Does Prayer Work? Pt. 1
Why do we pray? What happens when we pray? Does prayer really work? These are questions that most people have asked or will ask at least one time or another over the course of their life.
The ancient mystic of the Church, Teresa of Avila said that "prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God."
English poet George Herbert described prayer as "Reversed thunder" and "Church bells beyond the stars." Almost as if he believed that when a person prayed to the God of the Universe---something actually happened.
Not everyone embraces the mystical when it comes to prayer, however.
Practical theologian Tony Jones doesn't see prayer as a therapeutic exercise, and doesn't buy into the notion that if enough people pray for something to happen--God will listen and share his power to answer those prayers. But, he admits, "I need to pray. I now pray out of obedience because Jesus tells us to pray."
I have to admit, it feels a lot better to think that my prayers actually make a difference in the world, rather than being a rote act of obedience.
This is where lots of people want to chime in with all kinds of thoughts on the best kinds of prayers, which books to use, what formulas to employ and such...
All of us are different, and it's not always helpful to try to prescribe the "correct" ways to pray when what is correct for some is actually downright joy-stealing for others.
One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, writes this about prayer: "Prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen and do not have to get it together before we show up."
I rather like her definition of prayer, to be honest. There's an openness and vulnerability to it that speaks to me--and honestly should speak to all of us.
But I do feel that something happens when we pray--both to us and to the universe we are connected to through the God who made us.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:18 that we should "...pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests..." Try that on today--offer your prayers to God about everything that comes to mind. Stay in conversation with God about your day, the people you meet, the joys and challenges you face.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.