An ocean liner crossing the Atlantic had on board a noted agnostic and a well-known Bible teacher, Dr. F. B. Meyer. The teacher was asked to speak to interested passengers on the subject of answered prayer. Hearing about it the scoffing agnostic decided to attend and perhaps even contribute some ridiculing comments. He made it very clear by his body language that he thought Meyer’s presentation was foolish. Whatever is needed we have to do ourselves. I don’t know what Dr. Meyer said but my perspective on the topic would go as follows: God listens to our prayers, His ear is open, but He is listening for fervency, not routine, rote recitations. His ‘door’ is open to all but what He is looking for is faith, not pretending to take advice and then ignoring it. His vault of unlimited resources is also open, He has just what we need, but that is exactly the point. It’s what we need, not necessarily what we want. Furthermore, He won’t do for us what we should and can do ourselves. He wants to provide what will develop our character, not just our comfort.
The fervent prayer of righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16b
The March 19, 1960 edition of the Our Daily Bread devotional tells how the agnostic walked away from the meeting with thoughts of how silly prayer was. He spotted a sleeping lady with open hands on her lap. As a joke, or perhaps proof that we have to do it ourselves, he put an orange into each hand. A short while later he saw her eating one of them joyfully. Her explanation was, “God the Father was really good to me. I was praying for one orange and He gave me two.” “God didn’t give them to you. I did,” could have been the agnostic’s reply. “It was not a miracle. The joke’s on you!” The agnostic was right unless the lady was physically or financially unable to get one herself. Perhaps the lady answered, “Well, then this did not happen for my sake but for yours. The main aim was for your benefit, to learn something. He used you to answer my prayer.” The agnostic probably walked away puzzled.