To whom are we praying?
Less than a few hours of oxygen remain on the small submersible that imprisons five passengers in the freezing North Atlantic. Millions of people are praying. Millions of people also believe in the power of prayer. Surely this concentration of thought will lean toward a positive result. Surely with our focused intention our prayers will be answered.
God doesn’t seem to work this way.
I was raised in a Christian home with loving parents. Last night, out of habit, I found myself curling up in my bed with my hands folded. If I were eight years old I might have audibly mumbled to God to please allow these passengers to be rescued. To not sound selfish I would probably have added something like, “but Thy will be done.”
Of course we all must die sometime. It is the natural end of the journey we call living. If the victims are indeed saved we will celebrate the mercy of God. If they are not, we will say this was not God’s will, or that God had a higher purpose in allowing them to perish.
Then I wondered, who am I talking to and exactly what am I asking? Wouldn’t it be selfish to ask for the safe outcome of these five persons while ignoring millions of others who currently suffer? Shouldn’t prayers be focused on world suffering instead? On the positive side, the world has received a reminder of the preciousness of life.
In my bed, I did not demand the universe to spare the lives of these passengers. Instead, I asked that, if they are not rescued, they would die peacefully with minimal suffering.
I can’t guarantee that any god heard my prayer. But I heard it.