This may sound weird coming from someone who isn’t necessarily sold on the “God” concept, but I have nevertheless found a purpose to prayer.
I was in the hospital the other day visiting my mother who is recovering from a knee replacement and I heard what I thought was the beginning of an announcement on the PA that visiting hours were expiring but the voice sounded too serene and slow for that kind of business and the words were describing the setting sun and the rising moon at the end of the day. It took me a moment to realize that this was going to be a call to prayer and sure enough, after the poetic prologue it was indeed a call to prayer. After all the hospital was a Catholic enterprise. The contrast of this calm and soothing voice against the normal noise of buzzing and beeping machines and clinical chatter of nurses and doctors struck me. I began to realize that at some level, it didn’t matter if God is tuning into the prayers there is still the benefit of simply allowing the mind to switch gears, if even for a brief moment, from the chatty shallows of taking care of business that seems to dominate everything including commercialized entertainment to the non-profit depths of inner peace.
For those of us that can’t visualize God scratching His chin and nodding His head as we ask for guidance, or favors, there is another word for this type of gear shifting. It’s called meditation and without the need for a response from a higher being the benefits of meditation have proven to be obvious, many times leading to a sense of clarity that allows people to find for themselves the very things that others ask God to find for them. Listening to the soothing voice of the priest on the PA, I found it difficult to imagine that these prayers don’t have the same benefits.
I have to imagine that many of the answered prayers are in reality a simple result of allowing the mind to shift into a meditative mode, enabling the faithful to figure things out on there own. Of course, God never seems to protest the credits given to Him.