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The Power Of Prayer?

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Many people of faith believe that praying for various circumstances in the world makes a positive difference. This thread is aimed at exploring this notion.


Probing the power of prayer


When Aretha Franklin crooned the words "I say a little prayer for you" in the hit 1960s song she probably didn't imagine that the soulful pledge would become the stuff of serious science. But increasingly, scientists are studying the power of prayer, and in particular its role in healing people who are sick. ...

- Catherine Rauch







IMO, Christians are called to pray without ceasing and to not be afraid to ask for what we need. Some caveats:


- We are not to treat God as some kind of Cosmic Bellhop or Waiter who lives merely to please us and our perceived needs.


- We need to be prepared to have prayers be unanswered and/or answered in ways different than we may have predicted or preferred.


Clearly, if all 6 billion + people on the planet were to have each of their prayers answered in the way that they each would want, this would lead to all sorts of chaos as many of these prayers would be mutually exclusive; e.g. that cancer-ridden Aunt Matilda die as quickly as possible - AND - that she live as long as possible.


- It is best if the things that we are concerned about and pray about jibe with and and are in sync/tune with the things that God showed us that S/He is concerned about through the life of Jesus; i.e. for the needs of others, esp. those who are hurting and suffering the most among us.


- We need to be open to allowing God to work through us to answer our own prayers.


Moreover, IMO, the following order of things makes most sense:

1. Prayers of Thanksgiving (thanking God for blessings you notice in your life and/or around the world)

2. Prayers for the needs of others.

3. Prayers of confession (owning up to our failings)

4. Prayers for yourself.

5. Prayers for God's will to be done.


My Answers to commonly asked Questions:


1. When is prayer most powerful?

I think prayer is appropriate and potent at most any time. Yet, IMO, it is "most" powerful when you're praying for your perceived enemies - especially when they're about to attack you.


2. Is it better when more people pray at the same time?

Well, perhaps. Most churches have "prayer chains" (via phone trees) to get as many people praying as possible over various situations.


With the notion that God works with the world as it is, God would have more to work with- and the world would be that much different - if people are praying about a given situation than if they aren't. So, to the extent that this is true, a world in which a thousand people are praying for the successful brain surgery for someon's Aunt Ethel, would give God more "energy" to work with and the medical team is that much more empowered and bolstered in their work.


I guess it may make some sense that prayer is more "effective" if:

- as many people are praying about X as possible.

- as many of them are aware of the details of the situation as possible, e.g. name

of patient, names of doctors, exact type of proceedure being conducted, etc.

- as many of them are praying during the time of the surgery as possible.

- as many of the people who are praying have a real and sincere faith as possible.

- if the person/s being prayed for are aware that they are being prayed for.


More conservative Christians often claim that prayer is most effective if it is done "in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord."


3. How long should people fast?


Well, the human body can typically only go 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food.


But most people who fast, do so for say 14-40 days, but they only fast during the daylight hours (sunrise to sunset), and most drink water throughout.


I don't really think that fasting makes prayer more effective, but I do think it is a useful means to help people become more humble and aware of their dependence upon God and other people in the world. It can also help with breaking addictions (physical or psychological).



I cannot explain how "intercessory prayer" works, but I do know that we're called to do it. An excellent, and highly readable, book on this subject is:


In God's Presence: Theological Reflections on Prayer, by Margorie Hewitt Suchocki




Click on link to read description and reviews.



And here's the text of a look at intercessory prayer via a classic (now out of print) short-story by John Cobb Jr. called "Praying for Jennifer."


I highly recommend reading this:



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This said, I tend to prefer Centering Prayer (sort of like a Christian version of Zen meditation). Here's some links:


Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. - Resources and Programs for ... Christian spirituality and centering prayer methods, meditation and theology. Contemplative Outreach. A non-profit organization that teaches and promotes ... http://www.centeringprayer.com


Centering Prayer by Thomas Keating ... Centering Prayer is a method designed to facilitate the development of ... You may read more about Centering Prayer and lectio divina by visiting our ...



Centering Prayer (also referred to as the Prayer of the Heart) is the ... Centering Prayer is one of the contemplative prayer forms St. John of the ... http://www.kyrie.com/cp


Centering Prayer Method An ecumenical contemplative prayer group in Dallas meets weekly to practice Lectio-Divina and Centering Prayer.



Thomas Keating: Centering Prayer as Divine Therapy Thomas Keating has devoted a lifetime to understanding and teaching the practice of Centering Prayer. In this conversation, he explores the techniques and ...

http://www.spiritualityhealth.com/ newsh/items/article/item_2947.html


Centering Prayer : Renewing an Ancient ... Christian Prayer Form by BASIL PENNINGTON.



Centering Prayer is a form of Christian meditation that leads to ... + The Centering Prayer Method + Methods to Facilitate Contemplation Prayer + ... http://www.soli.inav.net/~catalyst/center.htm


Notes from a Truth Seeker: Centering Prayer, Severely Messed With ... The centering prayer guru, as far as I can tell, is M. Basil Pennington. He has a simple, thin book with instruction on centering prayer and lectio ...



Centering Prayer Guidelines ... 4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes. ...




And here's a prayer that one simply cannot go wrong in praying!


God, grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

the courage to change the things I can;

and the wisdom to know the difference.





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If we're going to look at "can't go wrong" prayers... How about the Lord's Prayer? I love the idea that praying opens you to God; praying the Lord's Prayer basically signals your openness to God's plan while opening yourself to his influence.


Contemplative prayer is also wonderful. Like meditation, I think of it as listening to God... rather than talking.


CS Lewis (just watched Shadowlands), says that he felt a constant need/longing to pray... that it changed him, not God.


There is a lot of medical and other research on prayer lately... it is well designed and better controlled than most medical studies. The results are stunning. There is a book (sorry, don't have it around for a full reference) called Mind/Body Health that sums up a lot of the research.


People have "unexplained" results if they are prayed for - greater than control groups - with statistical and clinical significance - even if they don't know they are being prayed for...


very faith affirming stuff. We (people) like dichotomy... yes or no, true or false.... God has more options than we.....

Edited by Cynthia
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I believe praying for others who are sick helps them to heal faster.


I also believe that visualizing that the person will heal faster works.


I also believe that doing "magic" for that person to heal faster works as well.


What I think all three of these have in common is INTENT and ENERGY.


God, grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

the courage to change the things I can;

and the wisdom to know the difference.


Ahhhh. One of my favorite prayers along with St. Francis's prayer. :D

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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Hey Brother Rog --


Thanks for providing the links on centering prayer. I'm a facilitator with Contemplative Outreach in the southern California area, and have been practicing centering prayer for about 7 years. What a wonderfully transformative prayer...


For those interested, there are dozens of great books about centering prayer -- but one I'd highly recommend is Thomas Keating's Intimacy with God. It gives a full introduction of the practice and discusses its history and its rootedness in scripture. Also, a brand new beautiful book by Cynthia Bourgeault: Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening.


Interestingly, Keating teaches that centering prayer, a form of meditative prayer that prepares us for the gift of contemplation, is also a form of intercessory prayer. When we are in the silence, resting in God, surrendering and consenting to God's presence and action within, we are in effect praying with God for the transformation of all creation. Not that we should give up our other forms of intercessory prayer -- but simply a recognition that we also can pray for others without using words as we surrender to the heart of the Silent Word.


Peace to all,



Edited by curlytop
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Could you just repeat what you said a few minutes ago? someone asked. You said that feelings aren't the barometer of spiritual experience, and then I think you said that the spiritual life doen't need a barometer.


No, it doesn't. Nothing in the spiritual life needs to be measured. You don't need to worry about whether your'e praying as well as somebody else is, even somebody whose spiritual life you admire. We are not called to grow into someone else's spirtual clothing: only into our own.


Measuring and evaluating your prayer is too much like what happens in school to be spiritually healthy. In school, you get a grade. You try to get a better grade. You hope you get a better grade than your seatmate, because you are competing with him. Your focus is on yourself, and it is a competitive focus.


But in prayer, the focus needs to be wider: it is on you, but it is also on those you love, on the world, on the mysetery of God. I can't think of a single way to measure that, or a single good reason for doing so.


And you don't need to fuss yourself about whether you are as devout as you used to be -- human beings are changeable cratures, and the spiritual life is a human enterprise: it has eras, and it will change from era to era. Something that has fed you for years may cease to do so, and that need not mean you're wandering away from God. It probably just means you're changing eras. Don't be surprised or alarmed; it will probably be back. JUst do something else for a while -- evening prayerinstead of morning, journalling instead of either, centering prayer upon awakening. Something new to you. It may be that the new practice will be even better than the old. It may have been time to let the old one go.


Just ask God for the gift of prayer that God wants you to have. Do this especially is you're a smart liberal person who feels a little embarrassed anthropomorphizing God and asking him for things. Don't be embarrassed: you don't create God in yor own image by imagining God; you're just using the tools that human beings have for coming closer to God. You are speaking the language of prayer, of image, of poetry, not the language of journalistic fact. You are right to assert that God is beyond image, beyond body, beyond all that is here. But we're here. The threshold of prayer is low enough so that all of us can take the first step.


So ask, and don't criticize yourself. Because if we knew how much God loves us, we would be very different people. And the world would be a very different place.



Copyright © 2005 Barbara Crafton - http://www.geraniumfarm.org

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