How your prayers worked

November 17, 2009 | 24 comments

Before I went into the hospital to have baby Joy back in March, I asked for prayers. But, to be honest, I didn’t know why I was asking for prayers.

That was a topic that had confused me from the beginning of my conversion. I could understand why each individual should have a prayer life since, as this great post on prayer explains, it helps you “put on the mind of Christ.” But asking other people to pray for me? I wasn’t sure what that was all about. It felt a little arrogant to think that God would answer my prayer for this or that outcome of events when so many people all over the world have bad things happen to them every day after having people pray for them.

I knew that I must be missing something, but I didn’t know what it was. I continued to ask for prayers because I trusted that it must be good since the Church says it’s good and everyone else seems to think it’s good, but it wasn’t something I put much stock in (other than deeply appreciating the kindness of other people thinking of me during prayer, of course) because I didn’t get it.

Nevertheless, I had tons of people praying for me that March day — more than have ever prayed for me in my life! I was overwhelmed with all the kind posts from other bloggers, emails and comments in which I read of all the wonderful people keeping me in their prayers. Again, I figured that this must be a good thing, even beyond the basic act of kindness of thinking positive thoughts for another person, but I just wasn’t sure how or why.

As I got hooked up to the IV’s and circulation boots and monitors for yet another high-risk birth, there were a lot of things about the situation that were less than ideal. For one thing, it was a bit of a surprise that I was there in the first place. It also ended up that the epidural didn’t fully work — again! — leaving one part of my body numb and paralyzed and the other in excruciating pain for what seemed like 1, 000 hours.

And yet, through it all, I was filled with this inexplicable joy and peace. When I talked to the doctors and nurses, I was equally interested in the precious opportunity to show love to other human beings as I was interested in talking about the details of the birth. When the baby arrived I felt like, for the first time, I could simply sit in awe at the gift of new human life without worrying about what the next few days might hold. In my hospital room I had a smile on my face almost the whole time, despite being in pain and exhausted. I was in this weird, uncharacteristic frame of mind where I saw my own tribulations as not nearly as important as the opportunity to love — to love God, the doctors, the nurses, my husband, the baby, the pediatrics nurse who kept using a short tone of voice with me — just love! Even at the worst parts of my physical suffering during the labor, though I wasn’t conscious of much of anything other than hearing my own voice scream “AAAAAAHHH!!!”, I didn’t have the panic and despair that I’ve experienced before when in pain during childbirth.

As I hobbled around my hospital room a few hours after the birth, still unable to walk well because of the partial paralysis from the epidural, hunched over in pain, I marveled at this joyous state of mind I’d had since the moment I entered the hospital. It was one of the best things I’ve ever experienced, a magical feeling of being so filled with the peace of God’s presence that nothing troubled me. Where on earth had this all-too-rare ability to trust God so fully and focus so much on loving others come from?! Suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks:

Your prayers.

I knew without a doubt that this experience of being brought so close to God was thanks to your prayers. It was as if my own selfishness and sinfulness had created a smoke screen that usually prevented me from seeing the world through the clear eyes of Christ, and that every single prayer said on my behalf was a little puff breath to blow the smoke away.

Did the prayers “work” in terms of changing the course of events to be more in line with my will? I’m not sure, because I haven’t thought much about it. After that experience, the question of whether or not prayer “works” to change the course of events has been rendered almost irrelevant in my mind. Because now that I’ve seen the power of prayer to allow someone a better glimpse of God himself, I would never want anything less.


  1. Betty Beguiles

    I remember that right after I got off the phone with you (shortly after Joy's birth) I turned to Dan and said, "I have never heard Jen sound so at peace!" I won't soon forget the sweet tone of your voice on that day. 🙂

  2. Laurie

    Amen! I've been in such a place – carried by the prayers of others. What a gift that we have others to "stand in the gap" for us, relaying that peace that surpasses understanding!

  3. Jennie C.

    And that's pretty amazing.

  4. Melanie B

    Beautiful. That's exactly it, having so many people in prayer for you doesn't necessarily change the external facts of the situation. Rather it changes your ability to receive the grace that God is always making available to you. Like the windows and doors of your heart are thrown open and the wind of the Spirit just blows right through you.

    I experienced this after my miscarriage and cancer diagnosis. I still look back on that time with a feeling of awe and, strangely, a sort of longing. There is still a sense of peace that I have that can't be explained in any human terms.

    Being prayed for by so many people, most of whom I've never even met gave me the most vivid experience of what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ, supernaturally joined with people who are scattered in space but united in his love.

  5. Dawn Farias

    Great post. So glad to hear about the peace you experienced.

    Did the prayers "work" in terms of changing the course of events to be more in line with my will?

    I suspect our wills get bent to be more in line with the course of events, KWIM?

    I'm so sad about your being strapped in and still able to feel pain. Your post reminds me of the reading for today/tomorrow from 2 Maccabees where the mom and sons are PEACEFUL martyrs while going through excruciating pain.

    I was thinking while reading those passages that I'm sure I'd renounce my faith as soon as the smallest bit of torture began. Your post, though,that you were peaceful AMIDST the excruciating pain, that you yelled and all, but still maintained your sense of love… that is a hopeful picture. Thank you.

  6. Abbey

    I feel you experienced an amazing transformation in your faith journey. Prayer, for me, is not just asking for something intangible or tangible … it is MY TIME WITH THE HEAVENLY FATHER, I know I have his undivided attention, and when I ask for good health, healing, comfort .. whatever, I am talking to my Father and I know He will take it and His will be done.

    Thank God for your faith journey.


  7. Lana

    That's really amazing. I hope that God gives me that grace in the middle of pain someday, to be completely open to Love…

  8. Jennifer G.

    I felt the same way after my miscarriage. I had more people than ever praying for us and I fully attribute the great sense of peace I felt to all those prayers. Thanks for sharing your story!

  9. Amy

    When I first met my husband, Dave, I was…adrift. Politically, I was pretty liberal. Religiously, I was nominally a Lutheran but hadn't been to services regularly for a few years.

    I was pro-choice. I hated our president and hated this country. I also hated Catholicism. Sadly, I believed many of the professors I had who painted the Catholic Church as this big, oppressive patriarchy that wanted me to have twenty children and no life of my own. I wrote a nasty e-mail to USAToday criticizing the Church for refusing to change the matter of the Eucharist for those with gluten allergies.

    So when I met my husband, a lifelong Catholic who has a vast, deep knowledge of the faith and a love of it. But we disagreed on many things and had many a difficult, emotional discussion on issues political and religious.

    Now, my mother was also a Catholic and in my middle teenage years I considered converting. But I put it off and fell away from any organized religion.

    As our relationship grew, Dave helped inform me in matters of the faith and other things. What he said not only made sense, it spoke to my heart in a way nothing else had.

    That, coupled with interactions with others that made me rethink some of my positions, urged me to meet with the priest at Dave's parish (I had been attending Mass with him regularly). The priest agreed to counsel me and I was received into the Church in May 2005.

    When I converted, I made the commitment to do so with fullness of heart and conviction. No, "I'm Catholic but…I disagree on this teaching", kind of thing.

    After the fact, Dave told me something that illuminated my journey in a way I only understand in hindsight: he said he prayed for me.

    While we debated, dated, and I tried to stubbornly hold on to my views, he prayed for a conversion of my heart and my soul.

    He prayed for me and I realize now that it was his prayers and God that aided me in my journey across the Tiber. To this day it still brings a tear to my eye.

  10. becomewhatyouare

    One of my very favorite quotes is this:

    Prayer does not change God's plans. It brings them about.

    (i just with i could remember who said it! i know which book it's in. now to find the book.)

    It is a great grace that God asks and allows us to be involved in His work in this way. He doesn't need us to do it. He gifts us with the privilege of being a part of what He is doing.

  11. Jenny

    I agree with Laurie…Amen! I have also been upheld by other's prayers and it is truly a blessing bestowed on us in our time of need.

  12. Roxane B. Salonen

    Jennifer, I remember coming to a certain point in my adult life and looking back with a sense of awe that I had survived, and come out fairly whole. My growing up years were especially treacherous to my emotional health and yet somehow, I'd retained a positive attitude and healthy faith life through most of it. It dawned on me at that point why: my mother! That constant, gentle, steadfast prayer warrior. It was her! Her prayers led me here. It was an incredible realization, and I truly believe that the prayers of a mother DO carry us through many situations in our lives that could otherwise be life-threatening, spiritually and physically. So, while you're praising the prayers of others for you, don't forget how your own prayers will benefit your children, not just now but throughout their lives. Even when they seem like mere whispers into the air, they are much more than that. They are POWERFUL! 🙂

  13. Aubrey

    Wonderful post, thank you. I've often wondered about the same things.

  14. Erika

    This is so true: I've never experienced a miraculous healing or major "miracle" in the physical sense from prayers. But–even more miraculous to me!–the prayers of others seem to work a change in my WILL and my HEART. Peace and joy in pain–what a gift!

  15. Anonymous


    I've experienced this a few times. The tangible effect of prayers. Rarely in terms of what I was asking for but in the palpable peace that existed in what seemed excruciating circumstances. The one that comes to mind so clearly was the morning I got the news that my dad was going to lose a leg to artherosclerosis. He had been in the hospital, had a bypass which seemed successful but blood was still not reaching the toes in his left foot. He went through a sort of stent procedure to open up the arteries. At the worst, we were thinking he might lose a few toes. But after that procedure, the surgeon told me he wouldn't make a decision until Friday (this was Tuesday). Wed. morning, my dad called to tell me they were going to amputate.

    I was so distraught that I didn't think I could be there. But I pulled myself together. 3 of my 4 brothers were able to be there and the peace and calm in the room in the hours leading up to the surgery were nothing but the result of prayer. Prayers were answered. God was there with us.

    Thanks for sharing.

  16. Misty

    Jenn, thank you so much for this post. I have struggled with similar questions very much and it has interfered with my prayer life and really every aspect of my spiritual life. You articulate it so beautifully and I have to say "Amen." This will definitely stick with me. Thanks again.

  17. Karen in FL

    What a beautiful story! It sounds like you had no CHOICE but to name her JOY!!!! Prayer makes such a difference, and we seldom appreciate its benefits.

  18. Loretta S.

    Jen – I just recently have begun to understand why I should pray for other people. (Interestingly enough, the insight came DURING prayer…hmmm…) I know that I receive consolation during prayer. I feel more at peace, able to handle the chaos of the house and the need to get everything done perfectly (which I now know I can't – thanks REWP!). So I started to ask God to take the consolation He was going to grace me with and give it to someone else, whoever I was praying for. Then, suddenly, the image of a candle at Holy Saturday Easter Vigil came to mind. Just like when we share our candle light it does not diminish our own but just lights someone else's, so can the consolation of prayer be shared. It does not diminish our own, it simply lights someone else's path. So now I pray more confidently for others' intentions.

  19. This Heavenly Life

    What a wonderful post! I've been thinking alot about prayer lately and (pretty grumpily) wondering why it even matters if God already knows how everything's going to work out. Why should we even pray about the way things happen?

    This post is one amazing reason (of many, I'm sure). Prayer can change the way people live through their circumstances. Maybe the circumstances won't change, but the prayers add a layer of peace and joy as needed.

    I think 🙂

  20. ~ Judy ~

    This is a beautiful post which I thank you for sharing…I am prone to VERRRRRRRY long labors (and am also very high risk)…but with my Benjamin, who is number 10…after having labors of 27+ hours for MOST of my children's births…He (Ben) came in a mere 5-7 hours from start to finish…SUCH grace was SO tangible in the room…MUCH like you describe here…only later did I find out how many many many people were praying during those hours…and one sweet friend who had been watching her own father die, was offering each and every tear drop of mourning for my QUICK and JOYFUL delivery!!!!!
    So…YES…prayer is powerful. I think that your post touches upon what the TRUE purpose of prayer is:
    as you wrote: "to give someone a closer glimpse of GOD".
    Thanks so much for this beautiful story!

  21. KimP

    Jen, thanks for this post. I've recently been going through a spiritual dry spell, (REAL dry, by the way) and as a result of your post, I've been asking people to pray for me. Well, people that I know, anyway. Your post inspired me to ask for spiritual help by prayer. I'm hoping it works.


    To have only one person praying for you is a gift from God!

    Liturgy of the Hours

  23. Lenetta @ Nettacow

    Wow. Wow. Wow. I know I've felt comforted by prayers, and I bring other people's intentions before God in my own, but you really nailed it! I linked to this on my weekly roundup. Thanks, and happy Thanksgiving!!

  24. Ellen

    Gotta read "A Praying Life." I think its by Paul Miller. Hands down, the best book on prayer I've ever seen.


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