I have always been interested in the potential of prayer. Did praying work, or is it just a pipe dream of the uninformed and naïve. When I was young, my southern-raised grandmas told me to pray. “To Jesus,” they would say. At night when I attempted a prayer I wondered, should I get down on my knees? Can he see me? Do I need to fold my hands in front of my face? Then I thought, “If everyone is praying and asking for something, how can Jesus keep track? How could he possibly answer all these prayers?” I doubted that he could.
By the time I was in college I had been questioning religion for several years and decided, while taking a course on world religions, that I was a Hindu, and not a Christian at all. Upon further study I decided I was, in fact, not a Hindu, but an atheist. My college years were spent questioning the role of religion in our world, while doubting the existence of God and refuting the relevance of prayer.
Over the next couple of years things happened that renewed my faith. Two of my closest college friends died in the same year, eliminating some of my naiveté and forcing me to reconsider my former disregard of God. I reconciled not with the Protestant God I’d been raised with, but a God who embodies both the masculine and feminine—a powerful energy of creation that suffuses all of life. It is with this view of the Divine that I researched prayer for my doctoral dissertation.
My interest in the power of prayer came on the heels of Dr. Larry Dossey’s research which he compiled in his book Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine. This inspired me to research the effect of meditation, visualization, and prayer on a group of patients in England.
Those who offered their prayers were located in the United States and Canada. The study had statistically significant results, with the patients in the receiving group experiencing the most improvement.
One problem some people have with prayer, with asking the Divine for assistance, is that they won’t be heard. But I believe prayers are heard and answered. Sometimes the answer is not what we thought we wanted. Sometimes the answer is “not now” or “you don’t want that in your life—you just think you do.”
We can trust this answer. We don’t know all the unseen forces at work on our behalf, so we can have faith if the answer is “not now.” Although we want life to be the way we desire, we can’t always understand the higher vision. When we trust unseen forces, we can trust that our prayers have been heard and answered.
In my experience, the most powerful prayer holds the intent, “For the best and highest good of all.” For example, “Please help me to make wise choices, to expand my awareness, and to move forward in joy, for the best and highest good of all.”