Right up front I want to ask a pardon for the strength of the title (and the content).
Also, I want to express my reluctance, for multiple reasons, for posting this. One thing I fear when expressing my difficulties here in the forums is that I may come off as to convincing and hurt someone elses faith when in fact what I hoping for is to strengthen my own.
Having said that I’ll get to my point. What evidence do we have that, not only prayer works, but that prayer has any meaning at all? I do know that we are instructed in sacred scripture to pray. In fact Jesus “taught us” to pray by praying Himself the Our Father in the presence of the apostles. This tells me that prayer is desired by our Lord. However, frankly, I see no evidence of prayer (at least my prayer) working.
We are told God answers all prayer but sometimes the answer is no, or not now. Is this a copout? If I pray for the conversion of someone why would God elect to say no? Or not now? Maybe we can draw some conclusion to this question that we believe makes sense but it is difficult to draw a conclusion as to why, when I pray for many people to convert, God says no, or not now to all of them.
Never has a person I have prayed for, converted.
Never has a person I have prayed for, recovered from a serious illness.
We have examples, and many, of people who prayed for a loved one to overcome huge odds to recover from an illness, or disease and the person survived. My response to this is; but of course. If the odds are 1 million to one that someone will survive an advanced terminal form of cancer, and 1 million people suffer from the illness, 1 person (statistically speaking) will recover. This is not a miracle it is statistics.
Saint Monica prayed for years for the conversion of her son. Her son converted and became one of the greatest saints and theologeons in the history of the Church. How do we know Saint Monica’s prayer had anything to do with it? How many saints have prayed for thier childrens conversion and the child was not converted?
Simply put, it appears to me we have no (zero) evidence prayer works. This makes me wonder if we have it wrong. In other words, I can pray that a person (Joe) will survive his tour in Iraq. Does God hear my prayer and say, “Mike you have this all wrong, what becomes of Joe becomes of Joe, the laws of nature are in place and what rolls out rolls out”. Did God design the world in a way that what ever will be will be and our prayer is meaningless? Of course, believing in God I believe He can intervien if He choses (after all he created the world). But did He elect not to?
Some here may tell me they prayed for this or that unlikely event to occur, and it occured. But again, I have to site probability for this. How many other people prayed for the same thing and got different results?
Frankly, when I hear “pray for him/her”, or pray and God will help you discern this or that, I can’t help but feel very doubtful it has any meaning.