I am having a really hard time understanding prayer.
1) If God is all powerful and all knowing and all good, then every thing he does is perfect. So, why does he need 'reminding' or 'persuading' with prayer.
2) If he does answer prayers... why does he not answer the millions of prayers of people who are dying from hunger, but he instead answers the mundane prayers of wealthy Americans.
Can prayer really be effective? Is there any evidence of prayers genuinely working?
Depending on what kind of evidence you're looking for, a 2007 study by Professor David R. Hodge of Arizona State University found that intercessory prayer (prayer by someone for someone else) "among people with psychological or medical problems" had a positive effect, in other words, it worked. Not all studies show the same positive results, but many recent studies tend to support this 2007 Hodge study.
Personally, I believe that God answers every prayer. Sometimes his answer is no or not yet, but he still answers each prayer. I believe that God knows our needs before we speak them. Bringing requests to God in prayer is for our benefit not His. We aren't reminding him of our needs, instead we are unburdening our hearts. We are sharing our needs for the sake of lightening our minds not because God has forgotten us. I do not know why God does not cure world hunger or other atrocities, but I do believe that he has a reason. I can remember some personal tragedies where I was very angry with God. Why did He let this happen? How could a loving God screw it all up and leave me hanging? In time, I began to thank God for those same tragedies. They became a blessing in disguise. Sometimes the answers are hard to see or hear. Often, we do not understand, but we have faith in God's perfect timing. He sees things that we do not and He has a reason for all His actions (or perceived in-actions).
Each person must answer this based upon his/her own experience. But, truly, there are many benefits to prayer that are effective. When people pray, for instance, the repetition of certain prayers has a calming effect as does the meditation upon someone/something beyond their ken that can possibly help them. Lenin's subversive remark that religion is the opium of the people does, nonetheless, point to the positive effects of religion and prayer: There is a certain soothing of the soul which may, perhaps, help in effecting better results for someone. Who knows for certain? But, the fact is that often after much praying, things do improve for people--for whatever reson.
The power of prayer comes from the faith of the person praying. If one believes through instruction, indoctrination, or "personal proof" in the value of prayer, then here is power in the prayer -- but the value can't be imposed from any source outside of you. Just like no one can tell you how to feel -- your emotions are intensely personal -- no one can convince you of the power of prayer -- you have to know it or experience it for yourself.
Isn't the point of prayer not to ask God for this or that but to build a relationship with God? As I understand it, prayers that say "please let this or that happen to me" are not really what we are supposed to be saying. We are supposed to be sharing our feelings with God so as to build a relationship with him.
As human beings, we are incapable of understanding the ways of the Almighty. I know that God has a plan for my life; I believe that God will take care of me, whatever happens; my role is to keep on believing and loving and asking for God to help me find God's will for my life. I can't explain the tragedy and destruction and other hard things that happen in life, but I can hold onto the faith that God is present and aches when I ache.
"Evidence of prayers genuinely working" comes from the heart of a believer, not from scientific measurement.
For me, prayers are a way of soothing my own problems, and I always feel better after I have spoken them. A good Christian must keep the faith that God is listening to them and using His best judgement in answering them. Some come true, and some do not; people are healed, and some are not, but a Christian knows that it is God's will, and not fate, which decides the matter.
I agree that prayer is one of those things about which there can be some clear knowing through a study of the Bible but which is easier to understand experientially. Here is my experience. I am constantly reminded that God wants to be in relationship to man; it is His fervent desire that we spend time talking with and listening to Him. Prayer is something that too often becomes "give me" or "I want" instead of a request that His will be done. Every prayer is answered, though we tend to think if we don't get the answer we want then God didn't hear us or choose to answer us. Sometimes the answer is "no," and sometimes there are other factors involved, such as waiting. In my life, I have seen miracles and I do believe in the power of prayer.
I think the best way I ever heard the question of prayer answered was during a church camp during my youth.
Think about the pitcher and the batter both praying as they face off. The batter is praying for a home-run and the pitcher is praying for a strike-out. One prayer can be answered; even if one did not believe in prayer, only one can have their wish granted. Sometimes, God chooses to answer one prayer over another based upon things we simply cannot understand.
Unfortunately, the answering of prayer is something that believers will not come to understand until they sit at the feet of God.
The evidence that prayer works is one which cannot be studied. It is based solely upon personal experience. So is there evidence? The only evidence comes from the stories of believers. Unfortunately, this is subjective and not scientifically and factually based.