By Bob R. Acebedo I Published: June 27, 2020
There’s no denying that the present COVID-19 hysteria has invariably caused panic, fear, anxiety, grief, or massive helplessness among peoples and nations.
In many ways than one, people are turning to prayer as a form of relief from the current coronavirus pandemonium.
Likely so, it gives credence to the age-old adage that “there are no atheists in foxholes” (meaning, in extreme situations of fear or grave danger, people become instant believers in God).
Though we can only ascertain the uniformity of what people are praying for in these anxiety-laden days – that is, to stop or arrest the coronavirus pandemic, it is hard to find out whether the multitude of our praying populace really believe in the efficacy of what they’re praying.
Perhaps I can only surmise, not a few would retort that “with or without any result, I lose nothing in praying. I feel relieved anyway.”
Indicatively hence, the value of prayer, regardless of its efficacy, depends largely on the one who’s praying.
Is Prayer Effective?
The Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, wrote: “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
In other words, apart from aiming to get what we are praying for, the act or experience of praying can already offer a lot of benefits for us: it calms our spirit, clears our mind, and brings us peace; it provides us a transcendent articulation of joy, gratefulness, and relief.
But, more than just the feeling of relief or peace of mind, is prayer really effective? It could be or not, depending on the faith of the one who prays.
But for those looking for an empirical proof of the efficacy of prayer, here is one scientific evidence.
In an online article in psychology.com published in May 2011, Dr. Nicholas Kardaras shared: “I discovered that there was actually an incredible amount of research that indicates that consciousness can manifest independent of the body.
This included, among others, what’s known as DMLS (Distant Mental Influence on Living Systems) research conducted by psychologist Dr. William Braud… there have been controlled double-blind experiments that have shown that INTERCESSORY PRAYER AT A DISTANCE YIELDS POSITIVE RECOVERY OUTCOMES FOR BOTH CORONARY AND ONCOLOGY PATIENTS.” (underscoring mine).
Now, notwithstanding if we’re keen or not on the scientific or empirical basis of the efficacy of prayer, does prayer really work – both on the one who’s praying and on God answering the prayer?
Making Prayers Work
Though I may not be able to comprehend – albeit what is incomprehensible may not necessarily be unreasonable – the mind of God in answering a prayer or not, I can trust in the assurances he made (as revealed in the Scriptures).
For a believer, therefore, the efficacy of prayer is less of a question.
Let me put forward, therefore, the following pointers on how we can make our prayers work.
1. Have faith, believe, and pray from the heart. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus told us that “if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can say to a mountain to move from here to there.” Faith, even just a bit of it, is a matter of believing; and believing is not just thinking or affirming with the mind. Believing is trusting even if something is incomprehensible and yet reasonable (i.e., you have reason to believe even if such reality is beyond your comprehension) or making something seemingly impossible possible. Believing is an assent of the heart; it is manifesting something with the heart.
In 1991, scientists have discovered the existence of some forty thousand specialized cells in the human heart that function similarly as the brain.
These “brain cells” in the heart emit a signature electrical frequency of 100 times stronger and a magnetic frequency of 5,000 times stronger than the brain. To have, therefore, a faith as “small as a mustard seed” is to feel and believe what you’re praying for from the heart. It is finding God in your heart.
2. More than just asking, claim or be “enveloped” by what you’re praying for. We are told that there are four forms of prayer, namely: praise, thanksgiving, repentance or asking for forgiveness, and asking petitions.
Thus, they are sometimes coined into the acronym of P.R.A.Y. – that is, Praise and thank God, Repent, Ask, and Yield to God’s loving will.
In Mark 11:24 (Christian Community Bible/Catholic edition), Jesus said: “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it shall be done for you.” Gregg Braden, American scientist and New York Times best-selling author, contends that, citing from apocryphal (i.e., classified by the Church as of doubtful authenticity) sources, the original Aramaic text of Mark 11:24 verse is translated thus: “All things that you ask directly, from inside my name, you will be given. So far you have not done this. Ask without hidden motive and be surrounded by your answer. Be enveloped by what you desire, that your gladness be full.”
Clearly, hence, the above passages impel us to reckon that, more than just asking, we should claim or be “enveloped” by what we are praying for, as if it is already happening.
How can we achieve this? By being “enveloped” or impassioned with COMPASSION or GREATER GOOD INTENTION in what we are praying for.
3 .Act and live what you pray. Pray what you mean, and mean what you pray. Prayer is not just a matter of lip service, and prayer without action is passivity – like those who simply pray and expect for an answer even without lifting a finger or doing something about what they are praying for.
This is wishful believing, if not plain fanaticism. St. Augustine of Hippo rightly said: “Deus qui creavit te sine te, non salvabit te sine te (God who created you without you, cannot save you without you).”
If, on one hand, God did not get our consent before he created or sent us into this world, on the other hand, he will yet need our consent before he will have to save us.
God cannot save us unless we want ourselves to be saved. God cannot save us unless we have first to say “yes” to his offer of salvation. Hence, we can only expect God to answer our prayer unless WE DO OUR PART.
In sum, therefore, amid the hysteria and anxiety wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are profoundly uplifted with the great thought that indeed prayer works. And, in fact, it already does.
Hence, we should P.R.A.Y. – that is, Pray, Rely on God’s mercy and power, Act, and Yield BLESSINGS from the Almighty.
Have peace, God is greater than COVID-19!