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Charles Lewis: The power of prayer is eternal

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  • March 24, 2021

This is the most profound story I have ever heard about prayer:

A number of years ago I was visiting the Catholic community called Madonna House in Combermere, Ont. It is one of my favourite places on Earth. I learned from a priest there that some years before, before Internet and e-mail, Catherine Doherty, the community’s foundress, had a correspondence with Servant of God Dorothy Day, who started the Catholic Worker homes of hospitality for the poor in New York.

Catherine wrote to Dorothy requesting prayers for some terrible annoyance she was going through. The mail being what it was, it took weeks for the letter to get to Dorothy. By the time Catherine got a response her ailment had healed and it seems it had healed even before Dorothy wrote back. 

The priest who was telling me this said it really did not matter when Dorothy had prayed for Catherine, even if it was many weeks after healing. Since God does not live in time everything occurs at once to Him. And even a prayer that comes even months or years later in our temporal time is eternally before God. In Heaven there is no beginning, middle or end, there is just “now.” And so Dorothy’s prayers helped even if they appeared late.

This story made me understand that prayer is holy in a way I had never imagined. It was not just a kind of immediate wish but also something with the power to reverberate through eternity.

To my mind it made prayer more powerful than I ever realized. So many times we hear someone say, “I’ll pray for you,” but do not stop to think how profound that really is.

A month ago I wrote about my liver cancer returning. By the time you read this I will have had radiation treatment. Then it will be wait and see how effective it was. That may not be known for a few months. I am not looking forward to the uncertainty. Then again, who would?

In that column I said I wanted to make it public so to garner as many prayers and Masses as I could. I have prayed for others for years and I believe it did them some good. So I figured what was good for others was also good for me and I should not let my pride get in the way. Sometimes it is easier to give than receive.

There are prayers and Masses coming out of Rome and Belgium and New York and Virginia and especially in Toronto. I have received Mass cards and letters of encouragement from people I know and strangers.

At night, before I fall asleep, during that quiet time when I am apt to dwell on those things that worry me, I remember the waves of prayers winding their way to me. I am surprised how much comfort this gives me.

When I have asked people to pray for me I ask for courage and acceptance. Recovery would be great but I know that millions upon millions upon millions over the centuries have prayed for the recovery of someone they have loved and their prayers seemed to fall short.

It can be difficult to understand when a loving God lets our friend slip away. It is nearly impossible to understand when it is a child.

What we can understand is the simple fact that everyone dies. By that measure the real blessing is acceptance.

A friend of mine, a priest in Toronto, wrote this to me:

“The pathway to peace begins with acceptance. The wisdom is to distinguish what needs to be resisted from what needs to be accepted. If we resist what needs to be accepted, we simply frustrate the path to interior peace.”

It does not mean giving up. Instead it means put it in God’s hands and allow Him to do His work — whether it is through the skilled hands of a radiologist, the care of a nurse or the love of friends and family.

It means, at least to me, that if we really think God loves us then what happens to us will ultimately be good — even if it hurts like hell right now.

(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Register.)

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