Like many good LDS women I have suffered with heavy-duty fertility issues. Not so much fertility as just staying pregnant the entire nine months. If it seems like doctors don’t know much about how to help a women get pregnant, they know even less about how to keep a woman pregnant. But this post isn’t about my reproductive woes. Only to say that by the end of my experience my soul had been scrubbed raw. There are many mentions of “the refiner’s fire” in the scriptures, but not being a jeweler or blacksmith, those metaphors don’t really connect with me. Since my day is filled with dirty dishes and more dirty dishes, I picture my spirit being scrubbed with an unseen S.O.S. pad. By the end of my infertility saga my soul was standing there pale and pink and very sore. But great trials have great lessons if we open our hearts and heads and let the Lord speak to us.
This is what the Lord told me: “I want you to be happy, but I know you better than you know yourself. I know what will make you happy in the long run. “ And I said to Him, “OK, Lord. I trust you. I know you’ll do what’s right for me.”
Isn’t that nice? What a happy ending.
Here is the weird thing that happened, though. I started to wonder, really wonder, about the nature of prayer. There are many facets of prayer and most of them I believe in with all my heart. Obviously I believe in two-way communication between myself and God. The part that has me a bit flummoxed is praying for good things to happen: for someone to be healed; for a husband to get a job; for a healthy baby.
Remember, the conclusion I came to after The Great Baby Trial was that the Lord is mindful of my needs. He will do what’s best. So what’s the point of praying? He’s going to make sure things work out for the best because that’s what He does, right? Let Go and let God, and that sort of thing. We learn in Spirituality 101 that the Lord is boss. He’s the King. Our job is to take His suggestions, not the other way around.
Where does prayer fit in? And fasting too, for that matter. The Bible Dictionary, that unsung hero of the quad combination, has given me a clue: “The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them.”
That makes sense to me. But what if someone is having a problem that many people are praying for? Is there some sort of quota that God has already determined we must meet before he will answer the prayer? For example, a man in my ward has cancer. He prays that he will be healed. His wife prays that he will be healed. Is there some sort of magic number of prayers that must be prayed on this man’s behalf before he will be healed? It’s hard to imagine that our Father in Heaven is thinking, “only three more prayers and then I’ll heal Brother Jones.”
So if there is not a prayer quota, then what is the purpose of many people praying? Does the quantity really make a difference? If the Lord is already mindful of our needs, what will the difference be if more people pray?
My soul tends to think there must be a difference because it seems so right to pray for someone who is in need. Common sense would say the more prayers the better. But why is this? Is it really better? Does it help more? Do more prayers get a better result? If the Stake President gets sick and has the entire Stake fasting and praying, will there be more blessings showered upon him than there would be on an older widow that not many people know or are praying for?
I hope that my prayers make a difference. Maybe my prayers won’t change the will of God, but are only meant to change me. To make me aware of the needs and problems of those around me. To help me be of service in whatever small way I can. To feel a connection to my fellow brothers and sisters as we unite in a common cause.
I just really don’t know. Honestly, I don’t.