Prayer - When It Doesn't Seem to Work --
by John Mc Phail, MA, CRC, LPC

(Adapted from the book, Prayer is Good Medicine, by Larry Dossey, M.D.)

Almost all of us have prayed sincerely for something or someone, and we are disappointed when our prayers seem to have been ignored or gone unanswered.

In the recent Jim Carrey movie, Bruce Almighty, the character is given power by God, including the ability and responsibility to hear and answer prayers. He cleverly arranges them into e-mail formats and then provides a default "yes" to all prayers. However, he soon finds this causes complete chaos.

Larry Dossey, MD, in his books, Prayer is Good Medicine and Healing Words, writes about the role and power of prayer for those who struggle with this issue; -- where it seems as if we have not gotten the desired results of our prayers of petition; he says this:

People often wonder why prayer isn't answered 100% of the time. But how do we know it isn't? There are many other perfectly good answers to prayer, such as "no"," perhaps"," maybe"," not yet", or "we'll see". If we added up all the possible answers, perhaps our prayers are answered 100 percent of the time.

If we look at prayer from medical point of view, we can ask; What therapy does work 100 percent of the time? No such treatment has ever existed. Even the most powerful treatments fail occasionally. Moreover, physicians never know ahead of time whether or not a particular a particular therapy will work on a given individual. We simply weigh the chances and, give it a try, and hope that things work out, but as all doctors know, they often do not. So it is with prayer. We never know what the outcome will be, but we pray anyway.

It's a good thing that our prayers aren't always answered yet. For example, if all the prayers for curing disease that have been uttered in the history of human race had been granted, almost no one would have died. This would have resulted in global disaster millennia ago through massive overpopulation. Toda, there would be no place to stand, on an earth unfit for human habitation.

The fact is, we are not wise enough always to know what to ask for. Sometimes we need to be protected from our own prayers. Imagine the thousands of people who are praying at the same time for the one remaining parking space in downtown Chicago, Los Angeles or New York City. If all their prayers were answered yes', there would be a colossal implosion as they all arrived at the parking space simultaneously. C.S. Lewis summed up our limitations by observing, "If God had granted all the silly prayers I've made in my life, where should I be now?"

Why aren't prayers answered always yes? It's a blessing in disguise that they are not.

And, if we recognize that we, as mortals, may not be wise enough to know what to request -- how are we to pray? Dr. Dossey recognizes (and some research has shown), that having faith in the ultimate wisdom of God may be the best approach. He writes; Using a "thy will be done" or "May the best thing happen" approach in prayer requires faith and trust that the best outcome will prevail. It also means setting aside our preferences and demands. This can be very difficult, because most of us feel we know in advance what is best, and we waste no time in telling the Absolute (God) what to do.

John McPhail, MA, CRC, LPC, is Founder and President of Wisdom to Wellness in Okemos, MI. He is a licensed professional counselor, a medical first responder and is a Fellow and Diplomate of the American Board of Medical Psychotherapists. He is a nationally certified counselor and a certified rehabilitation counselor. He has his Master of Arts in rehabilitation and counseling and his bachelor's degree from Michigan State University.