What has always interested me during times like this is how helpless we all feel when a friend or a loved one is having troubles like this. (I'm not immune to this, so please don't take it as though I'm above it.) We all do our "thing" to protect our hearts and the hearts of the affected; some of it is platitudinal in nature and some of it is real. I'm not in any place of judgement to say that these things aren't warranted or don't provide solace to whoever hears them or says them, and they do have their place. 99.9% of the humans that inhabit this spinning piece of dirt in space have the desire to quell the hurt and help the hurting, and this is but one method. That said, a lot us turn to God when this happens, and do it very vocally. We solicit prayers from the Almighty, and some of us do that even though we don't necessarily believe in Him. Again- I don't say this judgmentally, because I fervently believe that a person's walk with God is their own business and certainly none of mine.
Before I go on, if you're not a believer, please don't take what I'm saying as though you are lesser than I. Your beliefs are your beliefs, and I have no desire to comment on them. I do, however, intend to get a little spiritual here, and if you can permit me to do that without feeling as though you are being put upon, that would be fantastic. If you are a believer, please don't think I'm trying to espouse a new theology here- this is just my take on this and nothing more.
I'm a pretty introspective guy (or, at least I try to be) and for me, my relationship with God is like air and water- it surrounds me and permeates me. I make a real effort, every day to try and get myself into His presence. Even though that is my intent, I will be 100% honest and tell you that I don't do that as much as I'd like. BUT: when shit hits the fan for people that I care about, LOOK OUT!!! I'm on my knees (which is no easy feat for me) in front of God, pouring my heart out because I need something. I take a great deal of solace in knowing that God hears me- but I also find that I have a tremendous, almost crippling feeling of guilt. Why, you ask? Because my fervance for His favor is only great when I need something. Even though I know I should be as fervent in praising Him when things are good, I am not. I really fall short at that. And, every time I come before God and pray for these things, I find myself saying something like, "Look. I know I should talk to you when things are good, but....
Everyone I've ever met that isn't a believer, at some point, voices the question of (paraphrasing here) "well, if God is sovereign and omnipotent, and is in control, then why do you pray? Do you think you'll be able to change His mind?"
That is a GREAT question. I'll be honest- I don't have the answer to that. The Calvinist in me says that my prayers don't change His mind because whatever is in motion has been set in motion by Him. The non-Calvinist in me hopes I can make a difference. The human being in me hopes that I can change his mind- but the bottom line is that I don't know the answer. And, here's a shock- neither does anyone else. And if they tell you they do, they're either greatly mistaken or outright lying, as this is one of the great mysteries of all time.
And yet, the Bible commands us to pray. It even says to "pray without ceasing". So, what's the deal here?
I don't want to hyper-spiritualize this, and I'm not going to make my point by exogesis and pulling random Bible verses out of the air. Simply put, almost anyone can make anything out of that kind of act. But I do know that prayer works. I honestly don't know how or why, but it does. I've seen it. I've experienced it. I've even had it done for me.
Remember the old M*A*S*H episode where Hawkeye meets a soldier suffering battle fatigue who thinks he's Jesus? He asks him, "Does God answer prayer?" and the reply is "He does, but sometimes the answer is 'no'." - and we all hear that and think it's deep. It's not. I truly don't believe that God's answers are ever as simple as "yes" or "no"- there's much more to the equation here. Further, I don't even think it's the point. What I think it does is that when people hear that folks are praying for them, it changes the atmosphere, almost mystically. The person in need somehow seems to notice this from their loved ones, and in many cases they are comforted to the point where their health changes and good things happen. Sometimes the opposite is true, and it doesn't- but invariably, there is comfort provided to all parties when it's known that others are doing this on their behalf. Some people refer to this as sending "good thoughts" or "good vibes" - and, even though this might not be the most Christian of viewpoints to say, I actually think they are the same thing. The only difference is that a Christian will attribute these things to God, while others may attribute it to other things.
Again- I really don't know why this works. All I know is that it does.
I, myself, have a medical condition that might eventually take away my mobility and the ability to do the things I love, like composing and playing music. I take no comfort in that fact, and believe me when I tell you that God and I have had some rather passionate discussion over the fairness of this where I am concerned (and He and I continue to do so, and will in the future) and, yeah, when I get to meet the Almighty face to face, He's got some 'splainin' to do, but I am far from the only one that has happened to. It's even Biblical- check out the Book of Job, or 2 Corinthians 12:7- to me, that's the best reference there is for what I deal with day-to-day. At first, this really rocked me- but, now I realize that God has used this to show me a heightened sense of compassion for my fellow man, which was something I sorely lacked in my youth. Could He have done that a different way? Nope. I'm too stubborn, and those that know me well will tell you that I don't see subtlety well- it takes a 4-iron across my temple - twice - to get my attention. This was the only way, and strangely enough, I'm kind of glad He did it this way.
So- I intend to keep praying for people. Again- I don't know how or why it works. It just does.