It's a poignant and thought-provoking question. But little did Shane know, she would not only ask the question, but become part of the multi-faceted answer as well. Lost Without You demonstrates several important principles about prayer: 1) Both a prayer, and its answer, are ordained by God, 2) God wants us to participate in his work on Earth because it draws us closer to Him, and prayer is one of the mechanisms through which this becomes possible, 3) Prayer doesn't change God, it changes us.
Ordained By God
Take Oliver and Joe's rescue, for instance. God knew they were going to be lost, and need to be found. Before Eleanor passed, before Joe and Oliver made the bet, before Shane began to grapple with questions of life and death and urge Oliver to go out with his dad, before the POstables even came into possession of Topper's letter, before Norman violated regulation 67-K---God was establishing the means of Joe and Oliver's rescue through Shane, and eventually through the delivery of Sandy, at the exact place (El Dorado Canyon) and at the exact time (sunrise) he ordained them to be saved.
First, Shane had to arrive at the physical place where Sandy would be called upon to do her part. Notice, however, that it's not until after Shane prays that Sandy finally arrives at El Dorado Canyon. As I conjectured last week, Shane, having gone as far as she could in finding Oliver, called on God to do what she couldn't to find him and bring him home.
Remember that I also conjectured that Sandy was not only a dog, but an embodiment of Shane, too. By all accounts, both were experts at retrieving, the only thing separating them Sandy's ability to track smells. God ordained not only that Oliver and Joe be found, but that Shane be the one to find them---first on her own, then by extension through Sandy. God answered Shane's prayer, allowing her to participate in His preordained outcome, all the while drawing her closer to him in the process.
Shane may have only meant to plead for Oliver and his father to be returned safely, but her act of faith drew her into the presence of God, whose even deeper Love was able to touch and transform her heart. We see this in the immediate connection Shane makes between Sandy's appearance and " Oliver's Divine Delivery Theory"---she does so without hesitation. Her transformed heart later leads her unprompted to the hospital chapel, because she "was just so grateful" for her answered prayer. Something profound has happened, and not just in Shane.
"When I was up on that mountain, I was afraid that I was going to lose my dad, afraid that I might not get off the mountain, afraid that I had waited to long to start my life over."
So used to praying for everyone else, which we know he must have done at the very least for his father, we also learn Oliver finally prays for himself, and even for his future. For the first time since we've joined his story, Oliver acknowledges all of his fear, and in his darkest hour it seems he finally took it all to God in prayer.
Shane was in the middle of a miracle and didn't even know it, both for herself, and for the people around her, and God, in His infinite Wisdom, used her prayer to not only bring about His Purpose, but also draw her closer. Similarly, Oliver, in his time of need, invited God into his circumstances through prayer, allowing him to experience a new state of freedom.
Whether praying for yourself, or on behalf of someone else, your prayer has impact on both you and the person for whom you pray. Not only that, you never know when God may be using your prayer to accomplish a work-in-progress here on earth. So if you ever feel compelled to pray, "assume nothing" and make it happen!