In the normal course of providence, God works in and through creation, not despite it. For this reason, some answers to prayer are difficult to prove with certainty.
“Only faith vouches for the connection,” C. S. Lewis writes. “No empirical proof could establish it.” We believe a prayer has been answered not because of any scientific criteria proving it, but because we have faith.
Most of the ways we encounter God—nature, the Bible, the Lord’s Supper, the church, other people—include things we can touch. God’s own state, though, is the realm of spirit. Prayer reflects that difference between us.
Although we may ask God to intervene directly, it should not surprise us if He responds in a more hidden way in cooperation with our own choices. An alcoholic prays, “Lord, keep me from drink today.” The answer to that prayer will likely come from the inside—from a stiffening resolve or a cry for help to a loyal friend—rather than from some marvel like the magical disappearance of liquor bottles from a cabinet.
Whether God supernaturally intervenes or is giving us the power to obey Him, we trust His character. We see a true partnership, intimate and intertwined.
An important part of praying is a willingness to be part of the answer.