Antonius, I've thought about this a lot, and the only conclusion I can come to is that our prayers actually do something in the spirit realm/dimension/whatever -- something beyond just begging God to do X. Sometimes prayers "work" and sometimes they don't seem to. I could reconcile myself with the idea that prayer isn't mere asking; it's rather, communication with our Father. However, if I tell myself this, I feel I'm not telling the whole truth, because even the word "prayer" basically means that one is making some request.
I read about a study some scientists did regarding prayer, and I wish I remembered where to find it, because I'm sure I'm not remembering it perfectly. The results seemed to indicate that prayers in which the pray-er personally prayed, in the presence of the pray-ee, and (I believe) touched the pray-ee, tended to elicit a statistically significant increase in recovery, whereas pray-ers, of whom the pray-ee was not aware, didn't seem to make much difference. If the pray-ee WAS aware that thousands of people were praying for him, then recover WAS enhanced.
Not that I'm basing my doctrine on one study, dimly remembered, but there are a lot of things in the bible, particularly things Jesus said, that seem to me to indicate that prayer isn't just something we ask for and God does. The asking seems to be an important factor, and it seems to be important that the asking is done correctly. Such as when Jesus said, "If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Be removed and be cast into the sea," and it will be done as you say."
Jesus usually laid hands on the people He was praying for. There must have been a reason for that. I don't know whether this was a typically Jewish way of praying for the sick, but I do know that according to the scriptures, His ministry was met with shocked amazement, and with jealousy on the part of the religious leaders of the time. Maybe laying hands on was common (I don't know), but the positive results were a surprise.
I read an interesting article in one of my nursing journals once about the importance of touching our patients (appropriately and with permission of course). Patients who were touched recovered more quickly and had more favorable results from treatments. Patients who were touched and prayed for had an even better outcome. (Again, permission must be willingly granted.) I was caring for a patient who had brainstem damage and could not breath on his own. The doctors said he would have to use a respiration machine for the rest of his life. He was a young father and I felt so bad for him. At the end of my shift, I asked him if he'd like me to pray for him and he indicated "yes," so I touched his arm and prayed a short prayer out loud, then said goodbye. I was off for four days. When I came back, he was gone. I figured he must have died. How's that for faith?
As it turns out, he had started breathing on his own, so the doctor started weaning him off the respirator that morning after I went home (I worked nights). By the time I came back to work, he was in a regular medical room downstairs, awaiting his discharge.
Now a person could make all sorts of excuses for this and maybe they'd be right. The doctors were wrong. I misunderstood the doctors. It was just one of those things.
Could be. But it happened just as I've told you here, and I think it was a legitimate divine healing. Would God have just, on His own, healed him if I hadn't done that? I don't think so, really. Maybe someone else would have prayed for him in that way, and he'd have been healed. I guess it's like, if I don't fix my husband breakfast, nobody else is going to do it, including God. He'll do it for himself of course, but this guy, he couldn't do it for himself. He needed somebody else to do that, and I did it. If I hadn't done it, well, it probably wouldn't have been done. That's not because God is a monster. It's just that some things, WE have to do, because it's our job.
More often than not, when I pray for a person, they don't get healed. Sometimes they do. I think I probably just don't practice enough, because I'm afraid it won't work -- like a kid who doesn't want to go ice skating because he often falls down. If I did it more, then honestly, I think I'd get better at accessing that power that I believe God wants us to access. He won't do it for us. Maybe He can't do it for us -- just as your dad couldn't ride your bicycle for you. All he could do was coach you until you figured it out. This is our planet to rule -- maybe our universe even, to rule. We have to learn to ride that bicycle. Not even God can ride it for us perhaps, because it's OUR bicycle, and WE have to ride it.
I think that we have to agree that a thing will be done, and that for us, it isn't all that easy. We have this grip on what we believe to be "reality," but our "reality" may not even exist in the context of eternity. It MAY be no more than a thought. If we can let go the iron grip of our physical senses and the ruts in which our thought patterns constantly flow, we might be able to jump the tracks (so to speak) and in fact see that mountain move.
In any case, if you're not into all this quantum stuff, a lot of what I've said may not make much sense. (sorry
) I do believe that the matter of prayer and answers to prayer is a two-way thing. Jesus gave us the teaching to follow, though it's been very difficult for us to do that. We need to learn. It isn't that God does or doesn't answer prayers so much, I think, as that we have a part to play and that our prayers actually DO something (or are intended to do something) other than merely to beg for supernatural intervention. We are the conduit, and we are clogged up for some reason. Probably our doubts -- and not getting X done isn't a punishment for doubt -- it's a symptom of doubt. It might not matter that much, btw, what your brain believes. It may be more important what YOU DO, and how persistent you are at trying to push through. We've got to keep trying to learn to ride that bike, or we'll never learn it. If we don't learn it, then that's not a lack in God's goodness, but in our faith to persevere.
These are merely my musings, and inadequate I fear. But maybe someone else will jump in here and unjumble this for me.
Welcome to the forum, btw, and thanks for an excellent discussion point.