A sincere question about prayer for any kinds of Christians out there...

by somebodylovesme 22 Replies latest jw friends

  • somebodylovesme

    A few weeks ago, I received a mass e-mail from one of my mainstream Christian friends requesting prayers for headaches she's been having. I wrote back and told her I hoped she felt better (I'm personally not religious at all). Today, I got another mass e-mail thanking everyone for their prayers, and that her headaches were gone now through the grace of God.

    I have a cousin who thought he might have cancer awhile back. He asked for prayers, and then when the test came back normal, proclaimed that God had answered the prayers.

    More trivial... a classmate tells me she prays before tests.

    Now, here is my question. It's great that my friend and cousin are healthy. I'm sure praying helps people feel better and positive thoughts never hurt anyone. But what about all those people out there - many of them Christians, many not - who aren't so lucky? What about the young woman who finds out she has cancer and despite prayers, passes away at a young age? What about tragic accidents? What about the millions of people who are starving to death or dying from diseases that could be cured if they just lived in a wealthier country? Does God not like them? Are their prayers - or prayer for them - not worth as much? I just don't get it. How do Christians justify this?

    I have heard time and again that God has a plan for everyone, and that is why some people have to die before their natural time. Then why pray for your own little things, if God has the plan?

    I hope this doesn't come across as an attack against religion, because that's not my intention. I just get really frustrated when I hear that someone was cured because they prayed... and I just think, what about those who prayed and remained ill?


  • Carmel

    I've seen both sides of the perverbial fence. Prayers that resulted in nearly miracles, and more often than not, prayers that had no apparent effect. Personally, the more we learn about the minds' ability to effect the soma, the more I think prayer as a self-induced means of healing is viable. Needs a lot more scientific inquiry for me!


  • LittleToe


    I'm sure praying helps people feel better and positive thoughts never hurt anyone.

    I wholeheartedly agree with this comment.

    With regards to those who pray for a headache, I would ask why they don't take a paracetemol, like everyone else.
    Whilst prayer is unlikely to hurt this situation, I despair of people who activate huge prayer chains for this, and pragmatically think that it's a waste of Internet Bandwidth.

    I've seen what I believe to be answers to prayer (given that I rarely pray for things, the statistics on the answers to my prayers are pretty good, thank God), and am a fervent Christian (of unorthodox persuasion).
    I suspect that the true power of prayer is rarely achieved, and often misused.

  • Country Girl
    Country Girl

    An interesting article at ABC news about the power of prayer:



  • somebodylovesme

    Very interesting article. I would have to say, I'm not trying to negate the power of prayer... it just seems strange that from a purely religious standpoint, one person's prayers would be answered while others are not.

    Anyway. I agree - my e-mail box is filled with enough junk mail without having to add "prayer requests" to the junk folder.


  • bebu

    Books have been written about this.

    Off the top of my head, the whole of prayer has to do with the will of God--Thy Will Be Done.

    So, in a sense, each prayer is answered positively when, like Christ, we can say, "Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done," even if the answer is not the precise answer we are asking. When you ask with faith, you know that the bottom line is that God sees the whole picture--for everyone at everytime at every place, not simply our point of view. I saw that recently, when a friend died of cancer. And the year before, when another friend died of cancer. The bereaved families and church members have grown thru the sorrow--we love each other more kindly, and we can truly comfort each other. It is hard to explain; you would have to experience this.

    That sounds like a copout to a lot of folks. So let me add some more to this.

    Consider the story of the widow who kept bothering the unjust judge. Or the Gentile woman who asked for her daughter to be cured of demons, and met with an answer that sounded like a put-off: It is not right to give the children's bread to the dogs. Sometimes God doesn't answer yes immediately--and it looks like a 'no'. The purpose is often to strengthen in us our resolve, or in the latter's case, to show the resolve that was actually there. We define ourselves in a sense.

    Another reason, among many others, is that prayer is like a training method of sorts. Thru prayer we begin to think God's thoughts after Him. Our hearts get tenderized. Face it, there is a dang lot of evil out there, and it is easy to shield yourself from the knowledge of all this endless pain going on by just asking "why??" and walking away. You can't see an answer. But when you pray for someone, you put yourself into a dangerous kind of position: you are identifying yourself with that person's painful situation. It can increase your own pain! So, it has a sharp edge to it; it isn't all just nice fluffy good thoughts. When you really care about someone or something, you suffer with him/her/it. Prayer is gambling a bit: you could get a wonderful answer and be joyful, or you could get no answer and still deal with pain--perhaps worse pain. But we see that even in an answer with pain, there is yet a blessing.

    If every answer to prayer was just as every Christian prayed, then the entire world would become Christians thru the magic of push-button prayers. Everyone would be Rice ball Christians, or Cargo Cult Christians--people who are in it for the payoff. --This is not really any kind of argument of proof, by the way, but just an observation, since many here think that it's a pretty low policy for God to dangle carrots of any sort.

    Prayer is a discipline, like going on a diet--for life. What I mean by that is, it does discipline your heart. You learn humility. You learn how to accept grace. You learn how to be bold. You learn how to love better. One's character changes, imperceptably, but it changes over time. There are many kinds of people, and many kinds of praying. know a S. Korean gal who spent hours praying at a time... some are quiet, some noisy. I'm not judging anyone--it's God who knows whether their prayers are real, or "for show" like the pharisees.

    Why does God need our prayers if He already knows what He is going to do? Or what we will be praying? Well, He may know, but I don't always know yet. I guess it's all for my sake. He knows what He is going to do, and puts it in my heart to pray for it so He can answer it. Not just my heart alone, but many people's hearts. You learn that it isn't all about asking for stuff, but spending time WITH God. There is relationship development going on.

    I guess, in a nutshell, prayer has a lot more to it than a pushbutton framework. It's not just utilitarian. God kills lots of birds with one little stone. He is mostly concerned with our character, which grows thru time and thru situations. And our character is not formed by our saying simply, "Gee, I want to be a nice person", but thru the blood, sweat, and tears of faith. Faith and prayer grow each other.

    (No wonder trials are the crucible for us--they really do force us to define ourselves more clearly by our choices. And prayer is also a great method thru which God molds us. We are more important to God than we believe. We just want an easy life, and to just get along till we die. God wants us to find our center in Him, a much greater blessing.)

    BTW, my friends who died are not lost to God or to me; it is, to me, like their leaving the shuttered home with us and going into the sunlight, simply out of our view. We grieve, but only for a time.

    I hope some of these things might make a little sense to you.


  • jgnat

    On my booklist,

    The Anatomy of Hope : How People Prevail in the Face of Illness
    In this provocative book, New Yorker staff writer and Harvard Medical School professor Groopman (Second Opinions; The Measure of Our Days) explores the way hope affects one's capacity to cope with serious illness. Drawing on his 30-year career in hematology and oncology, Groopman presents stories based on his patients and his own debilitating back injury. Through these moving if somewhat one-dimensional portraits, he reveals the role of memory, family and faith in hope and how they can influence healing by affecting treatment decisions and resilience. Sharing his own blunders and successes, Groopman underscores the power doctors and other health care providers have to instill or kill hope. He also explains that hope can be fostered without glossing over medical realities: "Hope... does not cast a veil over perception and thought. In this way, it is different from blind optimism: It brings reality into sharp focus." In the final chapters of the book, Groopman examines the existing science behind the mind-body connection by reviewing, for example, remarkable studies on the placebo effect. By the end of the book, Groopman successfully convinces that hope can offer not only solace but strength to those living with medical uncertainty.

    With Little Toe on this, my successful prayers are much less on what I GET, and much more about involving my creator in my life. Good days and bad, I talk (pray) about it. David's prayers are a model of this. Often David's despairing prayer ends in hope. The act of prayer, then, pulls the person in to a healthier place.

    I have had some amazing answers to prayer (even answers to unexpressed need), and some puzzling silences. It is one of the things I want to ask God about when I have a chance.

    I do get annoyed with people that think that prayer can be reduced to a formula.

  • Greenpalmtreestillmine

    Obviously, positive answers to prayers are few and far between. The why of that is for the most part unknown to us. But the basic purpose of prayer is not to give us something in return but to help us endure whatever trials we may be experiencing and also to draw us closer to God.

    It's the enduring of trials that brings benefit and the drawing close to God that brings peace. No Christian has endured a trial that is not common to man but if we petition God we can overcome the trial. Not because it is taken away but because it is put in perspective and we by God's spirit are helped to have peace in spite of our trial. And in that peace we then can help others who are enduring the same as we are. In that way we stand in the Christ's place.


  • bebu
    I do get annoyed with people that think that prayer can be reduced to a formula.

    This is so easy to do. They do believe they are doing right, and usually it is in their mind the best they know of prayer. But sometimes it is all they will ever know of prayer, and it is so paltry.


  • Yerusalyim
    Then why pray for your own little things, if God has the plan?

    The purpose of prayer is NOT to change God's plan, but rather to convert our will to that of God. Prayer is indeed a mystery, it is effective, yet changes nothing. God already knows if someone is going to die, praying won't change that as God is immutable...yet, God desires we pray.

    A line from "O God" comes to mind. The guy seeing God (played by George burns) asks God as he's leaving if they'll see one another sometimes...just to talk. God responds..."You talk, I'll listen" God wants to be intimately involved in who and what we are...he already knows about us...but we can come to know God better by prayer...We talk...and become closer...and God answers in various ways.

    Prayer, like everything involving God, is a mystery.

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