Once upon a time, I had a monthly newsletter where I talked about faith matters. It was a short-lived project, but this one issue has stuck with people, with many, many people over the years telling me it resonated with them. More than one person has told me they printed it out and put it on the ‘fridge or in their cubicle at work. It has always been hard to share in it’s email format, however, so I am putting the text here, with the hope it may resonate with more people.
Does Prayer Work?
I have a confession:
I’m not sure I believe in prayer.
In the small evangelical church of my youth, I heard a lot about the power of prayer.
Miss Bessie was sick with the cancer, so we were encouraged to pray for healing for her. We prayed our asses off, and I have to tell you, if anyone deserved to live, it was Miss Bessie.
The cancer still won.
We would pray before the potluck dinner, thanking God for this “bountiful meal”. But I always wondered why we didn’t thank Mrs. Stevens, Mrs. Sullivan and Mrs. St. John, since they were the ones that cooked the food in the first place.
I wasn’t sure what God had to do with it.
I know someone who had a heart transplant a number of years ago, and they talked about how the transplant “was an answer to her prayers.”
But what about the family of the young girl who died in a horrible, senseless accident so the transplant could happen? What about their prayers?
The ironic thing is that, despite my reluctance to believe that prayer actually does anything, I’m a firm believer in praying.
In fact, most nights I end the day by laying in my bed, eyes closed, “giving my cares to God” as Mr. Gad, my childhood Sunday school teacher, would have said. When my wife had emergency surgery a few years back, my fervent prayers were watered by the tears that came with them. And when I look at the chaos that is our financial situation as a result of doing the work I do, I pray – a lot.
And sometimes, like when my wife had surgery, things get better. Sometimes, like our finances, things don’t. But I keep praying.
I just checked in on Facebook and saw that my nephew was hit in the face with a soccer ball at school, and as a result, his vision is blurry. My first instinct was to tell his mother that I am praying for them.
In fact, I did. Pray for them, that is.
Did it help his vision or reduce his pain? I have no idea.
But here is what it did do:
It gave me some sense of power in a situation where I felt powerless.
My sister-in-law knows that people love her and are thinking positively about her and her baby.
It increased the amount of good-will in the world.
And it told the God I choose to believe in that Jordan is important to me, and that I love him, and that it would mean a lot to me if his vision is OK.
And I have to think that, if there is a God, then that God would want to know those things, just like my parents wanted to know I wanted a pony for Christmas, even when there was no question of our being able to afford a pony.
Most days, for me, those things are enough. But even when it’s not, I still pray.
Keep the faith,
My current newsletter project is called The Hughsletter, and it’s about searching for beauty as a prophylactic against the ugliness of the world. Jesus won’t love you more if you subscribe, but I will.