Remember the story of the man who prayed to win the lottery? Night after night after night he prayed and prayed and prayed to win. Finally, in exasperation, after losing every single lottery every time he prayed and because he firmly believed in the expression, “Ask and ye shall receive,” he wailed at God – “I keep praying to win the lottery and you never answer my prayers! Why?! I’ve asked time and time again, and you ignore me every time!”
God answered simply, “Buy a ticket.”
We, too, must take action if we expect prayer to work. We can’t expect answers if we don’t participate in some way to solve our own problems! Because prayer works for me, I am listing what I believe are power-of-prayer factors regarding my role in receiving answers to prayer. They might work for you, too.
Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier. ~ Mother Teresa
Life is filled with bumpy roads, tragedy, stress, and unexpected life-altering challenges. But life is also filled with joy, love, happiness, and life-altering experiences. Unfortunately many of us judge what happens to us to be either good or bad, not realizing that what might first appear to be bad for us might actually be what we need at the time, and what we perceive as good for us is merely a matter of our own distorted impressions – not at all “good” for us. Every lesson we learn promotes our spiritual growth and judging whether or not something is good or bad really doesn’t matter.
What many of us don’t realize is that during times of discouragement, stress, anxiety, depression, and anguish, as we muddle through life alone, we sometimes – or often – need help. Not until we are in complete denial of what is happening to and around us and not until we experience despair due to frustration and the inability to control our situations do we reach out in prayer.
But praying with hatred in our hearts decreases our chances of having our prayers answered. How can we expect to receive a loving response to prayer when our hearts are so filled with anger, rage, and hatred? By filling our hearts with negativity, we allow no love to enter!
When we reach out to others for help and they pray for and with us (and by “with us” I don’t necessarily mean in a church setting), we increase the power of prayer. Humans were meant to interact with each other. Many people, for some reason, often see asking for help as a sign of weakness, when, in actuality, reaching out to others is a sign of strength, because reaching out shows strength in admitting our vulnerabilities. None of us can do everything by ourselves, and the sooner we realize that we thrive with human connection and love, the sooner we will be able to reach out to others for help and not feel so alone in our personal frustrations and feelings of failure.
I used to hate asking for help, though I often accepted help when it was offered to me. To me, asking for help meant admitting that I was incapable of taking care of myself or my children. Not being able to do everything by myself and then realizing I needed to reach out to others was a lesson that took me a long time to learn. A lot of us behave like 2-year-olds, who insist on doing everything by ourselves. As much as I hated asking for help, I loved when somebody asked me for my help; I loved the idea of being able to serve others. And when I realized the joy I felt in helping others, I accepted help from them in a more loving manner, because I knew how good helping felt.
While the energy of prayer alone could work, many prayers said on our behalf can produce overwhelming results. I can give you two examples of how prayer worked for me and for one of my loved ones:
When I discovered I had breast cancer, I reached out to friends and family members. Many of them prayed on my behalf. After only one chemo treatment, my tumor shrunk from 4 cm. wide to nearly imperceptible. Even my oncologist was surprised and couldn’t explain the tumor’s rapid reduction!
When one of my grandsons was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, I again reached out to family and friends who sent positive, loving thoughts and prayers. His bone tumor was so large, everyone feared that he would lose his leg, or because young men his age were likely to die from this type of cancer, his life. Two years later, he is alive and well and walks with only a slight limp.
You could call our recoveries a fluke in both of these situations; you could say that the tumors might have shrunk anyway, but I know in my heart the power of prayer, and I will continue to rely on prayer for those times when I need it most.
Why prayer works is because praying is an intentional thought, and thought is energy. So another important aspect of prayer is intention, which comes from willful, conscious thinking.
In centering prayer, the sacred word is not the object of the attention but rather the expression of the intention of the will. ~ Thomas Keating
Emotional intention plays an important role in determining the outcome of prayer. How much are you willing to invest in creating your own answer? If you believe in God, you know that God resides in you. So if God is part of you, you – and the God within you – play an important role in answering your own prayers.
An asthma attack I had once was so bad, I was in the hospital for almost three weeks, nearly dying twice. I bargained with God that I would never smoke again if S/He allowed me to live. Yes, I bargained with God.
So am I suggesting that bargaining is part of prayer? No! You can’t bargain your way into having your prayers answered. I cheated a few times anyway (stupid, since I nearly died – twice) after I left the hospital, so I reneged on my own promise. Bargaining with God is bargaining with yourself. Can you make promises you can keep?
So what do I mean by intention?
If you feel you really need help and everything you’ve done so far has resulted in more grief and pain, call out to God, your Higher Power, or your Inner Spirit, and MEAN what you say! Put your heart and soul into your prayers. Ask yourself how you intend to benefit from prayer and be specific with your intention. Praying for a new “home” could land you in a tent in someone’s back yard, but specific intentions with clear pictures of how you “see” your prayer being answered bring the right people and circumstances into your life.
Prayers said on the behalf of others is powerful, too. Stop focusing on only your own problems. Energy begets more energy and the more you focus on your problems, the more problems will arise simply because the energy you expend focusing on your problems and frustrations tells the Universe to bring more problems and frustrations to you. “Oh,” the Universe responds, “that’s where you want to focus your attention? OK. Here is more of the same.”
Claim your intentions positively. Visualize your problems disappearing, and replace your problems with possible solutions. You would be surprised by how many ways you can solve a problem. Figure out how you can contribute to the solution.
Sincerity and truth are the basis of every virtue. ~ Confucius
Prayer is not a frivolous pursuit. You can’t just recite a bunch of words by rote and think, “Okay, I prayed, now answer me.” That’s like thinking, “OK, I went to church on Sunday; now I can swear, cheat, lie, commit adultery, and steal.” Yes, words by themselves have power, and repetition does bring a kind of meditative quality to prayer, but unless you’re earnest in your prayer, words alone, without emotional attachment to those words, are meaningless.
Want or need money or a love interest? Dr. Wayne Dyer often writes that wanting is the surest way to not get what you want, because what you are telling God and the Universe is that you are in a perpetual state of want or need. Also, money is only a representation of things you want. Money you need could be used to pay for power bills or rent. Instead of praying for money, pray for resources and help to come your way. Money could come, too, but instead of praying for money to fix your broken car, pray for the right person to come into your life to help you fix your car or bring you a new one. This kind of prayer has worked for me on numerous occasions! Though I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, I am always delighted that the right person at the right time shows up when I pray for help.
And if you want love to show up on your doorstep, become the person you want to meet and you will attract him or her into your life. Reflect the qualities of your perfect mate, and be that person. Visualize yourself as caring, compassionate, and loving so that caring, compassionate, and loving people will come into your life.
Another way to be the kind of person you want to meet is to serve others.
Do for others what you would have them do for you. ~ paraphrase of Luke 6:31 and Matthew 7:12
Do good for others, and ask what you can do to help those in need. Again, the Universe is very reciprocal. If you want something good to happen to you, do something good for others. Put yourself out there. You don’t have to bankrupt yourself by giving away all of your resources if giving means your children don’t eat, but find something you can do to benefit others, even if you think you don’t have anything to give.
I always – and for many, many years, thought that since I was incapable of helping anyone financially, I couldn’t help anyone at all. I placed all of my personal value on my own lack of money. Then one day I heard about an organization that accepted crocheted hats for cancer patients. Having had cancer and knowing how important head coverings were for people with cancer, especially during the cold winter months, I decided that since one of my talents was crocheting, I would crochet hats for cancer patients.
One surprising realization resulted from changing my thinking that day. Because I previously thought I couldn’t help anybody with anything, I suddenly remembered that for years I always helped my kids – when they needed someone to care for their kids, for example, I was there. So maybe I couldn’t help the Universe, but I could help some of the people in that Universe, people who were close to me, like family and friends.
Using our creativity and talents to help others is a great way to express love. Any creative endeavor you enjoy could also bring joy to another human being. If you don’t think you have any talents, start exploring the many options available for you to learn. Maybe your talent lies in cooking or baking – bake something for a sick friend. Maybe you’ve planted an abundance of vegetables in your garden – share your bounty. Whatever you enjoy creating, consider sharing the final product with others. By serving others you’ll discover that giving truly is its own reward, because when you give, you also receive benefits you never knew existed.
Think you don’t have any talents to share with the rest of the world? Maybe you’re limiting yourself and your expectations. Read The Eight Creative Talents and click on the examples to see where you might fit.
You can’t expect to grow a garden unless you first plant the seeds. ~ Theresa Wiza
Like the man in the lottery story, you, too need to take action if you want your prayers answered. YOU have to be the catalyst to your own answers. If you sit at home on a couch in your basement watching video games all day, praying to have a job you love where you can play video games all day, you can’t expect that job to come knocking on your door. You need to get up. Research available opportunities. Take classes to improve your chances of getting your ideal job.
If you take no action, your prayer has zero chance of getting answered. Anything you do to educate yourself is one step toward achieving your goals. DO something! DO anything! Move! And after you take that first step, start looking for signs that your action and the prayers you said are working.
Signs, signs, everywhere a sign ~ Five Man Electrical Band
While working at one of the most unusual jobs I ever had, I knew instinctively, on the first day, that I had to get out. I might have been the only one who felt that the entire radio station was condemned and would soon crash, but it was very obvious to me that the station was about to either explode or implode due to its numerous inadequacies.
Just prior to my working there (I had been on a two-week vacation to visit my son, who was a Marine stationed in California), the radio station fired the person who hired me and nobody knew I was supposed to work there. I was supposed to have been the station’s “idea person,” but suddenly a new manager and idea person appeared on the same day I showed up. I was demoted to sales, a position I hated, but I needed a job and I felt cornered.
I considered going back to daycare, but when I provided daycare in earlier years, parents rarely paid me and what pay I did receive was dismal. Still I needed a job and decided that if I was going to go back to daycare, I would make my daycare special. I would put my heart and soul into it. I needed to make a decision quickly, though, because time was running out. I hated the radio station job, but I wasn’t sure I could make a living with daycare. Read Miracle on the Rock – Miracles Do Happen and Prayers Do Get Answered to learn how that situation “prayed” out.
The answers to our prayers sometimes don’t fit our expectations of what the outcomes of those prayers should be. Unbeknown to me, by accidentally putting myself below the poverty level when I returned to daycare, my lack of income actually helped me during my cancer scare. The God in me must have known that a cancer was brewing and my Inner Spirit placed me exactly where I needed to be when I needed to be there. Also, apparently when you are so poor, you can’t afford anything, let alone treatment, the government has a program to help you!
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
What often holds us back from truly enjoying our life is our inability to forgive others. Forgiving somebody who raped your child, forgiving the person who murdered your parents, forgiving the kid who bullied you or your loved one is difficult, but forgiveness is not impossible.
Forgiving lifts the burden of hate from our souls and allows us to feel peace. We may never understand why others behave as they do, but as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us, we all have good and evil within us. We cannot control those who act on their evil thoughts, but we can learn to forgive them. We don’t know how, why, or when their minds warped into malevolence. We can, however, be grateful that we did not act upon our own evil thoughts.
When a person doesn't have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. ~ Elie Wiesel
Above all, be grateful for everything you have and everything you are. You might think you have nothing, and therefore you have nothing for which to be grateful, but through all your pain and suffering, you’re still here. If you have a heart that beats, be grateful. If you have lungs that breathe, be grateful. If you have a place to live, food to eat, water to drink, people you love, and people who love you, be grateful.
“I believe in everything until it's disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind. Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now?” ~ John Lennon
Believe! Just believe.
Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
We are all traveling our own life’s journey. We think we are alone, but a Higher Power or God is with us every step of the way and people everywhere are just waiting to help. We may not be aware of that power or even believe in prayer, but just because we don’t believe in something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
My definition of God may not be familiar to you. I don’t think of my Higher Power as some giant being in the sky, sitting on a throne awaiting prayer requests. My God is the collection of souls of everyone who has ever lived, everyone who is now living, everyone who will live, angelic beings, every form of consciousness, and everything in Nature. When I pray, I pray to that collective consciousness, and I believe I’m reaching into the collective soul of all of us.
If we want our prayers heard by our Higher Power, we need first to fill our hearts and minds with love, make our intentions clear, be sincere in our requests, serve others, take action, look for signs along our way to let us know our prayers are being answered (see Miracle on the Rock story above for one specific sign), forgive those who have trampled our hearts and souls, and be grateful for every person we’ve encountered, for every meaningful relationship we’ve ever had, for every lesson we’ve learned, and for every challenge we’ve overcome.
If we can accomplish those goals, we have made ourselves receptive to the power of prayer. And when the energy of your prayer connects to the energy of other prayers, prayer becomes an even more powerful force. So don’t be afraid to ask others to pray with you. You don’t have to be in the same room – you don’t even have to pray at the same time – but if more than one person gather together in spirit, the energy of your prayer will increase and your prayer will be answered, maybe, as I indicated earlier, not in the way you expected, but it will be answered.