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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss


Have you ever felt helpless? I know I have, and right at this moment I am again, as I contemplate what, if anything I might do to support a couple that I love and respect –two people I feel privileged to call friends. What occasions this was the knowledge, learned earlier today, that my friend was just diagnosed with a challenging disease.

I am certainly not the first to experience the sense of frustration and sadness that there is no immediate action I can take to help my friend or his loving wife. I have very limited abilities and nothing especially relevant to their situation except hope and prayer—and in the face of a daunting challenge these seem inadequate. This doesn't mean I disregard the power of prayer—far from it. I have had my prayers answered in ways that were nothing short of miraculous so I should be the last person to dismiss prayer as a gesture. But of course, like most people, I have also prayed for things that did not occur as I wished.

I am guessing this is one of the confounding questions Priests and Ministers encounter routinely. Why are some prayers answered and some not? I do not have an answer, but I do want to share my experience. When we pray, we are expressing our hope and sometimes our fears about the future. We know that we are unable to influence the outcome in any other way. That is, we reach out to some higher power for help when we ourselves have exhausted all resources available to us.

We reach out with expectation, sometimes in circumstances where our logical minds tell us that only a miraculous event can prevail. And, at least in my life, that has happened, against incredible odds; something that no human could have engineered does occur. But when those miracles do not manifest, some of us perversely conclude there is no higher power, that it is all a sham conjured out of desperation. We give credit when the outcome is what we desire and blame when it is not.

I do not know what will happen in this instance. Will my friend overcome his illness; will he be spared for a time yet? I have no idea, but I will pray and hope and perhaps he will be spared and live a while yet among us. I pray, but with the expectation that the outcome is beyond my control—my part is to love and support these good people.

Here’s the thing, we all know we will die. Some of us may know a bit more about when, but regardless our lives in this world have a beginning and end. If you believe as I do. that life continues in another form beyond our mortal existence—however we envision that, then the loss of someone we care about is the pain of separation for a time, but not forever. No less hurtful but endurable.

Believe me when I say that I am not trying to put a good face on things. I fear loss too. I feel as helpless as the next person, because I know I have no power to alter the path. But I do not feel hopeless. I know whatever the near term holds it isn’t the last word. I have had a small glimpse, a fleeting moment of seeing and feeling that life beyond life. It was as real as any experience I have ever had, and it convicted me in ways that no logic or reason could.

Whatever your personal beliefs may be, there is yet another reason to pray. Prayer works on us, regardless of the outcome. It focuses our thoughts and our hopes for those we pray. It makes us keenly aware of our own mortality, the fleeting moments we are accorded in this world, and the need to live our lives with intentionality, kindness and love. Sometimes that is the answer to our prayers--maybe not what we hoped for ,but what we needed.

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