Does Prayer Really Make a Difference?

Chris HighlandBy Chris Highland

I used to pray. Seriously, I prayed a lot. On my knees as a child before bedtime; head bowed in church; leader of group prayers in high school (one adult leader told me with tears in her eyes:  "I wish I could pray like you!"). Then there was prayer for souls while out converting them for Campus Crusade and a dabble in the babble of Pentecostal "tongues." Chapel prayers in college and more in seminary (more theologically correct). As a chaplain, I prayed for inmates and homeless folk and they prayed for me. Countless people told me they were praying for me. I prayed for my parents while they were both dying of cancer. I prayed for the Creator of the Universe to protect my young daughter . . . and then it dawned on me:  Why? Why am I asking the greatest Power in the Universe to take care of people in need, my frail parents, my fragile child? If He/She/It isn't already protecting them or caring for them, what's His/Her/Its problem? What is the Almighty doing with all the free time?

I prayed my way to the end of prayer. Prayer was replaced by the more immediate, pragmatic, and relevant. "I hope the best for you." "I wish you well." "What can I do for you?" Much better than prayer. No begging. No passing the buck. No looking up. Look around. I was one of billions of beggars. Now, I think prayer makes no difference, because I'm different. The world begs for something different. The world needs people seeking help, seeking solutions, from each other, not from a Beggar Above, Out There, who waits for a prayer, who needs prayer. 

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Writer, teacher, social worker and former Protestant minister Chris Highland is the author of Meditations of John Muir and five other Nature wisdom books. He currently works as a social worker with elders in the SF Bay Area. His website is

10/4/2010 4:00:00 AM
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