When disaster strikes on a massive scale, such as the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, prayer can seem like a weak ineffectual response. Perhaps this is because the words, “I’ll pray for you,” have been used too often to suggest caring, but without a commitment actually to doing something helpful. But sometimes prayer is precisely the thing that leads to action, and therefore it should not be taken lightly.
From time to time studies have been done on the efficacy of prayer, comparing a “prayed for” group with a control group “not prayer for”. Sometimes the results have been stunning. But just as often we have seen these studies refuted by those who question the methods or assumptions, enough to throw into doubt the empirical evidence of prayer’s effectiveness.
Yet faithful people continue to pray, and not only for those near and dear to them, but also for total strangers, sometimes those on the far side of the world, asking for God’s blessing upon them, or for their healing, or for their consolation. Such prayers seem to open a connection to the ones prayed for, even across the miles. Their suffering is shared by the one praying, in a living demonstration of the word compassion, from the Latin “to suffer with”.
Whatever the ethereal benefits of prayer, at the very least prayer opens the heart of the one praying, creating the very real possibility that action will follow. The fervent prayer of a faithful person is never without consequence.