I was wondering what is the true purpose of prayer when we ask things of Him? I know God commands us to pray and to continue communication with Him through this privilege given by Jesus Christ, but does it actually change what God thinks or what happens on Earth? For example if I was praying for someone to be healed of sickness, how would this prayer change what was ultimately going to happen? In addition when we pray for God to soften peoples hearts, does it make a difference? Also I can’t find any examples in the Bible of people praying for the all the people of the Earth, I have been praying for people even ones who I don’t know or may not ever know. Why are there no examples of this in the Bible, or if there are where are they found in the Bible?
Being a Christian is all about having a relationship with God. When we repent and are baptized, we receive forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit comes to live in us. This restores a relationship with God, similar to what we had in the Garden of Eden. Any relationship, by definition, includes communication of our thoughts, ideas, feelings and so forth. Our relationship with God is more abstract than our relationship with our friends and family, but it is nevertheless real. Prayer is about our relationship. It is us communicating our ideas, thoughts, desires and feelings to God. We do pray to God asking him for things, but that is a small part of prayer. A model prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13. Here we see praising of God, asking that his will be done, asking for our needs to be fulfiled, and for forgiveness. Do our prayers change God’s mind? The answer is yes it does. How does this work? I am afraid that is somewhat of a mystery, but we have assurances from God that if we pray he hears and he answers. In Matthew 7:9 we are told that if we ask of God he will give it to us. In John 14:13-14 we learn that we have whatever we ask of him. In James 4:1-2 we are told, however, that if we ask with wrong motives, he will generally say “no.” In 1 John 5:14 we are told that when we ask and when our request is consistent with God’s will, then we will have what we ask. In Genesis 18:16-33 we can see God changing his mind because of a request of Abraham. So, as odd as it may seem to us that the Creator of the universe would humble himself to be influenced by our puny requests, it is true.
Will God heal someone if you ask? The answer is that we cannot say for sure. Remember that James 4 and 1 John 5 qualify the statement that God will give what we ask. It must come from correct motives and it must be at least generally consistent with God’s will. From Genesis 18:16-33 it appears that God’s will is somewhat flexible, but Paul asked God to take away an illness in 2 Cor 12:7-9, but God said “no” to that particular request. We have no guarantees that God will heal when we ask. Our guarantee is that he will hear and if it is best for us and within his will he will do it. All of us will die eventually, and prayer is not a sure preventitive for all sickness and even death, but God asks us to pray nevertheless.
God always works on people’s hearts, but I bel[eve that a prayer about that may cause God to focus more on a particular person. It certainly is his will that people to be saved, so, applying 1 John 5, I think it is safe for us to assume that God will help us in this prayer. However, he will not steal the free will of others, so this can help and we definitely should offer such prayers, but, as with illness, we have no hard-and-fast guarantee that this will have the desired effect. I would send you back to Matthew 7:9 as assurance that God does hear and he does answer, even if the exact nature of his answer can be a bit of a mystery for us. You are right that you may never know exactly how God answers your prayers. Faith involves things we cannot see and we can never get fully away from this fact (Hebrews 1:1-2). As for a specific example of praying for God to open hearts, I do not know of an example of that exactly. but Paul’s prayer in Colossians 4:3 for God to open a door to the gospel seems similar to this. Obviously, we cannot have a specific example of every possible kind of prayer in the Bible, but this seems to be a prayer of the same sort. Not the same, but a good example for you to consider is the prayer of Hannah for a child in 1 Sam 1. God answered her prayer. I believe that if she had not prayed, she would not have had a son, and one of the greatest figures in the Bible, Samuel, would not have been born. In Luke 18:1 we are told to always keep praying and to not give up. I suggest you take this advice and try not to be discouraged if you do not see the obvious result, even if it takes years.