I've prayed for a lot of people in my life, and I've been well prayed for too. Some of it worked out and some of it did not, or so it seemed. When things did not work out, the result was generally greeted by others with a flurry of excuses, such as, "It wasn't meant to be," or "God's ways are mysterious." Firm in the belief that meaningful prayer should produce a result, however, I pushed through some of that mystery, improving my odds.
In the simplest terms, prayer is intention. Intention is focused thought. In prayer, we lift our intention consciously into the universe, generally directed at God, or in some cases, a divine intermediary whose job it is to amplify that intention and send it on up to the head office. Prayer has always had a mystique about it, placing it in the unearthly category of the magical unknown. It's true that when prayers are answered, it's pretty magical. But it's also true that, thanks to modern physics, some of the mystery can be explained in scientific terms.
Prayer may rise up from the heart, but it's generally articulated through the brain and moves into the universe in waves. Brain waves are forms of electromagnetic radiation that, like other electromagnetic waves, travel at the speed of light. Depending on their strength, waves have the power to affect the energy and objects in their path. Since brain waves are not as strong as other electromagnetic waves, they benefit from fortification. This may be one reason why prayer works best in groups of two or more. Groups of people compassionately directing intention with the same focus on the same object, create a stronger wave that's more likely to effect the desired change. Large groups of people focusing on a unified outcome have tremendous potential for significant impact.
The first time I saw this process actualized, it sent me to my knees.
The year was 2008. Our son was gravely ill, and the doctors told my husband and me that he would likely not survive the night. That was the eve of his nineteenth birthday. On the surface this appeared to be the tragic climax of an arduous three-year-long war against blood cancer. There were those in our circles who piously accepted this prognosis as God's will. "At least you had those three years," they said. "You'll always be grateful for that."
I wasn't the least bit grateful.
As a magical thinker and deep spiritual believer, I wanted my son not only to survive, but to thrive. He was an incredibly intelligent, clever, and motivated young man with a great deal more to offer his family and the world. As his spiritual and medical advocate, I was intractable in the belief that God could save him if he wanted to. Just do it! Why aren't you doing it! It pained me to ask, because after all, couldn't he read my mind? My prayers were bold, honest, and combative. I had nothing to lose. I was a spiritual lioness defending her cub. The doctors had done all they could. I was waiting on a God who was taking his sweet time.
But what if he was waiting on me?
Saint Paul and other mystics talk about the "Mystical Body" as more or less the eyes, ears, arms and legs, etc. of God on Earth. Infused with latent divinity, we are charged with tuning our antenna, balancing our psyches, and developing these spiritual gifts at all cost.
"These things and more will you do in my name." -- John 13:13
For the foot soldiers among us, this may mean feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. For those whose gifts derive from mystical realms, it may mean learning how to manifest outright miracles. One thing is true, as the collective mystical body, we are endowed with more power than we've ever bothered to develop. It makes sense that at some point in human evolution God would kick us out of the nest and let us figure it out for ourselves. How else does one learn to fly?
"Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened." Matthew 7:7
At the peak of my son's jeopardy, I thought I grasped the power of petition. But in the midst of that experience, I was shown an order of prayer higher than I believed possible. That night as he struggled so profoundly, I called my family and widespread prayer community, soliciting support. Those who were not wringing their hands with anxiety, got down to business recruiting more prayer groups through friends and over the Internet, on and on, until a chain of viral prayer swept the globe, gathering speed and force in a fast-moving tsunami of advocacy for our child. The numbers were overwhelming, and included over fifteen countries. The intention was strong and direct. "Save him," said the wave. "Let it be done."
Early the following morning, I awoke with a start, instantly aware of a major shift. Against all evidence to the contrary, I knew my son had been healed. I knew it. I had never experienced such a knowing in my entire life. I rushed to his side, where he was struggling beneath his oxygen mask. The nurse said she would call the doctor, that the infiltrate in his lungs was overwhelming him. We would have to make decisions. Things had taken a turn for the worse.
"No," I said. "Lift the mask. He's trying to tell us something."
She protested, but consumed with pity, I suppose, pulled his mask aside to prove her point. As soon as the mask was off, he sang "Happy Birthday" to himself, smiling; his eyes clear and alert. Considering his acute level of infection, just the ability to breathe on his own would have stunned the nurse. But the ability to sing was otherworldly. Doctors ordered a mobile X-ray, which proved the infiltrate had all but disappeared. He was moved out of ICU later that day. The next morning he walked down the hall and took a shower on his own. Two days later, he was back in his college dorm.
He hasn't been sick since.
What I want people to know from this experience is that every prayer matters. Not the lazy drive-by prayers tossed blindly into a black hole. You know the ones. Not those. Not the anxious prayers fueled by fear and desperation. Put those prayers away. Those prayers are for the spiritually undeveloped. It's time to learn the confident prayers of empowered believers, the kind that rise up from the indwelling of the divinity at the core of your being and mine. The future of the world depends on this. It is our evolutionary responsibility to develop these gifts. Every selfless thought and intention directed confidently at the healing of another person, animal, plant, or the Earth itself, stacks the deck in favor of survival and enlightenment. Every prayer counts.
How to begin?
1) When someone requests prayer, pray for them instantly, fervently, and confidently.
2) Form what I call "a ring of commitment" around their intention. Reject all temptation towards fear and doubt. Your job now is to pray against the tide. Loosed of the burden of earthly logic, you are empowered to unleash your considerable energetic force into the wave of possibility that will likely turn that tide in favor of your intention.
3) In between prayer requests, pray, meditate, and generally commit to your own spiritual development. After all, your prayer could be the tipping point, not only of an individual's recovery, but a community's. Or a nation's. Or the Earth.
Or the spiritual empowerment of humankind.