Does prayer “work?”

When you get into a discussion on the subject of prayer, sometimes someone will declare that “prayer works.”  The more I hear that statement the more I’m unsure that even those who say it know what they mean, because when Jesus prayed in the garden for “this cup to be removed,” he didn’t get what he asked for, and the biblical account gives no indication that it was because he didn’t pray “correctly” or “with faith.”

Unable to give a good answer to the question, what follows is a short account of the different ways I prayed before and after a recent colonoscopy.

I know, I know.  A colonoscopy?!

Here goes.  I don’t mind the procedure much.  It’s the preparation I dread.  To clean you out so the camera can see the intestinal lining—hope that isn’t TMI—you have take 4 laxative tablets and drink 64 ounces of solution on the day before the procedure.  That’s on top of not eating anything all day.

OK, so my first prayer was asking God to get me through the discomfort of being hungry on the one hand and on the other hand feeling bloated because of forcing so much liquid into my digestive system.   

That accomplished, I breathed a payer of thanks.

Then when the laxative started doing its thing, I prayed again for strength to get through this “moving” experience.

As the bathroom experience was winding down, my thoughts drifted toward what the procedure was looking for, namely digestive tract disease like polyps or diverticuli or cancer.  At that point my prayers were asking God to make it turn out that the screening would reveal that I had no problems.

But as I considered that prayer, I thought about Jesus in the garden not getting what he asked for and the hundreds of times I didn’t get what I asked for.  So then my prayer was for God to help me deal with whatever the test would reveal.

On the way to West Suburban Hospital the next morning, I found myself praying again for God to work it out so that the screening would reveal no problems.

After putting on one of those flattering hospital gowns which reveal your backside to the whole world, I crawled into the hospital bed and waited.  With no distractions like TV, I realized that I was trying to get to a “peaceful place.”  My blood pressure was higher than usual, the nurse told me, which revealed that I was in fact anxious.  I didn’t pray with words at that point.  It was more like how, when you are frightened, you reach out for the hand of a loved one, a hand to hold on to. 

And that experience made me aware of my mortality.  “I am pretty sure I will wake up from the anesthesia. . .this time,” I thought.  But the procedure was a reminder that things always eventually go wrong with the human body, and eventually the doctors, as they say, can’t do anything more.  At the age of 66, I’m increasingly familiar with such thoughts, so thinking about dying was not too upsetting.  In fact, what it did was to encourage my search for a peaceful place.

I did get an immediate answer to all of these prayers.  One that I didn’t expect.  The nurse taking care of me did a good job of inserting the IV needle in my arm and had just the right balance of caring and professionalism.  After being wheeled into the room where the procedure what take place, everyone introduced themselves and then immediately got down to business in a way that convinced me that they knew what they were doing, so that even before the sedative began flowing into my veins, I found myself relaxing with a kind of “what will be will be” outlook.

The next thing I knew I was waking up in the recovery room, and I was realizing, “It’s all over.”

My next thought was I’m going to have a waffle with pecans at the pancake house, and my final prayer was “thank you.”

Does prayer work? 

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