I like to think of prayer in terms of a compass.

A compass is basically a magnet.


And the earth is as well – a giant magnet field.

The earth’s field is very powerful, and so a magnet, or compass’ natural tendency is to line up with the earth’s field.

Imagine a child who makes a simple compass from a cork, a magnetized needle, and sticks it in the bathtub.


This tiny magnet lines up with the powerful magnetic field of the earth.


For a compass to point sideways


Or backwards, it takes energy.

Someone has to hold it that way. The child needs to reach into the tub and hold the needle sideways or backwards. They have to work to do it.

But the force field is so powerful that it although there’s a slight impact on the field, it’s too little to matter, or to change the earth’s magnetic field.

Imagine God’s will as the huge magnetic field.

And our prayers as the compass.


When our prayers line up with God’s will, they are working as intended.

We are allowing God to direct them in the right way.


We can certainly turn our compass sideways – we can pray for things that are good, decent, but not part of God’s plan.

We can pray for no rain on the soccer field – that’s a good thing…nothing wrong with that!

But sometimes God says “not today” – I have a bigger plan.


Other times, we can turn our prayers backwards. We can, believe it or not, ask God for terrible things that are entirely contrary to his will.

We can pray for terrible things, but God doesn’t have to do what we ask.

It’s like turning a compass backward. We can do it, but it’s working against the overwhelming power of earth’s magnetic field. It takes work to fight God’s will, and when we let go, it’s like nothing happened.


Our best prayers are when we pray like Jesus did.

When his death on the cross was looming, he once prayed that his father would “take this cup” from him.

He truly expressed human emotion – going through with God’s plan would be painful.

But then he prayed “But thy will be done”

He truly told God what he felt and needed, but then trusted God the Father enough to just let go and let God’s will be done.

He taught us to pray this way in the Lord’s Prayer, as well – to as “Thy will be done on earth, as in heaven”.

So in our prayers we should truly tell God what we need, how we feel, what we would like to see happen in the world.

But then our best prayers are when we say “but I trust you, God, enough that even if you need to do the opposite of what I want, I will still do it, love you and trust you.” and let go of the compass so it lines up with God’s will.

Question: Have your past attempts at prayer been on particular topics? Have you always been convinced prayer works, or do you have doubts?