Guest Columnists

A New Perspective on The Power of Prayer

by Antonina Zielinska

BEING A TEENAGER in New York City was a treasure like no other. During my coming of age years, I had friends from all corners of the earth, practicing different religions and holding vastly different understandings of the world.

It made school politics, class debates and philosophical discussions one of our favorite pastimes. My friends and I discussed Thich Nhat Hanh, string theory, the values of fasting and Harry Potter all with the same ardor. We examined each other’s views like scientists exploring new worlds, always peeling away at the unknown.

More than 10 years later, we still have not kicked the habit. My best friend came over for a sleepover the other night. Jia Jia Zheng was born in China and adheres to a Taoist form of Buddhism. We were so into uncovering new mysteries in the fabric of reality that the ever-present state of sleepiness that comes from having two babies at home temporarily disappeared in a vapor.

At around 2 a.m. the conversation landed on the term “thoughts and prayers.” It seemed to us that both houses of Congress have been observing many moments of silence lately, which has come with criticism from many. These symbolic gestures, the argument goes, are empty, especially when there is no policy-making follow through.

It dawned on us, that in reality, these moments of silence actually may be the most useful thing Congress does. To support this notion, my friend shocked me when she told me her perspective on the matter. She told me that a Protestant Christian friend of hers once texted her that she is praying for her because she felt compelled to do so from within. That brought my friend to near tears because it was just what she needed to hear.

That is when I told my friend something I have not told her in the 15 years of our friendship: I have been praying for her this whole time.

Her response shocked me to the very core: “Thank you.”

I never told her before because I did not think she would approve of, much less appreciate, my efforts. I had negative connotations of voicing such efforts. It seemed somewhat preachy, or worse, prideful. As in: “I, the righteous one, will pray for you, the sinner, so that my God can save you whether you like it or not.”

To be honest, I pray for her because I love her and I want God to shine His grace on her. But at the same time, I know God already loves her and shines His grace upon her. My prayers for her were more out of obedience to God’s commandment to pray, even if I didn’t truly understand the point. I believe prayers could change the world better than any ruling body or army or even volunteer organization. I believe God would shower us with His graces if only we would humbly ask and accept. But how my prayers can specifically help my friend, I don’t know. I simply accept it as an act of faith.

After I more or less, explained this to her, my Taoist friend offered me the most beautiful gift: insight on the very notion of Catholic prayer.

She said she looks to science to help her understand such notions. Our scientific understanding tells us that matter and energy cannot be destroyed, only transformed. Therefore once a positive – or negative – thought is created from our inner energy, possibly the electric neurons in our brains, it cannot simply fizzle out of existence. This energy in its new form exists, and therefore, as all physical things, it must have an effect on some other matter. All events have cause and effect.

It is not that much of a stretch, therefore, to conclude that this energy can be transferred through the universal plane onto its subject. Quantum physics has proven that energy in the universe can have a causational relationship with objects light years away. Our own thoughts and prayers should be able to travel mere miles.

This way of thinking has helped me to see prayer as a tool to help build up the kingdom of God. Maybe spiritual acts of mercy are more physical than we realize.

For me, prayer continues to be a mystery, but one that is a bit less abstract now. I’m sure the Muslim Prophet Mohammad was correct in saying that if we had a true understanding of prayer, we would never cease to pray.

So although my mind is limited, I hope to send grateful energy back to my Creator for giving me such a good friend on my quest for enlightenment in His Ways.