How prayers work

Best results can be achieved only when prayers to God are accompanied by sincere efforts

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

—The Holy Bible [Matthew 7:7-8]

My interpretation

Man prayingThis citation from The Holy Bible is one of the most quoted ones. It’s also one of my favourites.

The popular interpretation of this citation is that if we pray, our prayers are answered. When we ask God to grant us our wishes, He grants them. Or when we ask God to solve our problems, He solves them. They believe that once they pray, nothing else needs to be done.

My view on this is slightly different. I think that the citation, in proper context, implies that God is asking us to take action. A nice little joke may help elucidate my point: An old man is praying in a temple alone one day, and finally calls out to God, “Lord, I’m a pious man, I have served others honestly all my life, so why must I be poor and destitute?” God appears before him and declares that he will be the next winner of the million dollar lottery. “Thank You my Lord,” cries the old man happily. Months pass, but the old man does not win any lottery. Finally alone back in the temple, he calls out to God once again, “What happened? Did I misunderstand you, Lord? Didn’t you say I’d be the next winner of the lottery?” God appeared again and said, “Do me a favour my son…please buy a lottery ticket!”

Asking, seeking and knocking are necessary but not sufficient. When we ask God to help us, we must also be “prepared” to be helped. We cannot expect prayers to work if we are unwilling to do our part of the job. All prayers are answered. But many people mistake this as a prescription for inactivity.

For our prayers to be answered, we ought to do what it takes. For instance, if you are in need of a job, and ask the Lord to help you find one but do nothing about it yourself, what will happen? It is highly unlikely that God will make employers to come looking for you, even though it may be in His power to do so. You will have to actively look for the right job and only then will your prayers be answered.

There is a popular belief in most religions that “God helps those who help themselves”. The above citation from Bible, seen in this context, is a potent instrument of having your desires fulfilled.

So the next time you pray for something, make sure you’re doing what is expected of you. Then God will do what is expected of Him.

Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri has spent the last two decades learning, teaching and writing about wellbeing and mindful living. He has contributed over 1500 articles for several newspapers and magazines including The Times of India, The Economic Times, The Statesman, Mid-Day, Bombay Times, Femina, and more. He is a counseling therapist and the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed best-selling book on self-transformation. An award-winning editor, Manoj runs Complete Wellbeing and believes that "peace begins with me".


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