The Mystery of Prayer

Susan Hetrick

Read: James 5:10-20

The prayer of a righteous person has great power . . . (v. 16)

I went to my doctor last winter for my annual checkup, and she performed the usual battery of tests: height, weight, blood pressure, listening to my heart, etc. She also wrote up orders for a mammogram and blood work. I went for my mammogram the very same day. Two days later I received a phone call from the doctor. “According to your mammogram, there is a 6-mm lesion in your left breast,” she explained. “I want another look.” She ordered another mammogram and, if the oncologist thought it was necessary, an ultrasound. I made an appointment for the following week. And in the meantime, my husband and I prayed.

I have often wondered exactly what prayer does; how it works. I know prayer isn’t simply placing an order with God; expecting God to give us exactly what we ask for, like some cosmic vending machine. I know prayer isn’t simply sending out good vibrations. Our prayers work with God’s will somehow. James says prayer “has great power as it is working” (emphasis added).

We may never know exactly how prayers work, just as we may never know why God’s answers vary. My answer was further imaging that found nothing. Someone else’s answer might be different. And while not easy to understand, we cling to the knowledge that God does hear our prayers.

—Susan Hetrick

Holy Spirit, hear our prayers.