Beyond the Broadcast: What Happens When We Pray?

“Prayer is one of the deepest subjects we can study.” —Charles R. Swindoll

We’ve heard it said that we never stand taller than when we kneel before God. But what actually happens when we offer our prayers and petitions to God? Does He change His mind? Can we alter His plan or reverse His course? If not, then why pray?

According to James 4:2-3, there are two ingredients in prayer: the petition (the request itself) and the desire (the reason for asking). The petition is what we ask for; the desire is why we ask for it.

In this message we zoom in on Abraham’s passionate intercession on behalf of Lot and his family in the face of the imminent destruction of Sodom (Genesis 18:22-33). By analyzing Abraham’s prayer, we can understand the struggle that occurs between the petition and desire and gain insight into the important role prayer plays in our lives. As we do, we’ll learn to pray with confidence before the throne of grace.

When Abraham approached God with his request, he had no idea how the Lord would answer in this particular situation. Likewise, we cannot know how exactly God will respond when we pray. However, as we reflect on various prayers throughout Scripture, we see four ways the Lord responds to humans’ petitions and desires.

  • Petition: “Yes”...Desire: “No”
  • Petition: “No”...Desire: “Yes”
  • Petition: “Yes”...Desire: “Yes”
  • Petition: “No”...Desire: “No”

Abraham’s life was one of prayer. Through his example and our reflection on the Bible’s teaching on prayer, we learn that we may experience three possible answers to any prayer.

  1. God can (and often does) say yes!
  2. God can (and often does) say no!
  3. God can (and often does) say wait!

Recall a time when God said yes! to your prayer in just the way you petitioned. Write this experience down as a constant reminder that God often does answer when you call on Him. 

“What Happens When We Pray?” is from Chuck Swindoll’s series Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith. You can stream this message online anytime at