Does Prayer Work? Absolutely Says Dr. Roland Trujillo, Author and Senior Pastor
Yes, of course prayer works. At several levels.
This is a very profound question and one which I could devote a book to or a series of lectures.
Does praying work? Yes it does. But there are a couple of qualifiers. It makes a difference who is praying and why, who they are praying to and how sincere they are. And there are other factors. More about this later.
I remember years ago I attended an ASTD conference in which Will Schutz was the featured speaker. He was a prominent founder of the human potential movement. Will Schutz was one of the most respected leaders in the field of human relations and organizational development. He wrote a book called Joy. Along with Advice from a Failure (by Jo Coudert), Joy was a perennial and ubiquitous find in used books stores.
He said some good things. One thing he said was that the way in which our understanding grows is in the following manner:
First your grasp of the topic is simplistic.
Then after having studied a lot, your grasp of it becomes complicated and complex.
Finally, you arrive at a stage of profound simplicity.
That is what I would like to share with you. I will present my take on "does prayer work" with the hope that I might lead you from a simplistic or complex answer to appreciate that there is a profoundly simple answer.
In fact, the answer is Divine simplicity.
But first I want to share something with you. Do you remember Ma and Pa Kettle? There was a series of movies that told the story of a really poor country family consisting of so many children that Ma often would forget the name of one of her kids and have to be reminded. Pa smoked a pipe and wore a little brimmed hat and never amounted to much, but Ma put up with him.
I know that many of you are too young to remember Ma and Pa Kettle and may not have seen it on reruns on television. It was something like the Beverly Hillbillies and just as much fun.
There are many good reasons for finding and renting or buying the Ma and Pa Kettle movies. Even from an academic viewpoint, watching these movies gives you a sense of what America was like--lifestyle and values--around the 1930's and 40's.
Anyway, here's what I want to share about Ma and Pa Kettle: Pa's prayer.
Ma would go to the door and holler in a loud stentorian voice "Come and get it." Then she would stand back as about a dozen kids of all ages came rushing by to take their places at the table. Pa would appear, wearing his hat, and took his seat at the head of the table. No one was allowed to eat until Pa said grace. Everyone was poised to reach for food the second that he was done.
Pa took his hat off with one hand and held it over his heart. Everyone sat with bated breadth.
Pa was ready to say grace.
After a few seconds pause he said: "We're much obliged.
Then pandemonium broke out as everyone (including Pa) started reaching for food.
I would say this is an example of a simple, heart felt, and honest prayer.
It is an example of Divine simplicity and much appreciated by the kids who were famished after hard work and play on the farm. Pa's simple prayer was a very good prayer.
While we are on the subject of prayer and humor. Have you read about Norman Cousins? Writer, researcher, editor, peace activist and winner of the Albert Schweitzer Peace Prize, he helped himself survive very serious illnesses by watching comedy movies.
Here's a brief except about Norman Cousins from Wikipedia. Cousins served as Adjunct Professor of Medical Humanities for the School of Medicine at UCLA, where he did research on the biochemistry of human emotions, which he long believed were the key to human beings’ success in fighting illness.
"It was a belief he maintained even as he battled heart disease, which he fought both by taking massive doses of Vitamin C and, according to him, by training himself to laugh. He wrote a collection of best-selling non-fiction books on illness and healing. His struggle with . . . illness is detailed in the book and movie Anatomy of an Illness.
Told that he had little chance of surviving, Cousins developed a recovery program which included developing a positive attitude, love, faith, hope, and laughter induced by Marx Brothers films. "
"I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep," he reported. "When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval." (excepts from Wikipedia)
Cousins received the Albert Schweitzer Prize in 1990. He used old comedy movies to conquer pain, stop worry short, and give his body a chance to heal. I'm not commenting on whatever other things he may have done; I am taking note of his use of humor and how it helped him.
In the hospital people get medical care; but hospitals also recognize and provide access to spiritual care giving. The Joint Commission even mandates that hospitals do a spiritual assessment. One thing chaplains will often help people they visit overcome is worry. So if humor helps overcome worry, it is a useful complementary practice.
Here's another little story that illustrates something about prayer.
A little girl was misbehaving all day. Finally, her parents sent her up to her room without dinner. When she got to her room, she got a piece of paper out of the drawer and wrote her parents a note. It said:
Dear Mom and Dad,
I hate you.
It is clear that in her heart, this little girl loved her mommy and daddy. The parents read the note and knew that the words were not important. In her heart, their daughter loved them. They overlooked the words.
And so it is with prayer. Don't be concerned if your words are not quite right or you don't know what to say. God looks at the heart. Therefore, pray from the heart. Quietly, even silently, call upon God.
God does not need wordy prayers. He knows what you need before you ask Him.