Recently a dear friend became deathly ill. Finally, and thankfully she has improved greatly! But when I heard of her dreadful situation I started praying repeatedly for God to help her, heal her or do what was best for her or for the “greater good,” (one way of expressing acceptance of the inevitable.)
The first few days I prayed many times a day for her. I have done this in the past for family members, myself and dear friends. Growing up in a Christian family and in church I learned early to pray in a personal manner as if talking to a loving parent: giving thanks; expressing wonder and joy; asking for forgiveness, help and guidance; asking for protection, and help in growing spiritually. Prayer is a communication with the One who, I believe, began the whole creation process.
I know that others also pray like this for loved ones or church members and ask others to pray for them as well. After praying for my friend I began to wonder, “Why do I feel the need to repeat a prayer that asks for the same thing over and over again? God hears my prayer the first time. Do I really need to repeat it indefinitely?”
I asked another spiritual friend about prayer to see what her thoughts were about this. I was not doubting but just trying to figure things out. So I asked her, “Does God need for us to repeat prayers? Does it take a magic number of prayers before He will help or answer with a miracle or improvement?
Are we worried that God might not have heard the first prayer? Or that if He has not heard enough requests or prayers, He might say, “NO!”? Maybe some concerns or problems are such vital issues affecting our lives that we keep on praying to show God how earnest we are about the topic or person we are praying for.
God knows when someone is sick or suffering, so why should we even pray? As my friend was agreeing with questions, suddenly we both had a new insight. The repetitive prayers were for us.
There are times when we desperately want to do something to help someone or some group or ourselves so badly that there is nothing we know of to do or can do except pray. We feel so overwhelmed or helpless and want so badly to do something more substantial or “hands on” than pray. Sometimes we are so burdened with concern and fear for a loved one that we can’t help but pray or talk to God.
Why not reach out to the One who can help all involved. Someone who can comfort, heal, send a sign of His presence, or simply bring spiritual peace to our loved one and us. An angel may even be sent to protect us or comfort us or guide us in dire circumstances.
Sometimes in our own pain we think that God is not near us or we are afraid that He has deserted us. We may even ask, “Why is God doing this to me?” Whether we believe in God or not, there are times when it is natural to call out in our pain to the Creator of the Universe (or however we have been taught to see God) for help.
Sometimes when we are thinking about a matter of great concern, we may become so overcome with sadness or grief that we spontaneously wish for or ask God to help us. Likewise, there are times when some of us are so filled with joy, wonder, or thankfulness at something so beautiful or amazing that we can’t help but say, “Thank you!” or “That is so amazing!”
I am not trying to force anyone to believe the same way I do. I have seen that in many other religions there is a Creator, Great Spirit, Universal Energy, or Supreme Being, the Cosmos or something greater than us.
This One enables us to see and enjoy the good and beauty of this world and the loving hearts and actions of others helping those in need all over the world.
But sometimes, no matter how hard we pray someone we love will die, be injured, a disaster may happen or whatever we didn’t want to happen will happen. There is no easy answer. There is no way to understand at times when we are hurting or a loved one is suffering.
The only comfort I can take from these situations is that something good will eventually come from it. But then there are countries who live with abject poverty. Maybe it’s the hard times that bring out the best in people (or the worst). Sometimes hard times bring about changes in the hearts of people who would not have changed otherwise. Again, I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes we just have to have faith, but that is a topic for another post.
Since God does not control us or make us His puppets, often we choose or make our own disasters. Part of the problem or opportunities of free will is that sometimes we choose something that is painful or potentially dangerous or opt for choices that lead to disasters in ours or other’s lives. Sometimes bad things happen because people or situations change and therefore the relationship/marriage or results change.
When we are faced with painful or hard times we often go through grief for what was lost, or changed. When we grieve, whether with help or by ourselves we go through the grief process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But not necessarily in that order. If we choose to do so we can heal, learn, and grow in our minds and hearts. We have the option after healing to decide what we will do or become after the pain. Prayer can or may even help us to finally have a talk with God, (however we see Him/Her) about what happened.