Why do we pray...

Not long ago someone at church asked me to pray for him: there are profound medical issues in his life and some complications in his personal life. I said I would pray. A few weeks earlier, a new friend was diagnosed with a cancer that is very complex and hard to treat; we have been praying for her and her family, too. And I have been thinking a great deal about prayer in my own life as I try to find my way through the woods with a loved one who is hurting and in trouble and alienated from my love.

So, why do we pray? Clearly, we pray for God's intervention - God's presence - God's healing. And sometimes we experience all of this and more, yes? In my first church, a man facing an operation to remove cancer from 2/3s of his face woke up right before surgery to discover that most of the cancer was gone. Cured. Totally absent! And I have been with countless souls who have come to a totally new life through sobriety and working the 12 Steps. As we like to say, clearly God has been present for life became manageable when we turned over control to our higher power.

But what about the times when there is no healing? When loved ones remain wounded and in the dark? When cancer doesn't go away? When the scars of abuse never heal over? When wars rage and fear reigns? Is God absent? Is it all a farce? An illusion? What does it mean that after Mother Teresa sensed her call to minister to the poorest of the poor in India she never again felt God's reassuring and comforting presence?

Well, if you read one of my favorite blogs, The Dude Abides (listed on the side) the God Girl aka Cathleen Falsani has a posting re: prayer in which she concluded with a note from C. S. Lewis who said, I don't pray for obvious results. "I pray because I can't help myself — the need flows out of me. It doesn't change God; it changes me." And so it is with me, too. Like St. Paul so clearly says in Romans 7, more often than not the good I want to do, I cannot do; while the evil I hate I find myself encouraging." I pray because I can't help myself - I need to be changed and God is the only one who can do it. This prayer from the Community of Iona (Scotland) really speaks to me:

You are the unseen guest at every table;
You are the unknown goal to which all strive;
You are the unnamed source of inspiration;
You are the untamed grace on which we thrive:
You are our Savior... and we are your people.
Welling up in the song of children,
Willing laughter in a friendly room,
Crossing paths coincidentally,
Smiling in the face of doom:
You are our Savior... and we are your people.

Taking time to weave tomorrow,
Taking care to mend today,
Taking thought where we are thoughtless,
Noting what we meant to pray:
You are our Savior... and we are your people.

For this, our gratitude. For you, our yes.


Black Pete said…
I go with that--I find myself praying spontaneously in the oddest places and times.

You just do it.

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