Prayer is Effective


I recently read a conversation on social media regarding the suffering of Christians in the Middle East. One commenter was complaining that she didn’t know what she could actually do about it, aside from praying. Another person responded, “Either we believe prayer is effective, or we don’t. If we do, we need to act like it.”

I realized that I often treat prayer as the thing to do when there is nothing left to be done, only when I am powerless do I stop and ask for help from God. But I think I have it upside down. No matter what effect I can have on a situation, prayer needs to be first.It’s not that I shouldn’t act to help these and other needs, but my help should be in addition to my prayers, not the other way around.

You know what that does? It reduces my self-importance in the equation. If I have a sick friend and I can help by watching her kids or bringing dinner, great! That is a good help to her. It is even more important that I pray for her or her family. When Christians are being persecuted across the world and I can send some money to a trusted ministry to help them, that is meaningful. The money is good, but the prayer for those who are suffering and for their oppressors is vital.

Wait, what? How can that be more important than dinner? Than needed funds for suffering people? Action seems to speak louder! That is just ridiculous. So I ask again…

Do I believe prayer is effective or not?

It is so easy to forget the spiritual aspect of our lives, of our very being when the physical, visible world is throwing itself at our senses everywhere we turn. The physical world begins to feel more real, more permanent. The spiritual world begins to seem like a fantasy.

Most of the time it is not for us to know exactly what the answer to or effect of our prayer is. We have to hand this little tiny piece of ourselves over to God and trust that He will know what to do with it. He told us to pray. Do we believe it is meaningful and effective or just a psychological exercise He wants us to go through on a regular basis?

Prayer is effective in connecting us to God. It reorients our faces towards Him when our natural state is to flit around like butterflies. Sometimes He allows our prayers to be part of a change in situation, and sometimes we are the ones who are changed. It is the very air our souls need to breathe.

Aw, who am I to talk about prayer? I am kind of terrible at it. I always feel like what I am not saying is more than what I am saying. I get distracted, I even forget what I am doing. Sometimes I forget to do it at all. This idea, though, that I need to act like I believe, specifically in prayer, is a game changer. Maybe it doesn’t have to be that complex. St Therese said, “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned towards heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” CCC 2558.

Since reading that social media comment, I have found myself asking, when I feel tempted to be in control of all the aspects of my life before me, Do I believe that prayer is effective? Do I believe God will hear me and respond?

I do believe. Now I am trying harder to act like it.

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