Prayer is Power

As an interlude between my first four essays (blogs) concerning prayer, and my original essays to come, we offer this from the archives of our library. We found this article in our collection of the Kingdom Digest magazine (now defunct), and was published in December, 1999. However, the treatise was originally published in Readers’ Digest in March, 1941. It was written by Dr. Alexis Carrel, M.D. It will add further valuable insights into our topic of prayer. QUOTE:

Dr. Alexis Carrel has long been impressed by the fact that many of life’s phenomena cannot be scientifically explained. He knows, for example, that miracles of healing are possible: he spent weeks at Lourdes studying them, and will never forget seeing a cancerous sore shrivel to a scar before his eyes. Dr. Carrel concluded 33 years of brilliant biological research at the Rockefeller Institute in 1939. Among his many honors are the Nordhoff-Jung medal for cancer research and the Nobel Prize for success suturing blood vessels. His Man, the Unknown was a best seller in 1935. — Editor

Prayer is not only worship: it is also an invisible emanation of man’s worshiping spirit — the most powerful form of energy that one can generate. The influence of prayer on the human mind and body as demonstrable is as that of secreting glands. Its results can be measured in terms of increased physical buoyancy, greater intellectual vigor, moral stamina, and a deeper understanding of the realities underlying human relationships.

If you make a habit of sincere prayer, your life will be very noticeably and profoundly altered. Prayer stamps with its indelible mark our actions and demeanor. A tranquility of bearing, a facial and bodily repose, are observed in those whose inner lives are thus enriched.

Within the depths of consciousness a flame kindles. And man sees himself. He discovers his selfishness, his silly pride, his fears, his greeds [sic], his blunders. He develops a sense of moral obligation, intellectual humility. Thus begins a journey of the soul toward the realm of grace.

Prayer is a force as real as terrestrial gravity. As a physician, I have seen men, after all the therapy had failed, lifted out of disease and melancholy by the serene effort of prayer. It is the only power in the world that seems to overcome the so-called laws of nature”; the occasions on which prayer has dramatically done this have been termed miracles.” But a constant, quieter miracle takes place hourly in the hearts of men and women who have discovered that prayer supplies them with a steady flow of sustaining power in their daily lives.

How can prayer be defined? Prayer is the effort of man to reach God, to commune with an invisible being; prayer is a mature activity indispensable to the fullest development of personality—the ultimate integration of man’s highest faculties. Only in prayer do we achieve that complete and harmonious assembly of body, mind, and spirit which gives the frail human reed its unshakable strength.

The words. Ask, and it shall be given you” have been verified by the experience of humanity. True, prayer may not restore the dead child to life or bring relief from physical pain, but prayer, like radium, is a source of luminous, self-generating energy. How does prayer fortify us with so much dynamic power?

To answer this question (admittedly outside the jurisdiction of science) I must point out that all prayers have one thing in common. The triumphant hosannas of a great oratorio, or the humble supplication of an Iroquois hunter begging for luck in the chase, demonstrate the same truth that human beings seek to augment their finite energy by addressing themselves to the infinite source of all energy.

When we pray, we link ourselves with the inexhaustible motive power that spins the universe. We ask that a part of this power be apportioned to our needs. Even in asking, our human deficiencies are filled, and we arise strengthened and repaired.

But we must never summon God merely for the gratification of our whims. We derive most power from prayer when we use it, not as a petition, but as a supplication that we may become more like Him. Prayer should be regarded as practice of the Presence of God.

An old peasant was seated alone in the last pew of the village church. What are you waiting for?” he was asked; and he answered, I am looking at Him, and He is looking at me.” Man prays not only that God should remember him, but also that he should remember God, Creator of all things, supreme wisdom, truth, beauty, and strength, Father and Redeemer of each man.

This goal of prayer always remains hidden to intelligence, for both language and thought fail when we attempt to describe God.

Our deepest source of power and perfection has been left miserably undeveloped. Prayer, the basic exercise of the spirit, must be actively practiced in our private lives. The neglected soul of man must be made strong enough to assert itself once more. For if the power of prayer is again released and used in the lives of common men and women; if the spirit declares its aims cleverly and boldly, there is yet hope that our prayers for a better world will be answered.

We do know, however, that whenever we address God in fervent prayer we change both soul and body for the better. It could not happen that any man or woman could pray for a single moment without some good result. No man ever prayed,” said Emerson, without learning something.”

One can pray everywhere—in the streets, the subway, the office, the school, as well as in the solitude of one’s own room or among the crowd in a church. There is no prescribed posture, time, or place.

Think of God more often than you breathe,” said Epictetus the Stoic. In order really to mold personality, prayer must become a habit. It is meaningless to pray in the morning and to live like a barbarian the remainder of the day.

True prayer is a way of life; the truest life is literally a way of prayer. The best prayers are like the improvisations of gifted lovers, always about the same thing yet never twice the same. We cannot all be as creative in prayer as Saint Theresa or Bernard of Clairvaux, both of whom poured their adoration into words of mystical beauty. Fortunately, we do not need their eloquence; our slightest impulse to prayer is recognized by God. Our meager syllables of praise are acceptable to Him and He showers us with strengthening manifestations of His love.

Today, as never before, prayer is a binding necessity in the lives of men and nations. The lack of emphasis on the religious sense has brought the world to the edge of destruction. Too many people regard prayer as a formalized routine of words, a refuge for weaklings, or a childish petition for material things. We sadly undervalue prayer when we conceive it in these terms just as we should underestimate rain by describing it as something that fills the birdbath in our garden. END QUOTE

Notice the sentence above, which we underlined for emphasis, and recall that this essay was published only months before the USA was massively attacked at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and the nations of the earth were plunged into World War II. Dr. Carrell’s thoughtful composition above is worth reading more than once, wouldn’t you agree?


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