- At the Desert Retreat House -
Yesterday evening while watching a bit of the “presidential primary election” coverage on TV, I was especially struck by a few-second interaction between Hilary Clinton and a supporter who approached Mrs. Clinton, held her hand and told her, “I’m praying for you.” As one might expect, Hilary’s response was, “Thank you, I need your prayers.”
As I witnessed that brief interaction I thought to myself, “I wonder what someone actually means when they say they are praying for someone else, and does praying for someone make any difference?”
People ask me to pray for them all the time and I always honor their request but at the same time I am always conflicted about doing so.
For one thing when I pray for someone I never imagine that I am submitting petitions to a heavenly superpower capable of either granting or denying the requests. I never think of “God” as supreme king holding court who has power to control our lives.
Furthermore, in my experience, when people make their divine requests they are often hurt and even angry if “God” doesn’t answer them favorably. They wonder why “God” ignored or denied their petition? Did they do something wrong, are they being punished?
On the other hand, whenever someone asks me to pray for them, I always do. I also believe that praying for someone really does makes a difference. I just redefine what praying for one another actually means.
I recently came across something priest and author, Richard Rohr, recently wrote about how prayer works and why praying for others has effects. Rohr observes that, when we move away from an image of God as a distant controlling power and redefine God as the abiding energy in which everything and everyone is interconnected, the whole idea of “prayer” takes on a new perspective.
Fr. Rohr goes on to suggest that the discoveries of today’s new scientists who talk about the principle of quantum entanglement may help us get a better idea of what “prayer” does.
All reality is nonlocal, in other words
things can affect one another despite distances or time space coordinates.
Nature is not composed of material substances but deeply entangled fields of energy.
The nature of the universe is undivided wholeness.
It may sound a bit too “new age” for some people, and it is certainly not a traditional understanding of prayer, but as I see it, when we pray for one another, the prayer “disturbs” the entangled field of energy (like throwing a little pebble into a pond that ripples throughout the entire body of water.) “God” is the energy of universal love in whom we are all connected. Our prayer is a pebble thrown into that “field” of love.
So yes I do think we can and should pray for one another, and our prayers have effects. Prayers are disturbing, they send out positive energy into a dynamically interconnected cosmos and always make a difference.
It also seems to me that you can be an agnostic and even an atheist and still pray for others when you think of prayer in this way.
The ecologist John Muir once said:
Tug on anything at all and
you will find it connected to everything else in the universe.