Can you petition the Lord with prayer?

In my younger days I was a Doors fan (25 years after the fact) and an agnostic, and this spoken word song intro strongly agreed with my existing hunch and one of my blocks around Christianity :

When I was back there in seminary school
There was a person there
Who put forth the proposition
That you can petition the Lord with prayer
Petition the lord with prayer
Petition the lord with prayer
You cannot petition the lord with prayer

Obviously Jim Morrison was a man who was deeply troubled by sin, and I’m not putting him up as a worthy source of wisdom.

But I still - now as a Christian - have doubts around this. I am okay with asking for help to better serve God’s purposes. But when it comes to, say, praying for someone else to be cured of cancer, or for the pandemic to end or… I worry this is like a child nagging his parents to change their mind about a decision that is perfectly legitimate but beyond the child’s comprehension. Prefacing requests with “if it’s in your will” or “please help me understand if it serves you for me to wish for this” doesn’t really help, in fact, I worry it’s a hack or a loophole.A

Who can point me to some guidance on this?

I did ask my pastor… simultaneously I was asking about 1 Thessalonians 5:17. In his defence I asked at an awkward time, but the reply didn’t go much beyond “no I don’t think Paul was saying to nag incessantly” :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


See if that maybe has been answered over here:


I like to think about the parable of the persistent widow. I don’t know that I totally understand it, but I feel empowered by it.


I think this is a great question. I think that “pray without ceasing” has more to do with seeking God’s thoughts in everything, meditating on Scripture, and asking His blessing–so that He’s more like a friend and teacher. Dallas Willard, who taught on the spiritual disciplines, mentioned this practice.

George MacDonald emphasized a lot of godly prayer to incorporate grace into his life, too (and he was the biggest influence on C S Lewis).

I find it interesting that Jesus said Matthew 6:7

7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

Which sort of contrasts with the Luke 18 passage, but not really. I have read that in Luke, Jesus was using hyperbole-implying that God would be a much better father than the unjust judge. I don’t know how to apply that, entirely, though.

Thank you for teaching me by asking this question and starting the conversation!


I think that prayer is ultimately focused on the individual. I tend to look at lists of anti-vaxxers and pray for them but I try to do it in a way that it is not arrogant or coming from a perspective of being better. By doing this, it’s helps me to avoid anger and to focus on what the Buddhists refer to as “right thought”.

Do I think that it makes any difference? I don’t think that it makes things worse but there is scant evidence that prayer changes things except for the “prayer” and probably not so much the “prayee”. There’s one study which indicated that prayer might help but I think there’s also one that indicated that people did worse after prayer. But this is probably due to the fact that when people pray, it is usually a very serious situation to begin with.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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