27 November 2022

Mystery of prayer powerful in a dark world 

Prayer can be a powerful tool in such difficult times. Picture: iStock

By Clare Boyd-Macrae 

18 March 2022

Throughout history, through all manner of disasters, Christians have prayed. People of other faiths do the same, and people without faith but with goodwill send positive thoughts out into the universe. 

Is this irrational-seeming behaviour simply wishful thinking? 

At the moment, like countless others, I am praying for the Ukraine many times a day, as I am for the flood-ravaged parts of our country. And I continue to pray about global warming, better treatment for refugees, justice for our First Peoples, and for an end to the patriarchy that continues to blight human history. 

Nick Cave famously sang that he didn’t believe in an interventionist God, and in some ways I agree. I don’t think God intervenes in the world and our lives in a crude, mechanistic way, protecting some and smiting others. Nor do I think that God pulls strings for favourites, or that prayer works as a kind of manipulation of the Divine Creator and Lover of us all. How prayer “works” is a mystery, just as God is. 

I am convinced, however that there is an unstintingly loving power at the heart of the universe. And it is my experience, and the experience of many other faithful people, that every time I pray, something shifts, as though I can access a tiny part of that loving power. 

Read more: Watching her homeland invaded, Victoria trusts in the Lord

Two examples from my own life. First, when I pray for situations of conflict in which I am embroiled, something in me softens. Second, my husband and one of our adult children have debilitating illnesses. I pray for them constantly, without expecting a “miracle” cure. (Although there are miracles aplenty in my view – from modern medicine to the remarkable people around us that sustain us in the darker times.) I know that when I pray regularly, I manage to cope with more grace and endurance. I meet others in similar situations, and I perceive the incredible courage, humour and resilience in the vast community of the ill and those who care for them. I see more clearly the abundant beauty that I miss when I am not in the habit of praying. Sometimes, an opportunity to do something practical in the area I am praying about may even present itself. 

When I am in the habit of praying, I become a clearer channel of God’s love, able to contribute better to all that is good in the world. When I pray, in some small way, God’s spirit is more easily able to work in and through me. 

As a Christian who believes that somehow the creator God became a person in Jesus of Nazareth, my prayers are not simply a wistful sending out of good vibes. In my experience, prayer allows me to tap into a boundless resource of grace and love that is vastly bigger than I am. 

So I will keep praying for the Ukraine, and the climate crisis, and the refugees. Because when anyone prays in love, from the heart, something changes. 

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