Reuters carried an article yesterday (which you can read:
HERE) on a test conducted
in an effort to find out if prayer works.
“”>”The patients in the study at six U.S. hospitals included 604 who were actually prayed for after being told they might or might not be; another 597 patients who were not prayed for after being told they might or might not be; and a group of 601 who were prayed for and told they would be the subject of such prayer.”
The results? “”>”A study of more than 1,800 patients who underwent heart bypass surgery has failed to show that prayers specially organized for their recovery had any impact, researchers said Thursday.”
“In fact, the study found some of the patients who knew they were being prayed for did worse than others who were only told they might be prayed for — though those who did the study said they could not explain why.”
What are Christians supposed to say when we are confronted with “evidence” like this? Does the word DUH! come to mind? It should – and here’s why.
Prayer doesn’t in fact – work. Prayer that is when considered in and of itself.
You see, what has tragically crept not only into the culture, but even into the Church is a superstitious, magicalized version of what Scripture speaks about when it speaks of prayer.
Prayer quite simply is not some form of generic power to be had through the proper use of the right words, addressed to the right deity in the right manner or in the right quantity. Jesus addressed this head-on in the Sermon on the Mount. The “many words” or “empty phrases” that we are so fond of are not prayer.
Superstitious prayer always leads us to imagine that the real power in prayer is technique, whether it be the reciting or incorporating of certain phrases or even Scripture verses. The amount of time spent, the number of people involved, even postures and places all enter into it when we move away from true prayer, and begin the process of trying manipulate God by various means.
Prayer is not magic. It is not finding the cosmic key to twisting the arm of God. Nor is it entering into some metaphysical exercise to unlock or employ some generic “force” in the universe. All of these rankly pagan ideas need to be rooted out of our hearts and minds permanently, if we are ever to enter into true, deep, personal fellowship with the Living God. And that dear friends IS, what prayer is. Nothing other.
Prayer does not work. The God who we are united to in Christ does. He hears and He answers – according to His infinite wisdom and limitless love. He always knows what precisely it is we need and answers only in terms of what is BEST, in the eternal scheme of things. What is best both in terms of our good, and His glory. In this, as in all else, He never errs.
Prayer is the humbling of the soul to cast its cares upon Jesus, knowing that He is ever and always tending His own – caring for us. Its wonder is not to be found in giving us some form of power to exercise, but in giving over our foolish attempts at self-government and self-reliance to Him in absolute trust. It is an admission of a total lack of power, not the attempt to exercise it. It is believing and trusting Him.
There is no surprise here that in the attempted study, no way of measuring the impact of prayer was to be found. For it can never be found among men. Prayer is interaction with God. The “impact” (if we can call it that) isn’t to be found on earth, but in Heaven, where our Sovereign Lord hears us, pities us, delights in us, feels for us, and moves on our behalf.
When He deems it best, He will create bread right in front of our eyes to feed a hungry multitude, without the slightest fanfare. If needed, He will make the very sun stand still to accomplish our victory as we seek to do His will. But He is not a trained monkey to perform on command. He defies the poking and prodding of mere curiosity, faithless attempts to mechanize His personal responses to the needs of His people, to be reduced to the mere sum of propositional truth about Himself, or to be gawked at in mankind’s arrogant laboratory for subjecting all things to the rule of their own intellects. God will not be judged by us – we will be judged by Him.
Make no mistake, prayer is about God and His people, not about fallen man and his quest for power.
Prayer doesn’t work. It has no power in itself, no matter who attempts to use it so. It is not an entity to be quantified, harnessed and drafted into use for the carrying out of wicked desires. It is communion with God. Anything less, is superstitious tripe.
Prayer doesn’t work. But our God, DOES!