I Don’t Believe in the Power of Prayer

But I do believe in the power of God


Have you noticed that America seems divided today? In Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes, author Mark Penn argues that America should be viewed as collections of sociological dots rather than a single, broad brushstroke of common thought. One would be hard pressed to find one issue that unites us—except possibly prayer. Several national surveys indicate that more than 90 percent of Americans pray daily and believe at least some of their petitions have been answered.

God Help Us

Prayer spans race and religion and encompasses all age groups and social strata. At no time is this more evident than in days of national tragedy. Prayer, for example, was our point of connection in the days after 9/11. When the events of that horrible day unfolded, I, along with everyone else, started to pray. The people of my church gathered for prayer that evening, as did other congregations across America. A few days later, I stood on the lawn of our county courthouse and prayed with a much larger group of people from all over our city. Throughout our country, similar events were held at ball parks, community centers and courthouses and even televised from the National Cathedral.

In a Washington Post article, James Moore, assistant secretary of Commerce under President Ronald Reagan, told of what happened in Washington’s Union Station on June 6, 1944—“DDay.” Charles Wilson, the CEO of General Electric, arrived at the station just as news of the invasion passed from person to person. Instinctively, the mood became somber, and then silence filled that great hall as one after another, commuters knelt down in their business suits and dresses. Wilson said that for a few moments, Union Station became a huge house of worship as people prayed for our troops in France.

From the shootings at Columbine High School to those at Virginia Tech University, prayer has played a public role in uniting us in our fear and grief. But what troubles me is that this “unity” has no real substance. Nondescript prayers to a nondescript god seem hollow, nothing more than a ritual. For many in America, prayer has become something like saying the Pledge of Allegiance or singing the national anthem. We participate, but we don’t expect anything to come of it.

Yet, in Psalm 50:15 God said, “[C]all upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” I do not believe in the “power of prayer,” but I do believe in the power of God to answer my prayer!

“Going Down?”

Years ago, my family visited the John Hancock Center in Chicago. The massive lobby at street level is always filled with people waiting to enter the large elevators that will transport them to the top of the world in less than one minute. After taking in the spectacular view from the ninety-sixth floor, we were first in line to get back onto the elevator that would take us down to the streets of Chicago. As we waited, the doors to one of the elevators opened, and the typically large group of tourists exploded onto the observation deck.

Our oldest child, about five years old at the time, had a newly developed fear that elevator doors might crush her. This caused her to first hesitate and then quickly run into the elevator car for safety. As the people cleared away, our daughter broke free from our grasp and ran onto the elevator. Just as suddenly, the doors closed, and she began her ride down those 96 floors to downtown Chicago—all alone.

My wife and I panicked, realizing that our daughter might run away in fright before we could get to her. And what if she was abducted? We were in trouble, so we quickly prayed, asking God to step in and protect our child.

“I Will Deliver”

The wait was endless. We knew it would take some time for the elevator to descend, several minutes for it to fill with people and another minute or so to come back to the observation deck. If she got off, we figured she would be alone for 7 to 10 minutes at best, plenty of time for the unthinkable to happen.

But we had prayed. When the elevator finally returned, the doors opened, and instead of a small crowd of about 30 crammed inside like sardines, there was one man standing there in a fedora and long winter coat. In his arms was our daughter. He handed her to us, but before we could turn to thank him, he was gone. We searched for him on the deck, but he was nowhere to be found.

Today, if you talk to our daughter about this event, she remembers it a bit differently. She is not sure why only one person got onto the elevator to comfort and protect her, but she clearly remembers that it was an older lady who cared for her. Could her guardian have been an angel sent by God to protect her?

Why are we so surprised when God answers our prayer? Our Father loves us and wants to hear form us. He delights in fulfilling our requests. But this kind of power, this kind of deliverance, is not found in the prayer itself, but in the One to whom we pray. Therefore, I do not believe in the power of prayer, as if the mere act conjures some miracle, but I do believe in the power of the One to whom I pray. By the way, so does our now 27-year-old daughter.

Past Alliance Life Issues


Get Involved...


We cannot “Live the Call Together” unless prayer is central to all we do.
Pray with us »


Is God calling you to service? We’re here to help you connect your passion with God’s purpose.
Serve with The Alliance »


Help build Christ’s Church by supporting the ministry and workers of The Alliance.
Give today »