The Purpose of Prayer

My best friend Jill was 31 years old and five months pregnant with her first child when she developed breast cancer.

People around us began to pray. “I have whole churches in Texas praying for me,” Jill joked.
I couldn’t see the purpose of prayer. If God wanted something to happen, then it would happen, and we would have to trust His reasoning. Like maybe there was a reason for Jill being 31 years old and pregnant with her first baby and suddenly a five-centimeter tumor grows in her breast.

My mom says prayer is like asking your parent for something – maybe your dad doesn’t know you want that new bicycle until you ask. I’ve found this to be a common idea; prayer is a gentle nudging to God to grant your request. Please help me pass this test, please help me get a new job, please save my friend from cancer so she can raise her baby.
My friend Mary reasoned that maybe it’s not that God is going to grant me my wish – rather, in the process of prayer, I connect to the divine, so I can see the bigger picture, or at least what I can do, and then I can act in alignment with God’s will.
Jesus told the disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35) They were, in effect, praying for themselves – they were the first farmhands, and through their work, they would attract more farmhands.
God seeps in through the cracks created by our own weakness, our own ineptitude. He sneaks into the places where we don’t have it all figured out. Through prayer, we allow God to intervene in our lives, by opening ourselves and becoming willing to do God’s will.
Jill has been cancer-free for more than a year. Little Sophia is 17 months old, bright and vibrant and healthy. I had nothing to do with this. But through prayer, I was able to show up for her, to be present during some of the roughest times in her treatment. When I couldn’t be present, I prayed.

Now, I pray for other people daily. I pray simply their names. I don’t know what is best for them, I don’t know God’s will for them, but I do know their names, and I know they need God in some way. I ask Him to help in whatever way is best. I tell Him I trust His will for them. I pray for my relationships with people. I pray to be the best wife/daughter/sister/friend/employee/co-worker/neighbor/fill-in-the-blank relationship I can be.
In more than a year doing this, I see people’s lives changing – most of all my own.
I try to remember to say thank you.

Felicia Schneiderhan is a freelance writer based in Chicago, where she lives year-round on a boat with her husband Mark. Visit her blog at Life Aboard Mazurka.

One Response

  1. Interesting blog! There have been spiritual philosophies for hundreds of years that have recognized the connection between all things. Consciousness itself has been defined as the basis for the construction of all matter. So prayer, mediation, ritual have been seen as using your own consciousness, your own mental energy, your own connection to all things as the medium to harmonize and influence the whole, a whole that that has no parts. The parts are illusory. We are the whole – so therefore our prayer, when coming from a place of acceptance (harmonization) can change things. Science is now actually catching up to this idea with quantum physics. Of course there is no way to know if prayer or thought can be pre-discursive, and whether or not discourse can affect matter, or on the contrary if matter even exists without discourse. We have no idea if we have pre-discursive abilities that are linked to any pre-supposed ontology. Ultimately – there is one thing that we can know for sure – and that is that your prayer can change yourself. And since you are the filter for your own reality – changing yourself does change your reality. And if we are all connected – it’s not that far a jump to believe that your shift in reality will affect other’s reality as well. Of course, this is coming from a very post-structuralist perspective.

    There has been some controversial research that suggests that discourse itself can affect molecules of water. Words placed on containers with water droplets froze differently in response to different words being placed on the containers – and supposedly the results replicated within the same experiment. They used different languages, and even spoke the words at the containers as well – and I believe “thought” the words at the containers. All producing the same results. Now – this study has been yet to be taken seriously by the scientific community – but my roommates and I have decided that it’s not going to hurt to try. On our water cooler we have posted “Love” and now “Health” to make “love water” and “health water.” We’re not sure if it’s working – though we’ve been feeling great. Is it the placebo effect? Does the water actually have some effect on us, or do our own intentions alone facilitate an actual change. We’re not even sure we can quantify what change that would be amongst all the variables beyond our control. In any event – we have noticed one thing, we’re drinking a lot more water. :). — Tomek

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