A friend who believes in the power of prayer asked some of her friends to pray for her sick daughter eagerly. She was very disappointed when her mother-in-law, who is a Catholic, refused to pray. When I heard about this woman’s refusal to pray for her own granddaughter, I was surprised and did not understand why. My friend later explained to me that her mother-in-law does not believe in the power of prayer. She thinks that people who pray are wasting their time. This woman did not believe her granddaughter was sick and she comforted the young girl by saying, “Just be a good girl and you’ll be fine.”
While it is difficult to have a meaningful conversation with people who are not on the same wavelength with us, it is appalling to hear that this woman trying to educate my friend with her ignorance that there should be a limit to religion.
This friend of mine was born in a Catholic family. When she was very young, she learned from her mom, who was a teacher of a catechism class in California, that we should love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. In other words, we should never set a limit to religion.
I have no idea how my friend’s mother-in-law got an impression that power does not work. The most striking lesson in the Old Testament that teaches us prayer works perhaps is found when Moses stretched his arms to pray to the Lord for victory for his people over the Amalekites.
The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Pick out some men to go and fight the Amalekites tomorrow. I will stand on top of the hill holding the stick that God told me to carry.” Joshua did as Moses commanded him and went out to fight the Amalekites, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his arms, the Israelites won but when he put his arms down, the Amalekites started winning. When Moses’ arms grew tired, Aaron and Hur brought a stone for him to sit on, while they stood beside him and held up his arms, holding them steady until the sun went down. In this way Joshua totally defeated the Amalekites. (Exodus 17: 8 – 13)
We are not sure whether the Israelites would have defeated the Amalekites if Aaron and Hur had not held up Moses’ arms, but we are sure God wants to demonstrate to us the power of prayer through this incident.
Even Jesus Himself prayed to the Father. If it was useless to pray, would Jesus have spent so much time praying to His Father?
There were numerous incidents that Jesus prayed to the Father found in the four gospels. The following are some examples:
Then Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people away. After sending the people away, he went up a hill by himself to pray. (Matthew 14: 22 – 23) Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1: 35) And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22: 44)
Ask my friend’s mother-in-law, or an atheist, or a mediocre Catholic, what is the most useless thing Christians do, and the answer will probably be “They pray.” These people prefer some tangible help.
However, we believe our prayers are extremely powerful if they are sincere because our prayers are joined to Christ’s, and Holy Mary’s, and the saints’, and can reach up to the throne of God. When we pray for the repentance of hardened sinners, some people we have never met before and perhaps will never meet repent. When we pray for the sick people, some patients who live in another part of the world become healthy again because of our prayers.
Remember St. Therese of Lisieux? Her “little way of love” makes sanctity accessible to all. Pope Pius X called her “the greatest saint of modern times.” In 1925, she was canonized by Pope Pius XI. In 1927, Pope Pius XI proclaimed her the principal patron, equal to St. Francis Xavier, of all missionaries. Unlike St. Francis Xavier, she was never a missionary herself and had never left her convent. As a Carmelite nun, she prayed for all missionaries with great fervour because it was a duty for Carmelite nuns to pray for them.
Remember Mother Theresa of Calcutta? She said that Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration will save the world. She wrote, “The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time you will spend on earth.” She used to spend hours praying silently in front of the Blessed Sacrament every day. People who do not understand the power of prayer think it was a waste of time, but that was how and where she got the strength to love the poorest people who lived in wretched poverty.
We must convince ourselves that prayer is one of the most powerful weapons we have. We in this modern world want to see visible statistics, concrete results, and tangible outcomes in almost every endeavour. God’s way is different. We will probably not see many concrete results of our prayer in this life, but the ultimate consequences will astound us when we see God face to face one day when we praise Him together with the hundreds, or thousands, or even millions who praise God together with us because we have selflessly made the effort to pray for their salvation.
As Moses stretched his arms to pray for the victory of his people over the Amalekites, let us also stretch our arms, like Moses, and also like Christ on the cross, to pray for the victory of His people over this world.