By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
The story is told of two men, Harry and Stan, who have known each other for some time. Harry has fallen upon hard times and has come to his old friend asking for some help.
“Why come to me?”, Stan asks. “Why should I help you out? What have you ever done for me?”
“What have I ever done for you?”, Harry gasps. “Why, don’t you remember when your house burned down several years ago, and you and your family moved in with me?”
“Yes, I remember. But…”
“And what about the time your child was in danger of drowning and I jumped into the lake to rescue him?”
“And how about the time that you lost your job and I gave you all that money? Don’t you remember? I’ve done lots for you through the years!”
“Everything you say is true enough”, Stan says. “But what have you done for me lately?”
Most of us on the North Shore have many things to be grateful for: employment, children, family, food on the table, a roof over our head, the forest, the mountains, the beaches, the sunshine. All these things are wonderful gifts from God. Prayer is simply a way of saying “Thank you” for all these wonderful gifts. It is so easy to grumble and complain. It takes work to be grateful and thankful for what we have. When we make the decision to say “thank you”, things begin to change in our lives. When we make the decision to acknowledge our “Higher Power”, more peace and contentment can enter our personal lives. Prayer really changes things, but first it changes us!
Dr. Reginald Bibby, the famous Canadian sociologist, has done some very interesting statistical research on the prayer habits and beliefs of Canadians. He found that 75% of Canadians pray privately at least once in a while, 30% pray daily, and 28% say grace before meals at least once a week. Close to 50% of Canadians acknowledge the possibility of having experienced God’s presence in their daily lives. Bibby also notes that more than 40% of the nation’s 15 to 19 year olds believe that they have experienced God. Clearly prayer is still a meaningful activity for the vast majority of Canadians. But Canadians, especially the Baby-boomers, are wanting prayer to be much more experiential and informal than in the past.
Even though Canadians are people of prayer, they are also very private about their prayer lives. Often even their spouses, or their closest friends don’t know about the extent of their prayer lives. In previous decades, the taboo subjects were sex, death, and politics. In our “liberated” age, the one topic that people still feel embarrassed to mention in polite conversation is their prayer lives. Yet studies, referred to in Newsweek, show that spouses who can pray together report greater degrees of marital satisfaction and greater sexual intimacy. One study showed that while up to 1 in 2 marriages break up, only 1 in 20 marriages break up where both of the couple regularly attend church. More significantly, the study showed that only 1 in 200 couples break up where both couples go to church regularly and pray together on a regular basis. It is encouraging to see research confirm the historic belief that “the family that prays together stays together.” Prayer, it seems, really changes things.
Even medical science is beginning to confirm that prayer really makes a difference in the health and recovery of individuals. In an experiment at San Francisco General Hospital, reported in the Southern Medical Journal, a researcher asked outsiders to pray for a group of cardiac patients. Even though the patients weren’t told that prayers were being said for them, the study found that they recovered faster than those in an otherwise identical control group. Studies by Harvard Cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson showed that patients that prayed were more successful at lowering metabolic rates, slowing the heart rate and reducing other symptoms of stress. Even science is showing that prayer really changes things.
My prayer is that more and more of us will be able to break the taboos around prayer, and begin to discover for ourselves that prayer really changes things.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
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