Many of us in healthcare still believe in the power of prayer, especially for our patients. We see this as a way of life – not a replacement for medicine and therapy but, rather, a complement to both. In society, however, many have abandoned the notion of prayer and are more likely to express their concern with statements such as “my thoughts are with you.”
Such offers are typically made by those either with no faith or with a misguided notion of “tolerance” bordering on paranoia in which secular (and, sometimes, religious) leaders bend over backward to “not offend.” When someone offers to spend time “thinking” of you or offers up a moment of silence in your honor, what exactly are they providing?
Thoughts, on a biological level, are simply electrical impulses powered by chemical neurotransmitters. Silence, strictly speaking, is the lack of sound waves moving across a medium (such as our atmosphere). Personally, I’d prefer to know that someone was spending those chemical reactions soliciting the aid of a higher power that can actually help me in my time of need. Yes, it gives one a warm, fuzzy feeling to know that a “special someone” is thinking of them…heck, even the idea of strangers offering up some of their precious ATPs to produce images of yours truly dance around in their head makes me smile a bit. But is that it? Is that all we can expect from others?
And therein lays the irony. Non-believers, the clear minority in this nation, by definition, don’t believe in prayer. They also recognize the futility of spending thoughts or marking time in “honor” of some specific person or persons. Believers, on the other hand, aren’t going to waste their time on silence or random thoughts when they know the benefit of intercessory prayer. So why don’t we cut the p.c. talk and return to an era where our prayers are offered up on behalf of those in need? People don’t need our silence, they need our help. Letters of consolation, monetary donations, time spent listening to the heartbreak of others – those are all worthy deeds made for the benefit of someone in need: As is prayer.
Those of us in this nation who claim a faith in God – and that is apparently more than 80% of us – recognize the benefit of prayer. We can personally do little directly for most of the people in the world who are currently suffering from one cross or another – such as the victims of violence in the Middle East or the young American physician stricken with the Ebola virus – but we CAN offer up our prayers. Petitions to God turn our simple, even frail, efforts into effective tools of comfort and, in some cases, avenues of resolution.
As G.K. Chesterton observed, tolerance is the virtue of those without convictions and atheists are people capable of believing anything rather than someone who believes in nothing. I’m afraid, in the end, that’s all of what’s left when you strip down prayer to words – mere thoughts, even: Nothing. Let’s offer the hurting something of value. They deserve nothing less.