When You Begin to Ask “Does Prayer Work?”

Margaret —  June 27, 2014 — 50 Comments

Let me introduce you to my friend, Carol. Carol Kent's love for the Lord and her passion for equipping, encouraging, and empowering people to live for things that matter shines through. Her readers are irresistibly drawn to see God’s astonishing “grace places” in the middle of their roadblocks. A sought-after speaker and teacher, Carol is the author of many books including her latest, Unquenchable. Carol and her husband live in Tampa, Florida. I had the privledge of meeting Carol at an Extraordinary Women event this spring.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I've invited friends to share their words in this space as we explore the mysteries of prayer during the Summer Bible Study.

Does prayer work?

by Carol Kent

As a teenager I wanted to live for something that would outlast my life.

I remember saying, “God, I’ll do anything for you.” After I graduated from college and got married, I began a home Bible study. A couple of years later I was directing women’s ministries in a large church, followed by an opportunity to teach a city-wide Bible Study Fellowship class.

But in the middle of saying, “Yes” to a speaking ministry, I was stopped in my tracks when my only child, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was arrested for a serious crime.

Suddenly, I felt like my once vibrant faith was turning into an ash heap as I wrestled with God over why he would allow something so devastating to happen.

I had prayed for my son since he was in my womb. I covered him with prayer as he grew. I tucked him in and prayed aloud over him, asking God to use him in a powerful, transformational way for his glory. But he made a devastating choice and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Didn’t God hear my prayers over the years?

How about you?

Do you sometimes wrestle with disappointment with God, deep discouragement, or diminished trust in God’s faithfulness when he appears he is not answering your prayers? Each one of us has our own trigger points for what wears us down to the point of feeling like the fire of our faith is going out. For some, it might be great personal loss or a series of losses; for others, it might be the burnout of working hard in business or ministry without visible results or much-needed breaks. Sometimes it’s dealing with debilitating health issues, or even handling the “daily” part of life. We don’t intentionally let our faith turn into a small flicker; we simply and slowly quit talking to God.

Here are 7 Steps to Connect with God:

1. Identify the current state of your faith.

Is it an early spark, just beginning to flicker? A raging bonfire? Smoldering coals? Does your love for God burn so brightly that others are drawn to the radiance and warmed by its heat?

2. Embrace the power of embers.

I used to think of embers as the sad remains of a dying fire. However, embers are the glowing, hot coals that remain after a fire. If you’ve experienced a personal firestorm that threatened to quench your faith, ask the Holy Spirit to blow on the embers of your faith as you hang your weakness on his strength.

3. Document what God has done.

Every time I get discouraged, I’ve started listing what God has done in the past and it reminds me that even if my current challenging circumstances don’t change, he’ll walk with me through the heat of the crisis.

4. Remember your first spark of faith.

I came to know Jesus when I was five years old. Remembering that day reinforces my desire to stay close to him.

5. Tend the fire of your faith.

I’m learning that prayer is much more than me talking to God. I write out verses and listen to his voice. Right now, a verse I’m memorizing is Rom. 12:11-12: “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times…” I have a friend who challenged me to plan DAWG Days (Day-Alone-With-God Days). She encouraged me to plan ahead for a full day, or even a half-day when I could go to a quiet place (a park, a library, or any place where I wouldn’t be interrupted) with my Bible, a devotional book, and a journal. I read God’s Word and then wrote out what I believed he was saying to me.

6. Pierce the darkness.

Matt. 5:14 says, “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.” Begin doing one tangible act of kindness for someone else every day. (Examples: offer to babysit for a single mom so she can have a break; visit an inmate in a jail or prison; take a meal to a friend who is recovering from surgery (or send a gift card); or pray with someone who needs encouragement (over the phone, via a text message, or through an email).

7. Develop unquenchable faith.

Wildfire faith springs from God’s Word and burns itself into your own story. As you ask him to give you a passion for living for things that matter, act on what you know to be true about God. Review his attributes and his names aloud and worship him.

Does prayer work?

Yes, but I’m learning that God often answers my prayers in a different way than I expected.

Carol Kent

Instead of getting what I prayed for—that my son would receive an eventual end-of-sentence date, God is freeing him to be a missionary on the inside of a maximum security prison—teaching, mentoring and using his leadership skills to positively impact other inmates by introducing them to a faith that endures.

When firestorms come, keep open communication with God and be assured that when the fire of adversity meets the God of the Flame—He wins…and so do you!

[Tweet "When the fire of adversity meets the God of the Flame—He wins…and so do you!"]

unquenchable-book-coverThis week, we're giving away THREE copies of Unquenchable: Grow a Wildfire Faith that Will Endure Anything by Carol Kent.

We all have a choice to make. Go through life lukewarm and half-hearted. Or, begin a burning, lifelong passion for Christ.

How much do you want a faith that endures?

Throughout history God has chosen fire to represent his awesome power, his judgment and wrath, his protection, and his Shekinah glory: the flaming sword guarding Eden, the burning bush, the pillar of fire, the fiery furnace, the chariot of fire, the burning coal, the flame upon the altar, the lake of fire, and the flaming eyes of the Son of Man upon the throne---these are only a few of the images he has seared into our minds that we might know him more fully.

God is the source of that first flicker that sparked your faith and one day you will stand in his holy presence, look into the flaming eyes of Jesus, and see his burning love for you face to face. But between that first flicker and that heavenly meeting, there is life to be lived on this earth. The challenge we all face is that life can dim our fire or even quench it, whether by the soggy mist of the mundane, or the quenching downpour of crisis.

Author and speaker Carol Kent will take you into God’s word, and into your own story, to reveal the true power of the fire God has placed in you, to fan the flames of your faith, stir your passion, and embolden you to spark wildfires that will spread to forever change the landscape of this world beyond your wildest imagination. God’s fire is in your life. Fan the flames. Burn brightly. Start a wildfire!

(RSS Subscribers, click here to view video clip.)

To win, click here to leave a comment on the original blog post at MargaretFeinberg.com. The three winners will be selected and announced on Friday.

Congratulations to the winners: Judy Wesson, Gina McIver, LaDonna English

What practices do you use to connect with God in your daily life?

50 responses to When You Begin to Ask “Does Prayer Work?”

  1. I also love to read Scripture and other books and journal verses, quotes and my thoughts as I read. I also will choose a worship song to be my “soundtrack” for the day; as I go about my daily activities, it helps me to fix my eyes on Jesus through song. I find myself returning to the song throughout the day as a reflex.

  2. I have a daily morning quiet time when I read my Bible and pray. I love to sit outdoors in my garden before my neighbors awaken. The quiet stillness is something I enjoy. I can listen to the chirping of the birds and the smell of blooming flowers. I praise God for the beauty of His creation.

    I would love to read Carol Kent’s new book.

  3. Margaret, Thank you for bringing this book to my attention. Hope you are doing better!

  4. Sounds like a book that would really benefit me right now!

  5. What an incredible testimony! Carol, thanks for teaching us!

  6. Personally, I’ve become convinced over the years that prayer doesn’t “work.” Consider, if God is good, then He has in store is good. That sentence could perhaps be read many times over. A prayer, at least a prayer of petition, to change His will, His plans, His outcomes, the future, is a request for something other, thus something less, than that. A prayer of petition, by its very nature, is an expression of a lack of trust in this. A prayer of petition to change God is faithless; a prayer to petition to change self would be more fitting. But make to the assertion that God is good. There doesn’t really seem need to make any prayer accept a prayer of thanksgiving. Yes, Scripture is full of prayers of petition. Yes, these are stories of humans. And yes, they’re on their way to trusting God too, like all of us.

    Having angst around whether or not prayer works may not be helpful. God is not a gumball machine or magical genie. He is not a wish-granting god to entertain himself through granting a tinny happiness fulfilling our insecurities and whims. Orthodox Christian theological is that He is Holy.

    One can google countless secular Internet sources on how “God does not answer prayer.” Perhaps they are right to reject childish theology and trustless faith. No wonder they don’t want that kind of God or see that kind of God as valid.

    Perhaps we shouldn’t either.

    Perhaps we should transition prayer life from being self-centered to being Christo-centric. Perhaps we should believe that Jesus is the first fruits making all things new in a beautiful creation that groans in anticipation of all things being made new. Perhaps we should see our neediness in that context.

    Otherwise, I personally think the atheists are right about lamentable conceptions of God and prayer with that God.

  7. Christiane Cost June 27, 2014 at 9:57 am

    I want to see my husband and I both rely on God to build within us unquenchable faith!

  8. Anita abarshaw June 27, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Carl Kent’s books have been such an encouragement. I would love to have this new one!

  9. Thank you. I like the visual of the fire; spark, smoldering coals, flaming bonfire. I desire for my smoldering coals to become a flaming bonfire.

  10. As a child, I was abused by a neighbor over a period of time – he was a law enforcement officer – someone I thought I could trust. It has been very hard for me to “trust” God with relationships. I have developed a very deep trust over the years to the point that I can now visualize myself actually resting in Him. In that visualization, I am sitting on His lap, enfolded in His arms, releasing all my cares to Him. What a triumph that is for an abuse survivor. I have learned to trust, rest, and give it all up to His leading.

  11. Reading this article was a divine appointment for me. I was feeling very “let down” by God and starting to give in to depression. These words breathed life into a withering soul and I believe the embers, once smoldering, will begin to burn brightly once again. Thank you for being so real and honest…

  12. Through Bible study, I’ve come to learn of God’s attributes. I’ve written them on small cards and placed the cards in a box, adding each time I learn or experience Him in these ways: forgiving, gracious, loving, jealous, wrathful, shepherd, creator…I take a card out each morning as I get ready for the day and think of the word and connect it to what I’ve read in the Bible. It keeps my mind on Him and encourages my faith.

  13. I have heard Carol speak and followed the ordeal with her son. She is an inspiration and I’m sure her book would also be.

  14. Anything happening to our children, especially something as devastating as life in prison, can totally annihilate the parent. Like the whole world came to a crumbling end. I definitely would have a very, very hard time with that. Or something worse. Prayers need to be said for her son that one day he can be freed. We definitely need God during those times to get us through it. And not to give satan a chance to destroy us with it.
    It is wonderful that God is using her son to reach others so they can be saved. Thankfully, this life is not our real life. If her son is not freed in this life he certainly will be in the next.

  15. You can’t begin to imagine how desperately I need to read this today. Getting ready to stoke the smoldering embers of my prayer life, knowing He will set it ablaze yet again. Thanks so very much for this devotion TODAY!

  16. “Unquenchable,” who wouldn’t want it? Where do I go to find such water, Lord? I want it!

  17. WOW…what an encouraging story to us all! I want that unquenchable faith! God is so faithful to use this situation in a mighty way! Definitely a must read! Thank you so much for sharing….pray you are experiencing JOY in your day.

  18. Julie Reynolds June 27, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    I first heard Carol Kent at a Women of Faith Leadership Forum in Fort Lauderdale Florida. I was awestruck at the faith of this woman and the way she handled the trials that she had experienced. I have since read everything I could get my hands on of hers and used her Bible study in my women’s ministry. I would love to have a copy of this book.

  19. This looks great!

  20. I heard Carol speak in Haliburton, Ontario. I am associated with the pregnancy centre.
    I would love to win a copy of her book.
    I run a group blog called Under the Cover of Prayer where we discover more about our communication with God.

  21. Timothy Calderwood June 27, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    I like the DAWG Days (Day-Alone-With-God Days) suggestion. I am reminded of Psalm 46:10 (NKJV): “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” [He will be exalted in us, too!]
    I read recently where someone recommended that we just take the time to more fully absorb what we are already familiar with. That makes sense to me. Thus, I can understand what David wrote in Psalm 27:4-5 – “One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.” Amen!

  22. I love Carol Kent’s heart for Jesus. I read her book “When I Lay My Isaac Down” during a very difficult time in my life & ministry. I would love to read her new book & share it with my youth girls.

  23. This sounds like an awesome book and just what I need at this time in my life. I haven’t read anything by Carol before so I’m looking forward to it. Thank you for the giveaway.

  24. mongupp (@mongupp) June 27, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    I am doing a bible study on Thessalonians right now. I also love to connect with the Lord by listening to Christian music. It is so encouraging and uplifting.

  25. What a testimony. Thank you. Blessed.

  26. God bless you as you faithfully serve our King. I have heard Carol speak and love her books. She has such a powerful testimony and I have shared it with many. I am excited about her new book!! Can not wait to read it!!!

    The King of Love my Shepherd is, whose goodness faileth never; I nothing lack if I am His, and He is mine forever. ~Sir Henry William Baker

  27. I own several of Carol Kent’s books and have found them not only helpful but so personal. Thank you so much for sharing this post by her. I find so many of your blog posts to be just what I need–when I need it! thanks, Margaret!

  28. The idea of scheduling “DAWG” Days, appeals to me as I can deliberately find the time to be alone with God. Writing my thoughts and prayers to Him as well as inhaling the wonderful words from the Bible will open my heart to His direction. He will speak to me as I pore over the Word and find His Spirit leading me into His wayst. God has been faithful to me and I need to record His actions on my behalf. What insightful words to help me grown more into a person reflecting His glory.

  29. I love Carol Kent. The first time I heard her speak was on speaking with confidence and living with confidence in Christ…very inspirational. The next time I heard her speak was shortly after her
    devastating storm when her son was imprisoned. I read her book, “When I Lay My Isaac Down.” She gives very practical teaching to God’s Word. I’m anxious now to read her new book. Thank you, Margaret, for the offer.

  30. Margaret, thank you for the Friday guests! I love this feature. I have heard Carol Kent speak at least twice and am moved by her teaching. I love the thinking points she gives and will take them to a quiet time for meditation and journaling.

    @ Brian P – I think that prayer is one way that we enter into communion with our Lord. It is good to think about prayer, our motives and our hopes and God’s will. When we know who God is, sovereign, omnipotent, eternal, holy, omniscient and more, we might begin to shift our focus from our desires to who we are in Christ. I think that I have wrestled with my motivations over the years, but one thing that I do know – God wants to hear from us. He already knows our hearts, but when we call on Him, He is pleased.

  31. I would love to receive this book. I was just feeling like my prayer life and connection to God had diminished to a flicker and I was journaling about how I wanted my faith to burn and become deeper. Then I read this email. This is a book I need. Thanks for tour words and honesty.

  32. Melinda Lancaster June 28, 2014 at 12:37 am

    I’ve found that having a “prodigal” has tried my faith in ways I never imagined. I’m still on a heap of ashes. This statement encouraged me I used to think of embers as the sad remains of a dying fire. However, embers are the glowing, hot coals that remain after a fire. If you’ve experienced a personal firestorm that threatened to quench your faith, ask the Holy Spirit to blow on the embers of your faith as you hang your weakness on his strength.”

    Seems like a prayer worth praying.

  33. I am intrigued with the story of her son because she truly had to wrestle with God in prayer. That speaks volumes!!

  34. I am so thankful that Carol has gone public with her story. It has helped me so much as I go through a similar story with a son in jail. Oh the heartaches, but oh the joys of God drawing close and pulling me toward Him!

  35. I’m still struggling with my prayer time. I am struggling with the idea that my prayers are fruitless. I read the Bible daily and I can thank Him for the things I see around me. However, when it comes to asking for those things on my prayer list that have been there for years, I shy away and get distracted. I’m working on trying to come back to talking with God by reciting Psalms. This study is giving me lots of ideas but putting them into practice is a real challenge right now.

  36. Thank you for your transparent testimony of the struggles you went through regarding prayers for your son. I have also been waiting, and often disappointed in seemingly unanswered prayers for our wayward son. He is soon to be 19 years old and has been living in such a way that disgraces God and everything we taught him while growing up. He lives with his girlfriend and has distanced himself from us to the point of only texting about once/mo. It is heartbreaking, yet I have felt the embers of my soul stirred into a flame once again this morning after reading this article. I would love to read your book!

  37. What a moving and powerful story of God’s redemption. Thanks for sharing this, it touched my heart deeply this morning.

  38. Jo Beth Loftis June 28, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Thank you for sharing these excellent reminders from Carol’s new book. I am in a season of learning (again) to accept the fact that God often answers our prayers in a very different way from what we have in mind, and also learning to fan the flames of my faith which has been tested through fires of adversity for the past 10 years. Your writings have also been a blessing to me, and I am grateful for your perspectives and willingness to share your journey with other women needing the encouragement of your pen.

  39. I love Carol Kent & her books always inspiring me to press forward in the Christian life! I have heard her speak many times & I grow each time! Looking forward to this book!

  40. I had the privilege of hearing Carol speak at the National WOF Conference in Las Vegas where I purchased “When I Lay My Issac Down”.
    Sadly, I loaned that back to someone and never got it back. Now, my 23 year old son is sitting in jail (since February).

    I would love to win a copy of Carol’s new book or even a dog eared copy of her first one. <3

    Be blessed and be a blessing,
    Joe's Mom

  41. Several years ago I had heard Carol Kent speak at a women’s conference at Springhill Camps in Michigan. Her testimony blew me away then and still does – I hadn’t heard it in awhile. I have never read one of her books and would love to win a copy.

  42. I find it incredibly uplifting that Carole has remained strong in faith and continues to trust in the Lord and she and her husband are still standing by their son.

  43. Dear Margaret,
    Thank you so much for asking the question, “Does prayer work?” It is one of those questions we think we cannot ask, but yet in our hearts, in the middle of the night, we beg God for the answer. When I read the book, “When I lay my Isaac Down” by Carol Kent, I had no idea that one day I too would have a son commit a serious crime and be sentenced to federal prison. I had also prayed for my son. He has a low IQ, and I have prayed especially that God would protect him and give him His wisdom. My faith has been tested in this crisis. I have to depend on what I know, and I know that God is good all the time. I want to come out of this crisis with an unquenchable faith. I can’t wait to read Carol’s new book. I know it will encourage me in this struggle. Thank you.

  44. I like to sit with my Bible, devotions and such in early morning. I used to do evenings but I would use the too tired excuse. What a great way to start day. Carol Kent book looks great

  45. Thank you for these amazing words, Carol! Your story is both devastating and so hopeful at the same time. Love your perspective and your faith. Look forward to reading your book!

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