The power of prayer

Published 7:04 pm Monday, April 23, 2018

As a Christian with a science background, I’ve always been fascinated by the age-old question — does God answer prayer? The follow-up question is, “can we prove that God answers prayer?” Make no mistake, I’ve already proven both the existence of God and the efficacy of prayer for myself, but it’s still a fascinating subject.

Piercarlo Valdesolo, on Dec. 24, 2013, wrote “Scientists Find One Source of Prayer’s Power” for Scientific American magazine. They used an emotion-supression test during which participants watched a funny video and tried to suppress their laughter. As they repeated the test over time, it became harder to resist the temptation to laugh.

They also used a “stroop test,” during which the researcher flashed colored words on the wall and participants read the words. There was a catch — the words were colors and they were colored. Some were the same color as the word and others were different. So, the word red might be colored red or it might be colored green. It’s obviously much harder if the word and the color are not the same and it gets harder over time. It’s called “cognitive depletion.”

If the participants prayed before the test, they were able to improve their performance on both tests, whether they were religious or not. Past tests have proven that social interactions enable people to avoid temptations, even if those social interactions involve deities.

“If they pray to me and repent and turn away from the evil they have been doing, then I will hear them in heaven, forgive their sins, and make their land prosperous again. (2 Chronicles 7)”

It sounds so easy. We simply pray and repent. If only it were that easy. One of my favorite jokes remembers a New Year’s resolution. A man set a goal of losing 10 pounds. A friend asked him in April how he was doing. He said, “Great! I only have 20 pounds to go.” Even at the simplest level, we have a problem with temptation.

But Piercarlo is telling us it helps to have a friend who supports us. At a deeper level, it takes more than a friend. It takes a higher power. I worked in a program for alcoholics in Lexington, Kentucky, and we talked a lot about a higher power. Sometimes we need a power we just don’t have in our own lives. 

So we pray, and on the first Thursday in May, we’ll pray as a nation. We’ll pray and repent and turn away from evil and obey. Then God will hear us and forgive us and make us prosperous again. I hope you’ll participate.