Unspoken Prayers

Years ago I was at a Christian gathering which ended in a prayer circle.  People were lifting up prayers for a variety of people and reasons.  I had a special prayer request.  A friend, who was there, had recently been diagnosed with cancer.  I wanted to pray for her, but I am shy and don’t speak up easily in larger groups.  Plus, I wondered if she wanted everyone there to know about her illness.  I wanted to pray for her, but I was paralyzed.  I couldn’t seem to get it out.  I was afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing.

Then a man started praying:  he said he knew that many of us had unspoken prayers–things we wanted others to pray for but couldn’t express for one reason or another –too personal, too complicated to explain, too painful.  He lifted up all our unspoken prayers, trusting God to know what was in our hearts and minds but couldn’t or wouldn’t speak out loud.  Afterwards I went and told my friend, “that prayer was for you!”(probably for lots of others, too). Months later we were able to tell the man who prayed for unspoken prayers how meaningful that had been for both of us.  We were touched deeply by his prayer.

I’ve never forgotten that experience.  Now in church, or in other situations of  group intercession, I often add a prayer for all those that are going “unspoken.”  It may be because I have an unspoken prayer of my own;  it may be just because I know there are others out there who need that prayer as much as I once did.

How about you? Have you had an experience like mine? Do you, or your church routinely pray for all our “unspoken” prayers?


Prayer Works

In the most widely publicized studies of the effect of intercessory prayer, cardiologist Randolph Byrd studied 393 patients admitted to the coronary-care unit at San Francisco General Hospital. Some were prayed for by home-prayer groups, others were not. All the men and women got medical care. In this randomized, double-blind study, neither the doctors and nurses nor the patients knew who would be the object of prayer.

The results were dramatic and surprised many scientists. The men and women whose medical care was supplemented with prayer needed fewer drugs and spent less time on ventilators. They also fared better overall than their counterparts who received medical care but nothing more. The prayed-for patients were: Significantly less likely to require antibiotics (3 patients versus 16) Significantly less likely to develop pulmonary edema-a condition in which the lungs fill with fluid because the heart cannot pump properly (6 versus 18). Significantly less likely to require insertion of a tube into the throat to assist breathing (0 versus 12). Less likely to die.

Before I retired I worked for a hospital, and we actually had an employee program where a doctor spoke to us about the beneficial effects of prayer.   He cited studies such as the one mentioned above and  he prayed with his patients.

What do you think about this study?  Does prayer work?

National Day of Prayer

Today is National Day of Prayer, and I felt since our theme this month is prayer, we couldn’t let it pass without a mention and a hope that everyone who reads our blog will take some time today to pray for our country, community and churches.

 I am including a blog post from Bible Gateway because it includes both National Day of Prayer and a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lutheran martyr.  I hope you enjoy this and it adds to your prayer life.

Blog / Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Power of Intercessory Prayer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Power of Intercessory Prayer

Today, millions of Christians in the U.S. are observing the National Day of Prayer. Many Christian churches and organizations hold prayer vigils, special prayer meetings, or other activities. Whether or not you participate in National Day of Prayer, prayer is a key part of the Christian life. No discussion of Christianity is complete without considering the power and importance of prayer.

It’s thus entirely appropriate that in his writing, the famous pastor (and martyr) Dietrich Bonhoeffer devoted a significant amount of attention to the role that prayer plays in a Christian’s everyday life. Here’s an excerpt from his devotional writing discussing the importance of intercessory prayer—that is, prayer requests that ask God to help other people.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Intercessory Prayer

A Christian community either lives by the intercessory prayers of its members for one another, or the community will be destroyed. I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble they cause me. In intercessory prayer the face that may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed into the face of one for whom Christ died, the face of a pardoned sinner. That is a blessed discovery for the Christian who is beginning to offer intercessory prayer for others. As far as we are concerned, there is no dislike, no personal tension, no disunity or strife that cannot be overcome by intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the community must enter every day. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Questions to Consider

  • Reflect on your prayer life. Have you ever prayed for the good of anyone you were in a conflict with?
  • If so, what happened as a result of your prayer? Did it change the way you thought about that person?
  • If not, reflect in your journal as to whether or not you are ready to pray for the good of people who have hurt you or whom you dislike for any reason.

This reflection is drawn from A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a devotional available here on Bible Gateway both online and via email. You may also find our post about prayer during Lent worthwhile as you consider the importance of prayer.

Many Ways to Pray

“Does God have a set way of prayer, a way that He expects each of us to follow?  I doubt it.  I believe some people, lots of people pray through the witness of their lives, through the work that they do, the friendships they have, the love they offer people and receive from people.  Since when are words the only acceptable form of prayer?”

Dorothy Day

Years ago I took a two year course in spiritual direction.  We spent a lot of time reading spiritual classics and learning about prayer.  The first thing I learned is that most of us, like Beth Ann, are not completely satisfied with our prayer lives.  Remember, even the disciples asked Jesus, “teach us to pray.”(Luke 11:1).  The second thing I learned is that there are many ways to pray, and that we should pray as we can, not as we can’t.

This month in my posts I want to tell you about some different ways to pray.  Beth Ann has already mentioned three:  having a quiet place and time to pray, sending up quick prayer arrows throughout the day, and writing in a journal. All of these are good.  Give them a try.  You don’t have to do them all at once, and you don’t have to keep doing what doesn’t work or isn’t comfortable. See what fits into your life, and what works fits your personality. In my own life  I’ve  found that a method of prayer will work for me for a while, and then it just doesn’t. Maybe that’s just me or maybe that happens to you, too.  I used to feel this was a kind of failure, but now I’ve learned it’s just time to change and try something else, at least for a while.

Frank Laubauch, a Christian missionary, once said, “I really do believe that all thought can be conversations with Thee.”  I’ve come to see that in all my busy thinking, I’m constantly talking to God.  I tried to describe to my husband once how God is always on my mind, and part of my thought processes, even if it’s not completely obvious.  He said, “so it’s as if God is your operating program, always running in the background?” I guess that comes pretty close to explaining my experience. And if God is my operating program then, I can say that in some sense, my whole life is a prayer.

I hope this doesn’t sound conceited.  I fall down in my prayer life all the time.  Sometimes that operating program is running and I still ignore for a while. Saying my thoughts and my life are prayer doesn’t excuse me from other kinds of prayer:  corporate prayer, intercessory prayer, studying the scriptures prayerfully, singing prayerfully, etc..  In fact, I think I need to be doing some of these things regularly in order to keep my mental conversation with Christ going.

Anyway, in all this rambling, what I really want to say is KEEP PRAYING. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not doing it right. It doesn’t matter how you do it,  what matters is your earnest desire to know Jesus and be with Him.

I hope this month we’ll get lots of feedback about the prayer life of other Christian women.  What have you tried?  What worked or didn’t?  We’re interested in hearing from you.