Do you sometimes doubt that prayer can always be effective? An individual entertains such doubt if he or she believes God responds only to certain circumstances. Or that since God has just answered a recent prayer, He may not be as inclined to respond just as readily to another.
The fact is, God answers all sincere prayer. This can be better seen as one appreciates the nature of God as well as the nature of genuine prayer.
Christ Jesus' ministry revealed the nature of God. God is good alone and is always giving good, readily and fully, under all circumstances.
Once when thousands had gathered to see Jesus in the desert, the food supply consisted only of five barley loaves and two fish. After Jesus first expressed gratitude, in prayer, for the food already at hand, he had the loaves and fish distributed among the crowd. Not only did everyone have food, but there remained an abundance of food afterward (see John 6:1-14).
Jesus brought other kinds of healing to people through his trust in God's abundant goodness. Many different types of disease (some life-threatening) were healed effectively. He also brought people back from death.
Jesus directed his listeners to the source of his good works when he said, "Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God" (Luke 18:19). The consistency of the good God gives us is described later on in the Bible; the book of James explains that a fountain can't send out both sweet and bitter water in the same place (see 3:11). Likewise, the Christian Science textbook says,"God is one God, infinite and perfect, and cannot become finite and imperfect" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures," Pg. 587).
Jesus gave you and me many simple, effective examples of how to pray for ourselves and see healing. One was the prayer now called the Lord's Prayer (see Matt. 6:9-13). And he never implied that there were certain conditions or instances when this prayer would not be effective.
Science and Health elaborates on the Bible's message, saying: "The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, - a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love" (Pg. 1). Effective prayer is not a request that God direct His attention toward fixing up one's personal problems; it is a sincere acknowledgment that God's ever-presence and goodness are infinite actualities, and that in His creation there is never a basis for problems of any kind. The conformity of human events to these spiritual facts characterizes healing.
Once I learned the immediate effectiveness of heartfelt prayer while attending college. I wanted a more fulfilling life and prayed to gain a better understanding of God. I quietly acknowledged that since God is infinite, there could be nothing to oppose or hide the satisfying good He was fully giving right then. Yet I still wanted to feel meaningful purpose.
Then one day while I was in my dorm praying, I suddenly became willing, completely willing, to let go of any character trait - known or yet unknown - that would prevent me from truly listening to God. Immediately I realized I needed to be more gracious and humble about accepting instructions and corrections from others. I was grateful for this awakening, and gained more confidence that I could fully trust God to guide me.
Just then, another student knocked on my door. He asked if I would like to try out for a college play. I recognized this as an opportunity to show the sincerity of my prayer, knowing there would be plenty of instructions and corrections involved in acting. Though I had had no previous training, I got the lead part in a lengthy drama. I did receive many instructions and corrections from the director, and I truly appreciated them. And my participation in that and in subsequent plays did bring greater fulfillment and a feeling of purpose.
That knock on the door was no mere coincidence; I'd never expressed to anyone an interest in performing. It was the knock of opportunity; it came as soon as I became willing to hear and obey God and express more of His love to others. I saw immediate and joyous effects. This is always the result of prayer - of listening to God with a sincere heart.