A little conversation about prayer.
This dove hovers over the place where the priest vested for Mass in the Catholic Church of Our Lord in the Attic, Amsterdam, hidden away in plain view, in the centre of town. Illegal but tolerated.
Our friend Christina Chase set off this little conversation, speculating ‘What good are my prayers, really?’ Her original post follows this introduction.
Christina Chase April 20
Have you ever wondered if your prayers for others have any real beneficial effect at all? I have. I still am wondering sometimes.
Sacred Scripture tells us that praying for others is important. Jesus did not only say “Love your enemies,” but also “pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus Himself prayed for His disciples during the time of His earthly life. St. Paul continually asked the people to whom he addressed his letters to pray for him.
Praying for others seems to be the right thing to do. And I sincerely try to do it. Although, of course, I could try harder and do it better. I am merely human, after all. Life is busy and … well … praying can sometimes feel like tedious work. When I think of the many prayers that I could raise to God on behalf of countless others, it feels rather daunting. And I wonder if it’s really necessary. Even when I put in the time and effort to pray deeply for someone I know or someone who has asked me to pray for them, I still wonder.
What good are my prayers, really? Doesn’t God love all the people for whom I pray even more than I do? How does it work? I wonder as if I could actually discover the answer and understand a profound mystery of God. And then, yes, I doubt, and wonder if it works at all.
”But what if it does…?” a little voice in my heart said recently.
Maybe my prayers for other people don’t make a difference.…But what if they do?
I could not leave those questions hanging in the air, even if I couldn’t answer them properly. So here are my first thoughts.
A first response, late at night
you lay out the arguments effectively (I shall copy this post to my blog, if I may!?)
In this world there is always room for doubt, but have you never felt support from people’s prayers? Of course, you can tell yourself that that feeling could just be your imagination, but if knowing that prayer has been offered by someone else for your benefit boosts your confidence, your courage, perhaps the Spirit is at work in you, and linked to your friend that was inspired to pray for you. I think the Spirit is the missing link here.
And I’m too tired to think straight for one more sentence.
Only God knows
|Christina Chase commented in response to willturnstone:What indeed if they do?|
So good to hear from you! You are in my prayers, my friend. And yes, you may copy this post in any way that you like.
I do believe, like you said, that I have benefited from people’s prayers. Their prayers may not have been answered exactly the way they intended, but only God knows what is truly best.
The Holy Spirit at work within us, among us, and between us is perhaps exactly the key in understanding how intercessory prayer “works.” Perhaps our guardian angels in communication as well? I’ve been trying to be more open to the presence of angels.
God works in mysterious ways.
With much love,
Pentecost! The Church of 120 believers are already on the way to being transformed. They wanted to be together – whether they were all sleeping where they met or they returned to lodgings at night, we are not told, but for sure, the Upper Room was hardly the Savoy. How did they keep the place clean?
We know that the risen Jesus appeared there at least twice, which made it a special place. His presence must have been felt in the very air of the Upper Room. It was a place of prayer; talking to Jesus, they were coming to realise, was and is prayer, ‘My Lord and my God’.
The group were praying to the Father. Just sitting around, talking about Jesus, was prayer, the Spirit at work in the disciples as they spoke and listened to each other. We too are called to open our hearts to the Spirit and to live within the Communion of Saints. Praying for others is part of this, but so too is opening our hearts to each other. Listening to each other (perhaps through e.mails) helps focus our prayer when we pray for each other but as Christina reminds us, God knows what is truly best.
And what about the gardening Morgan and I do for Mrs A? More often than I would like, as a conscientious gardener, to pull more weeds than I can when she wants, or needs, to talk, to be reassured. Mrs A has dementia and needs to make connections with her garden (among other things) because that helps to put her on her feet metaphorically. She helped create this garden with her late husband. Through pulling up a few weeds and chatting she connects with her own history and the many blessings she has received through her married life.
Laborare est Orare: to work is to pray; we can pray without being conscious of doing so. We can pray for others without being conscious of doing so, as in my working for and with Mrs A. But examining what happens shows that my work-prayer provides her with grace here and now. We can trust that a prayer mention of a distant person is also a ‘channel of thy peace’ though less obvious to mere mortals.