Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Does Prayer Help? (Part I)  

A recent commenter asked the question, "Why pray...does it help?" The commenter included a link to his blog which has as its most recent post a lengthy look at prayer. Because I thought the commenter raised a good question, I have decided to write a few posts on prayer.

Although he raised a few points at the beginning of his post, I would like to first address information he included at the end regarding a study which sought to determine the efficacy of prayer for patients with heart problems. As he points out the patients were divided into four groups: a) one were assigned people to pray for them; b)one received MIT (music, imagery and touch) therapy; c) one received both distance prayer and MIT therapy; and d) one received no additional therapy. He notes that the study found that there was no clinical difference in the groups of patients.

The problem I find with this study is the assumption about prayer. Prayer is not like a therapy or even a medicine with somewhat predictable results. Instead prayer is speaking with a Person. It is mysterious because it is speaking with God. However, even everyday conversation with a human is somewhat mysterious. In the case of prayer, it is a conversation between a human and God.

Just because someone prays for another person to be healed does not mean that it will occur. There might be many reasons for this, but at the heart of the matter it is because prayer is the means of communication in a relationship between a human and God.

Consider a parallel human relationship. Children often approach their parents with all manner of requests. A good parent does not consent to every request that a child poses. For example, it would be dangerous for a parent to give a small child a pair of sharp scissors. It is very likely that to grant that request, the parent would be putting the child in a position to harm himself.

But wait, what about the request for a physical healing such as heart condition? Surely, God, who is all-loving and all-powerful would grant such a request. From experience, the answer is clearly no. Perhaps for the same reason. If the person is healed of a heart disease there might be a greater danger that will result. Such a danger could be pride as the person does not recognize the opportunity that his heart disease gave him to gain a new perspective on life. Instead of dealing with issues in his own life that he would have faced if he had thought his life was shortened, he ignores problems and proceeds with his life without heart disease, but with a hardened heart instead.

Now I recognize that it easy to talk about this in the abstract, but it is difficult to accept in your own life. However, there are many instances which I can think of where God did not answer my prayer in the way I wanted Him to answer my prayer. That can be very frustrating. However, there are some of these times when I later realized that if He had granted my request, I would have missed something better which came along later.

The other aspect of this is that requests of God are only part of our communication with Him. Think about a human relationship in which the one person only asks the other for favors. This is a rather odd relationship. The same can be said for someone who only prays to ask God for things. God hears every request, but perhaps an answer of no is to teach me that there is more to my relationship with God than simply asking Him for this or that.

Regarding the study of the patients. There is also the issue of the patients. Simply having someone pray for you may not make a difference in your own life if you are not open God. For instance, if a heart patient is filled with bitterness and hatred of God, he may not be open to being healed of his disease. The patient has a free will that may be in such a state that God, who will not force Himself on anyone, is unable to act.

The upshot of this is that prayer can be a tremendous help. Prayer can help me realize who I am and who God is. He is not a big slot machine in the sky which I may play until I hit a jackpot. Instead He is a Father who knows what is best for me, despite what I may think. Also, He desires a relationship with me. It should be child-like in that I should be free to ask Him for whatever I want, but it should also be a relationship like a child has with his parent in trusting His answer is the best for me no matter how difficult that is for me to see. And it should be a relationship of love in which the child knows he is loved by the parent and the child freely loves in return. This can certainly help me to see beyond myself and realize that I live in a world that is much bigger than me.

Posted by David at 11:59 AM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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