The peaceable kingdom. Edward Hicks. 1833. Brooklyn Museum.
On a Friday in March I read two things in the news.
The first report was on a study on the power of intercessory prayer to heal. The study, soon to be released by the American Heart Journal, was done with cardiac patients who were undergoing bypass surgery. Christian volunteers from three different groups were recruited to pray on behalf of some of the participants. It was the largest study of its kind to date and according to the review, it was also the most meticulous to date, attempting to address the flaws in previous studies.
The bottom line? Prayer made no statistical difference. In fact, cardiac patients who knew others were praying for them experienced more complications post-operatively.
The second was an article in Time on the state of the environment. The cover of the magazine read: Be worried. Be VERY worried. It is on climate change and global warming. The article talks about the tipping point for climate change and that once set in motion the change is not necessarily gradual, as we expected. That we actually seem to be seeing a feedback loop rather than a gradual decline, destruction that is fueling further destruction, an accelerating reordering of the environmental system.
The bottom line? Left unchecked we could begin seeing widespread disease, species extinction, environmental collapse. To some extent, the process has already been set in motion and the ground that has already been lost may not be regained. Well, not for millennia.
Personally I have wondered more and more about the power of prayer in recent years. The idea that prayer might not affect a change in the world seemed possible. But to live in a world of unheard prayer is a very scary notion. Consequently, early Saturday morning found me rebuking my god for not taking better care of things.
Are You even listening to us? The world is falling apart and it feels like there is nothing we can do about it. Is this what You want? Tell me what to do. Just tell me -- what kind of world do You want?
I don't think I expected a response. But then a voice asked,
What kind of world do you want?
What kind of world do you want? It sounds more like a challenge than a question. A kind of un-answer to prayer for it returns to me the responsibility for the world that I create, the world we all create.
Environmental damage, war, violence, human suffering. These are the by-products of human action. But can one person really make a difference in a world facing such enormous challenges? Quite simply, yes. I believe so. However, it will likely require that we each change the story we are living. But if we change our individual story, the stories around us will change. As the stories around us change, the world itself will change.