Prayer works.

Weíve all heard that before. The problem with that is that sometimes it doesnít seem to.

People still get sick. Finances donít turn around. Careers are not changed. Churches donít grow.

We pray and pray and pray. We believe. We have faith. But it doesnít work out the way we were hoping. Thatís a tough pill to swallow.

Last week, I shared a message about having trust and faith in Godís plans in the midst of hard times. A woman from our church shared her amazing testimony of how God has protected her and her daughter through myriad health issues. It was a wonderful testament to the healing power of God. She gave God the glory, and we did too.

Then I got an email from someone who reminded me that it doesnít always work out that way, and it got me thinking. If I look back at the things that I have prayed for through the years, many of those prayers were answered differently than I wanted when I prayed. Much of the time I can look back and see why. At other times, though, there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why things didnít work out the way I thought they should.

Friends still passed away. Mothers still miscarried. Marriages still ended in divorce. Children still walked away from the faith.

So what do we do with that? What do I do with that?

After all, I am a pastor. I pray for people. I urge others to pray. Am I wasting my time? Am I urging others to waste their time as well? I donít believe so.

God has a plan. Sometimes I see it, other times I donít. He has allowed things to happen in this world ó horrible atrocities ó unspeakable acts ó and I donít know why. I donít know why these bad things happen. Yet God wants me to pray. He longs to hear my voice in regular prayer.

That prayer, though, is not a contract with God. Itís not a ďIíll say this prayer x number of times, and youíll give me what I wantĒ transaction. My prayer life is building a relationship with God. Itís me spending time with my Maker. I do believe prayer makes a difference ó as it did in the times of Scripture, where we see many examples of followers of God asking and receiving from God ó but I cannot believe that my prayers have failed or been wasted if I donít get my answer.

When bad things happen in spite of my prayers, I could easily get discouraged, throw my hands in the air, and give up on my faith. When that happens to my friends, I get it. Many of my friends have gone through things in life that are terrible. They have experienced far more pain and loss than I have. For them to give up on God makes sense to me from a human viewpoint.

The only thing I can offer people in these situations is hope and comfort. Hope for the future when there will be no more tears, heartache, or pain. Hope for the coming of Jesus. Until Christ returns, our world is filled with the effects of sin, and we have to cope with that.

Thankfully God doesnít make us cope alone; he gives us comfort.

God has created his Church to be a group of people tied together through faith, who can be there and support one another. Together we grieve our losses, heal from our wounds, and comfort one another. Jesus provided comfort to his friends in their times of distress, and that is what is we are called to do as well. Praying together binds our hearts with others in a unique and spiritual way. In those moments of prayer, we stand united against the evil of this world, choosing to have hope and faith in the midst of the darkness.

When weíre in the midst of pain, itís hard to see any positive coming from it. Even decades later, it can be hard to see how any good has come from our pain.

In those instances we have to have trust in God, that he is with us and has a plan we canít see. We have to rely on the strength of others and lean on our brothers and sisters of the faith. We may never know the answer to our why questions, but we can rest assured that Jesus is the answer to our question of ďwho cares?Ē

Kevin Daniels is pastor of Hays Christian Church.