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Monday, September 12, 2011

Does Prayer Work?

Dear Lord, please...
This is a question that gets a plethora of answers and it all depends on who you ask. TV Preachers assure us that our prayers will be answered. There are people in need or in crisis and they hope their prayers bring fulfillment to their request. Then, there are the atheists who think you're completely wasting your time. I'm not an atheist. I'm a Christian. But for the last six years, I've asked the question, "Does Prayer Work?"

I used to pray a lot. I used to go to church every week, too. I used to read the Bible all the time, and even had a blog called Proverb A Day, where I took a couple verses from the Proverbs chapter that corresponded with the date of the month (there are 31 chapters in The Book of Proverbs) and put them in more modern language. I have a strong belief in God. But, the way things have gone for me the last six years or so, I found that none of my prayers were answered. I'm told that we don't know what God's plan is - I'm tired of trying to figure it out or make more requests; so, I'm leaving it up to what he gave me in the womb. 

When you circulate the atheist chat boards the way I have, you always get the comment that there is no definitive study that proves that prayer works. Of course, if there was, that would throw the whole atheism philosophy out on its ear. (Even if there was, they wouldn't believe it or try to discredit it. It's nearly impossible to make an atheist cry out, "Oh God." - even in the face of truth or if you smash one of their toes.

Studies have been done on prayer and the person, plant or micro-organisms that were prayed over all did better than those that received no prayer or negative prayers. A link is provided below to a paper by Debra Williams, D.D. It is worth checking out, no matter what you believe.

In the wake of September 11th, the efficacy of prayer can really be challenged. I'm sure anyone who believed in a higher power was praying for their own survival or of their loved ones on that fateful day. Some got out of the towers, almost 3,000 didn't. Did God choose who would survive and who would perish based on prayer? Did those who died not pray correctly?

Honestly, I don't think God plays an active role in our lives. But He's given us the power to change our own lives - and prayer can help.

I remember when I used to own a business. I'd really need a check to come in so we could meet payroll or pay a bill. I'd pray for the check to arrive. If it didn't, I'd pray the same prayer the next day. If the check showed up, was my prayer answered? Yes and no. Yes, the prayer was answered, but who answered the prayer? The check would have eventually showed up. It was all about the timing and I needed it at a specific time or I had big problems. At the time, it seemed like the prayer was answered.

We had a huge prayer group for a friend of mine's son. He was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer at age 10. We prayed daily. We emailed prayers, daily. The group grew and grew. Hundreds and hundreds of people prayed every day. Jimmy died at age 11.

Don't get me wrong, I am NOT telling you to stop praying and that it is worthless effort. I know many friends who cannot function without prayer in their lives. If you read any success book, one of the things they tell you is to put your goals down and repeat them daily. Often prayer is requesting something, but many people pray prayers of thanks - they are grateful for what they have and a daily recognition of that is a very positive energy in their lives. If they have a request, their prayer can keep them focused on what they want or a solution to their problem.

Reality says that we are the ones who have the greatest control over any situation. If you implore God to deliver, then I have to tell you an old joke.
A man prayed all day, every day, for years that he would win the lottery. He never won and died. When he got to Heaven, he asked God, "I prayed every day, all day, to win the lottery, and you never answered my prayer. Why?" God said, "You have to buy a ticket."
This takes us back to what I said about God not playing an active role in our lives. God is love. He created us in love. The more we try to tune ourselves into pure love - which means reconciliation, forgiveness, self-analysis, thinking about how we interact with others and the consequences of our actions - the closer we are to God. If we are thinking about those things and using prayer as a tool, then I think we are pleasing our Creator.

I don't think He is jumping in and turning lights green, so we can get to work on time or fixing parking tickets or making our favorite team win. However, prayer takes humility and honesty. If you exercise a simple act of humility or honesty through the course of your day, you are a better person for it and that will impact the people around you. Does prayer work? In the last statement it does.

The God I believe in is not a magician, performing tricks at my request or a vending machine, spitting out solutions to all of my problems just because I stuffed a prayer in the slot. He is allowing me to use what He gave me to make my piece of the world better. If prayer keeps me on track, so be it.

Now, I joke, "Prayer doesn't work for me. I quit. I let other people do it for me." And there are a lot of people praying for me, so I figure I'm covered. But I buy the ticket in life.

God gave me the gift of communication. I've used it my whole life. What you are reading is my gift. To me, this is prayer. I'm using my gift for good, which is what the Guy Upstairs planned. I know many of my posts have changed lives and a few of the posts have saved lives. He should be pleased.

I may die a pauper in a booth at Denny's, pecking out one more post as I take my last breath. But, when I hit the floor, my hands will probably be folded. And you won't have to wonder, "Does prayer work?"

Related link: Scientific Research On Prayer

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