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Keep Praying — It Works

(An excerpt from my unpublished memoir “Beliefs that Hurt — Faith that Heals”)

But just how it works is my burning question.

I’ve prayed all my life. As a child it was to a “God up there somewhere”. As a former Evangelical pastor with two theological degrees I fervently believed “God answers prayer”. The content of my prayers were mostly “help” or “thanks”.

But today I have more questions than answers when it comes to prayer. How does God answer prayer? And anyway who or what is God? Do I have false models and ask the wrong questions?

In writing this article I realize that I’m betwixt and between when it comes to the nature of the transcendent. I’m in the middle of a paradigm shift.

I’m not alarmed at being in this liminal space. It is the place where I have a theology of “I don’t know”.

So what do I do in moments of quiet when I have an urge to make a Divine referral for a friend with a terminal disease? Strangely enough,

In that place of unknowing I still pray.

However the content and tone of my prayer is vastly different to my “Dear God” of earlier years.

A few weeks ago we visited a close friend in the ICU at a local medical facility. She told me quite bluntly in her weak rasping voice “I think I’m dying”. I then asked “Do you want me to pray for you?” She answered in the affirmative. Quite a request from a borderline agnostic but raised in a Fundamentalist church!

I held her hand and in a moment of silence we distanced ourselves from the beeping medical instruments and the cold hard technology of the ICU. I bowed my head as I had done thousands of times before and prayed. I was convinced that something was listening.

In that moment I did not need to understand the theology of prayer.

I just wanted my friend to feel that she was bathed in the love of her husband, her departed sister, and some deep caring force.

We did not pray for healing.

We were not attached to an outcome.

We did not try to overload the divine inbox with urgent mail.

We surrendered to the unknown. And in so doing felt at one with a loving Source and each other. After the final amen she was deeply relaxed and grateful for the experience.

Today prayer for me is more a surrender to and an empowerment by a source of wisdom to do the right/best thing.

Prayer changes things.

Not necessarily the circumstances.

But it changes those who pray.

Several years ago I asked my spiritual director what advice he gave for effective prayer. He shot back.

“Shut up”

There is a Source deep within or far beyond that longs to speak wisdom to us if only we will listen. I have adopted a meditation by Fr Richard Rohr that repeats the words of the Psalm

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know

Be still


How does prayer work for you?



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