The importance of prayer
“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamed of in Your Philosophy.” Hamlet.
A month or so ago I received a phone call from a 92-year-old lady. She said, “Father, why can’t you get people to pray more that abortions will stop?” I made what Agatha Christie would term “appropriate noises” on the other end of the phone. She went on to tell me the story of the “Boyd Gang” – of which I had never heard.
She and some others had organized a Rosary Crusade all over Toronto for the conversion of two of the gang – young men in their twenties who were comdemned to death. Both of them repented and made their peace with God, before being hanged at midnight. I think it was in the 1950s. She said, “If prayer could touch the hearts of those two, why couldn’t it touch the hearts of the abortionists?”
Of course she is right. We don’t pray nearly enough for the conversion of those unfortunate people who – perhaps in all sincerity – believe that they are making a contribution to society by killing its most defenceless members. We don’t pray enough for the women and girls who don’t see any other way out of their dilemma than the destruction of the human life within them.
But does prayer work?
Well, the Gospel tells us, “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.” The implication seems to be that if we don’t ask, seek and knock, we shall not receive, find or have the door opened! The Old Testament has many instances which tell of the power of prayer.
The story that appeals to me most is found in the book of Exodus, Chapter 17, Verses 8 to 16. When the Amelekites attacked Israel, Moses, under the inspiration of God, went to the top of a hill and prayed with his arms outstretched. As long as he kept praying the Israelites had the advantage. But, when he tired and allowed his arms to fall, the enemy began to overpower them. The Israelites won in the end. It was not through military prowess but through the power of prayer.
Another striking incident which should teach us something about prayer is the story of Gideon. It is found in Chapter 7 of the Book of Judges. Gideon, with a very small army – drastically diminished on God’s orders – totally defeated the powerful army of the Midianites. In both these cases it is clear that it was trust in God rather than the force of arms that led to victory. The Book of Psalms is a collection of prayers for all situations and all occasions. So the Bible is telling us something about the importance of prayer!
Canada at war
Here in Canada we are fighting a war. It is a civil war, and the victims are our own unborn children. This is not a war of bombs and bullets, but a war of hearts and minds. When man fought hand-to-hand a battle might not last longer than a day. But, the human mind is a far more complex and subtle weapon, and to change the thinking of one single person could take years. Who knows hoe ling it would take to change the hearts and minds of an entire society – generations?
Not a single issue
It is not a question of persuading people that abortion is wrong. The root of abortion lies in the fact that the society in which we live, move, and have our being, is dominated by the philosophy of secular humanism. That is, the philosophy which denies the existence of a power “superior” to man.
Its thinking may be summed up in the expression, “Glory to Man in the highest – for man is the master of all things!” If man is the master of all things, then anything that caters to his well being is lawful and good. But, it is not man as an individual who is glorified, but man as a whole, the “corporate” man, man as society. The individual person as become a cipher, a mere statistic. The merging of huge corporations and the squeezing out of individuals is just another symptom of the thinking of secular humanism.
When the individual, be he of she an unborn baby, a powerless worker, a handicapped person of a “useless eater” (to use Hitler’s term for the old and unfit), gets in the way of the imagined progress of society, the “Final Solution” is easy – just get rid of it! We live in a “throw-away” society. We throw away our paper cups, our milk cartons, our “nearly new” clothes, even our cars. So, if there is no God, only “corporate man,” why stop at unborn babies or handicapped people?
A practical problem
One of our problems is this. People, even those who believe in a Supreme God and His absolute authority over man, are, nevertheless, influenced by what they read in the papers, hear on the radio and see on the television. While they do not accept the theories of secular humanism, in practice, they live by the same values and accept the same conclusions – “if everybody is doing it or saying it, it can’t be wrong!”
It is something like smoking. You may not like it or agree with it, but if you live continuously in a smoke-filled atmosphere your lungs will eventually be affected – at least so the experts tell us.
So, while I believe that picketing and marching and preaching and the letter writing have their place and are important, because they keep the issues before people’s minds, without the power of prayer all these actions are totally inadequate. “If the Lord does not guard the city, they labour in vain who guard it.” And that is why the 24-Hour Vigil last December 10 was so important. It consisted of prayer and sacrifice for the Unborn and these must be the foundation which underpins all other activity.
I have had quite a number of bumper stickers on my car in recent years. But, the most effective I believe is the one I got from Leo Beecher recently. It simply says, “Pray to end abortion.” Why don’t you get one and put it on your car!