Prayer matters. We read, write, talk and agonize about it, make resolutions to do it and wish we’d done it more often.
It doesn’t yield fame, money or power. For some it might seem outdated, archaic, against the grain of post-modern life, solitary and often heartbreaking, embarked upon without the certainty of results. It demands an expenditure of time that might seem like a waste of time.
So why does prayer matter? We answer that question with another question: How has prayer helped you?
For business owner Jim Huizinga prayer is an essential part of life. Whether on a business lunch in New York or sitting around the dinner table with his family, he always takes time to say grace.
“Prayer at mealtime doesn’t take long, less than a minute,” he explains. “It helps slow down the frantic pace life takes.” For Jim, “Prayer has the power to change the way you experience everyday things, the stuff you take for granted.”
In Auburn, Wash., more than 2,000 miles from high-powered New York business lunches, Sharon Hoganson, a Stephen minister, isn’t concerned about the time it takes to pray. She is a solitary figure sitting at the bedside of a young man who is dying. She prays for and receives the strength to do what needs to be done.
“I hold his hand and kiss his forehead as I have done before. I tell him that he is loved. He is someone’s child, and they are hurting because they cannot be here. I feel small and helpless. I thank God for putting me here, and ask God’s love to lead me through the process. I ask for your prayers, too.”
Marilyn Ward lets the love of God lead her throughout the day. She finds that prayer helps her psychologically and spiritually. Writing from her home in Paw Paw, Ill., Marilyn tells us, “My prayers are a relief valve for so many emotions and concerns. God seems to understand and allows me to vent when I need to, praise when I feel it, and hand things over when they’re too much for me to bear alone. Thanks be to God!”
Marla Fabian agrees: “I find I don’t pray to God to ask for specific requests, but instead for peace and for help going through all the ups and downs of life.”
Prayer isn’t about material things for Mark Halverson-Wente, either. “Prayer and supplication are not done to have God answer your prayers, God is not the celestial genie. Rather, prayer and making our requests known to God results in peace and in guarding our hearts and minds in Christ.”
“When you are talking to God,” says Cynthia Hersey, “you stay centered and you can concentrate on your conversation/relationship with God. It is a very quiet and peaceful feeling.” As Kevin Glen Keyser puts it, “Christ Jesus calls us to live in faith, rather than fear. Truly, whatever bothers you, I encourage you to take it to God.”
Within a more structured approach to prayer, Chris Duckworth values the ritual. He wouldn’t use the word “help” per se, “but prayer has formed me,” explains the 35-year-old associate pastor of Resurrection Evangelical Lutheran Church an ELCA congregation in Arlington, Va. “Saying the prayers of the liturgy week after week after week after week for 30+ years has truly shaped my faith and life.”
Prayer does matter, but it doesn’t matter where you are or the words you use. For Sharon Hoganson what she does “Isn’t much in the whole scheme of things. We are in God’s hands. That gives me peace.”
Join other Lutherans in prayer.