Have you ever prayed for a miracle? And was it answered in the way you had hoped? This week's clergy discuss their own experiences of asking for divine intervention.
The Rev. Lee Hamblen, children's pastor, Island Christian Church, Northport:
Prayer can absolutely move the hand of God to work miracles. The scriptures make some amazing statements about God and the care he has for people who fear him. Psalm 145:18 says, "The Lord is close to all who call on him." God, the creator of the universe, is willing to hear our prayers and rescue us when we're in trouble. If that's the case, why does it seem at times that our prayers bounce off the ceiling? The scriptures are clear that the biggest deterrent to our prayers getting heard is the ways we offend God. The prophet Isaiah stated, "Listen! The Lord's arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It's your sins that have cut you off from God." (Isaiah 59:1-2) Anyone who embraces God's gift of forgiveness through Jesus can rest assured that God hears their prayers. That doesn't necessarily guarantee that God's answer to our prayer will always be, "yes." As a father myself I love to say, "yes," to my children as much as possible. One of the biggest "yeses" God granted me was the night my 10-year-old son was lost in a national forest on a canoe trip that went bad. We prayed for God's protection and mercy through the night as temperatures dipped below freezing. Things looked bleak when the emergency response team switched from "search and rescue" to "search and recovery." We cried out to God for a miracle and were elated when the group was found alive in the morning. Yes, God, indeed, is still in the business of miracles, and prayer is the vehicle that moves the hand of God.
The Rev. Vicky Eastland, pastor, Brookville Reformed Church, Brookville:
I believe it is possible for prayer to work miracles mostly because of personal experience. As long as I have had a conscious understanding of God, I have prayed. Sometimes my prayers are cries from the heart for God to intervene in a situation. The most powerful miracles I have witnessed through prayer are the miracles of physical healing. We often call God the great physician acknowledging that the creator, God, made the universe and therefore has the power to break into the created order of things to perform miracles. The first time I experienced a healing miracle was during college. A friend and I were praying for someone who had hepatitis C. As we laid hands on her and prayed, I felt my hands tingling and getting hot. The next time she had her blood work taken it indicated that her body had completely cleared the disease and there was no scarring or damage to her liver. She had been in critical condition and was nearly in need of a liver transplant. Some will say the power of prayer works miracles because it increases our faith. If we believe something strong enough, it will come to be. I do believe in the power of positive thinking and that it can change lives, but there are some things that just can't be explained as occurring because of a positive attitude. Call me naive, but I truly believe prayer can work miracles because I've seen it firsthand.
Rabbi Glenn Jacob, chaplain, Adelphi University:
Prayer may work miracles but not necessarily the miracles we want. When a loved one is stricken or a crisis overtakes a household, turning to God is a healthy and worthwhile response. Prayer provides us with focus and fortitude when we face circumstances that threaten to overwhelm us. Prayer brings together a community to provide security and support. This reading I hold dear: "Prayer invites God to let his presence suffuse our spirits, to let his will prevail in our lives. Prayer cannot bring water to parched fields, nor mend a broken bridge, nor rebuild a ruined city; but prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart, and rebuild a weakened will." ("Gates of Prayer" prayer book). When I am laid low with an infection, I truly appreciate the prayers and the good wishes for a quick healing. However, I am going to take an antibiotic if warranted. Modern medicine and its curative power is the answer to a million prayers of the afflicted and their loved ones in earlier times. Their prayers for the sanctification of life spurred their generations to create the healing arts. God made this creation and its nature. No matter our fears and wants, nature will have its way. Even so, prayer is powerful. Prayer can bring the worst of enemies together to make peace, and prayer can found a vision for an entire world to embrace. These are miracles we need.