While many people receive answers to their prayers, some do not. What is it that makes prayer work?
What is Prayer?
Most dictionaries define prayer as a reverent petition made to God, a god, or another object of worship. This also takes the form of an act of communion with God, a god, or another object of worship, such as in devotion, confession, praise, or thanksgiving. For the purposes of this discussion, we will limit the definition to prayer being a petition to God.
Does Prayer Work?
People pray for health, safety, security, good grades in school, job promotion, wealth, or for nobler goals like world peace and an end to human suffering. Some people also use prayer for ill, petitioning God to help them in deceit, fraud, or revenge.
But do these prayers really work? Do they affect outcomes?
Prayer Works for Some People
There are numerous instances in religious books and stories where prayers seem to have worked. For most people who pray, their everyday experience is that prayers seem to work at times and do not work at other times. There are those who claim to have received answers to even negative prayers. Sceptics would conclude that answered prayers are a mere coincidence of natural events. Clinical studies on healing prayer have not yet yielded any significant results.
However, the scope of this discussion is not to convince sceptics or to establish scientific proof. This discussion is directed at people who want to experiment and find out for themselves whether prayer works for them. Since some people experience that prayer works at times, the scope of this article is to explore the question: How does prayer work?
Anatomy of a Prayer
If a person contracts a disease, his family may pray for recovery. If a woman becomes pregnant, she and her husband may pray for a healthy child. If a hurricane threatens to destroy a home, the occupants may pray for their safety. There are numerous examples of people in such circumstances receiving answers to their prayers. The common thread in all such prayers seems to be visualisation. It seems to be an essential ingredient of prayer.
The Power of Thought
Prayer is essentially visualisation, and visualisation is thought. Some questions arise, "How powerful is a thought? Can thoughts affect physical objects or our health?" It is our common experience that our thoughts often change or create a distinct emotional state. Clinical studies have established that thoughts can carry a creative force in physical well being. Chronic stress created by anxiety, grief, and anger acts through the neuroendocrine system to produce physical states like hypertension, ulcers, and even cancers.
Conversely, positive thoughts and imagery have been known to bring relief to heart-related health conditions. Positive thoughts purportedly have an effect even on physical objects as claimed by Dr. Emoto Masaru, head of the I.H.M. General Research Institute. His book, Messages from Water, describes his experiments where geometric order, in hexagonal form, appears in crystals of frozen water exposed to positive influence. And yet negative influence can be so powerful that crystals do not form at all. There are also other studies available which seem to support this claim.
If these claims are true, it would appear, therefore, that our thoughts can affect both, our physical well being as well as external reality. If thoughts have such power, it could mean visualisation or prayer too can wield power to help us get whatever we want.
When is Prayer Answered?
As discussed earlier, it takes chronic stress caused by persistent negativity to assist in causing hypertension. Conversely, it is sustained positive thinking, in the form of exercises in imagery that has been proved to bring relief in heart-related health conditions. The secret, therefore, seems to be in positive thinking sustained over a period. In terms of prayer, persistent thought translates as persistent prayer.
Why Pray to God?
If prayer is mere visualisation, then the question arises, why pray to God? How some religions see it is: humans have the power to create the intention, but it is only God who can materialise it. That, for example, would be the reasoning behind the biblical instruction, "Ask and you shall receive".
In conclusion, if you are the praying kind, and want your prayer to work, you might want to try persistence. Keep your fingers crossed—literally. This might just do the trick in helping you realise all your secret dreams, and enable you to live happily ever after. If it does not go that far, the hope that prayer holds out might at least sustain you until natural circumstances get you over the difficult circumstances of life. Finally, even if prayer does not change things, it might change you and help you cope better with the ups and downs of life.