives answers to prayers. So the just should keep living by faith.

    Most importantly, prayer is beyond asking, prayer is fellowship. So with fellowship, our requests will be drawn towards His Will naturally, hence, we will have less unanswered prayers. Less not no, for even Jesus had an unnaswered question ‘Eli Eli lamasabh tani’?


    1. Wow, thanks so much for your response, very insightful. But a question comes to my mind with regards to your toddler, if you will only give him what you think he needs which may not necessarily be what he wants – why then should he bother to ask you; since you might do what you please anyway?

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