Prayer and What Might Have Been

May 19, 2023

We could probably all say that our prayer life is not as rich as we would like it to be. The Lord tells us to be devoted to prayer, yet we struggle to pray like we should. Even the most devoted Christians feel this struggle with prayer at times. What is it that hinders our prayer life? Is it busyness? Is it a lack of faith? Is it doubt that prayer really works?

I think one of the most powerful hinderances to our prayer life is our inability to see what might have been. As human beings, bound by time, we are not able to see and know for sure what our lives would have been like if we had made different choices. What would your life be like if you had gone to a different college? What would your life be like if you had never met your spouse? If you had moved to a different city? The fact is that we do not and cannot know for sure. We have an inability to see what might have been.

In a similar way, what would your life be like if you had not been a person of prayer? Perhaps we don’t have a devotion to prayer because we don’t ever see what our lives would have been like without it. Perhaps we assume that the good things in life “just happened,” and that prayer had little to no effect. But in reality, our lives could have been vastly different, in a bad way, had we not been people of prayer. Here’s a question: what has the Lord kept you from because of your prayers and the prayers of others on your behalf? What disasters have been averted? What heartaches have been avoided? What temptations never came our way? What might your life have become without prayer? Another way to ask the question is this: what would your life have become without the direct intervention of God in it? I shudder to think of the answer.

We’ll never know for sure what might have been, but if we could know, we might be astonished, and it might cause us to put much more emphasis on prayer. Though we are unable to see these things, realize this: God does see and know not only what would have been, but also what is, and what will be. And with His perfect knowledge God is telling us, “Be devoted to prayer!” God knows that prayer matters! Prayer impacts our lives in profound ways, whether we can fully see and understand it or not. Prayer changes things because it invites the Almighty to shape and direct our lives for our good. Let us thank the Lord for keeping us from what might have been, and let us renew our dedication to being people of prayer.

—Scott Colvin