Does prayer have an effect on those we pray for?
I was at Wal-Mart yesterday morning, long before the crowds fill the aisles and checkout lines. No one was behind me at the checkout counter. The checkout clerk and I began a conversation that quickly turned to the storms’ devastation. I asked if she had family in the Northeast. Almost immediately tears glistened in her eyes. She has family in NJ. She doesn’t know how they are doing. She sent a package by UPS, because the Mail deliveries have not resumed. There has been no phone communication in days. She longs to hear the voices of her loved ones. “I feel so helpless” she sobbed. “All I can do is pray.” “Yes,” I said, trying to be pastoral to this woman expressing her deepest concern to a stranger. “We must hold our loved ones in prayer, projecting our love towards them. In this way we are placing them in God’s care”. We held hands over my filled bags and in that moment we were connected in a mysterious way, tears spilled down our cheeks signaling God’s mercy falling into our hearts.
We often hear that prayer is talking to God. Praying, we place ourselves and those for whom we pray in the stream of providence. In prayer, we channel God’s inflowing love. The circumstances may not change immediately and maybe not in visible ways none the less we are changed and transformed by prayer.
To appreciate how prayers and thought can affect suffering, we must realize that intentionally directed thought and love are activities. Thought and love reaching outward can be felt by others. The interchange between the checkout lady and me was a powerful moment. I drove home renewed in hope. “All will be well”.
The effects of Prayer and Meditation under the scientific lens shows surprising results though the efficacy of intercessory prayer is not easy to investigate scientifically. Results are often mixed and inconclusive. However, there is more evidence for the effectiveness of prayer than would be expected by chance. It is easy to be sidetracked by research data. Those of us who choose to meditate and pray do so because we long for consolation courage and strength that is beyond our capacity. Meditation and prayer are focused on channeling divine energy toward a particular situation or person(s). No progress, healing or renewal occurs without trusting in the inflow and outflow of the divine. Becoming prayerful is an activity of projecting good wishes, hope and love towards others. We may feel helpless and unable to do anything to alleviate the suffering of people affected by the storm but we can spend time in prayer. Thought is an energy flowing from mind to mind, in a continual stream arising from its origin, the mind of God. Intentionally directing loving thoughts towards others places us and those we are praying for into the stream of Divine Providence.See more on this in Swedenborg’s Arcana Ccoelestia #Number 8478.4 on Divine Providence
“It is one the most beautiful compensations of life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping themselves.”
John P. Webster