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Prayer is a profound and powerful condition that can produce extraordinary results. I’ve witnessed the role prayer played in my father’s physical healing and recovery, and learned about how it gave my colleague, Nasim, the strength and empowerment she needed to take action on her mental health. After I reflected on these inspiring stories, I wondered about the connection between prayer and miracles.
The operation of miracles is not necessarily irrational or illogical. It does by no means constitute a limitation of the Omnipotence of God. The belief in the possibilities of miracles, on the contrary, implies that God’s power is beyond any limitation whatsoever. For it is only logical to believe that the Creator, Who is the sole Author of all the laws operating in the universe, is above them and can, therefore, if He deems it necessary, alter them at His Own Will. We, as humans, cannot possibly attempt to read His Mind, and to fully grasp His Wisdom. Mystery is therefore an inseparable part of true religion, and as such, should be recognized by the believers.
Because Baha’is believe in the harmony of science and religion, we understand that people can be healed in different ways. Abdu’l-Baha, the authorized interpreter of the Baha’i writings and the son of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, explained that some people are healed “through pills, powders, and physicians” and “others through hygiene, fasting, and prayer.”
“I’m very fascinated by how prayer works,” says K.Lynne Loving, a Baha’i living in York County, Virginia. K.Lynne believes in the connection between prayers and miracles after seeing her mother recover from colon cancer in the late 1990s.
“On the one hand, in the culture that we live in, many times it’s really simplified, and we’re told, you ask God for something, and God gives it to you or doesn’t,” she says. “I don’t disagree with that, but I think there’s a lot more to prayer.”
Abdu’l-Baha wrote that Baha’u’llah suffered “calamities and difficulties” so that “heavenly miracles would be wrought among men; that human faith should be strengthened and perfected; that the precious, priceless bestowal of God, the human mind, might be developed to its fullest capacity in the temple of the body; and man become the reflection and likeness of God, even as it hath been revealed in the Bible: ‘We shall create man in Our own image.’”
If humanity is created in the image of the Creator, then what does that say about our potential and capacity to bring about “heavenly miracles” in our own lives?
“When they did the image of the cancer, it was described as massive — larger than a large egg,” K.Lynne recalls. Her parents are both Baha’is, so her mom applied the principle of the harmony of science and religion to her cancer diagnosis. She followed the guidance and treatment recommendations of her doctor, and she prayed for healing. Their entire family prayed, and they asked other people to pray for healing too.
K.Lynne says that there were “people all over the world saying prayers” for her mother’s healing. At the same time, her mother went through a summer of radiation before surgery. During those months, her parent’s prayer habits changed. They started a routine of regularly saying the Long Healing Prayer, one of the most special prayers that Baha’u’llah revealed for healing. One part of it says:
…protect the bearer of this blessed Tablet, and whoso reciteth it, and whoso cometh upon it, and whoso passeth around the house wherein it is. Heal Thou, then, by it every sick, diseased and poor one, from every tribulation and distress, from every loathsome affliction and sorrow, and guide Thou by it whosoever desireth to enter upon the paths of Thy guidance, and the ways of Thy forgiveness and grace.
At the end of the summer, her mother went in for surgery to remove the last bit of cancer, and the surgeon couldn’t find any.
K.Lynne says that when the surgeon talked to her mother after the surgery, he told her, “If you are a person of faith, this is what we would call a miracle.” And now it’s been almost 25 years later, and she’s never had a recurrence.
In 1912 during a talk in Boston, Abdu’l-Baha said that we should reflect on the miracles all around us, such as the “mysteries of nature explored, invisible forces brought into visibility and subjection — a veritable wonder-world of new phenomena and conditions heretofore unknown to man now open to his uses and further investigation.”
K.Lynne believes that prayer produces a powerful force. “I think about the energy of prayer, if you’re looking at it from a scientific perspective, we know that we are always putting out energy as living things,” she says. “And so, to me, it makes sense then that when you’re praying, you’re putting out a very positive healing force into the world…that can certainly aid in healing physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”
In fact, Baha’u’llah wrote, “Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place, and the city, and the heart, and the mountain, and the refuge, and the cave, and the valley, and the land, and the sea, and the island, and the meadow where mention of God hath been made, and His praise glorified.”
Of course, we all know people who have suffered from illnesses and prayed — and had their loved ones pray for them. Sometimes we pray and pray, and the suffering and hardship don’t end.
“I absolutely don’t think that God “favors” or loves those who are healed any more than those who are not, ” K.Lynne says. And she says she often uses a metaphor to understand this concept:
“When a child says to their mother, “I’m hungry, may I have something to eat?”, the mother may know that a meal will be served in an hour or two and thus refuses the request. She is not making the child go hungry, although the child may feel hungry and think his request has been denied. Does she love him more if she gives him the snack? Of course not.”
K.Lynne further explains, “I don’t believe we can comprehend the will of God. We do not understand how the tests we face help us grow spiritually, and in fact how our tests are helping others — perhaps caretakers, family, or friends — to also grow.”
Abdu’l-Baha also wrote, “The prayers which were revealed to ask for healing apply both to physical and spiritual healing. Recite them, then, to heal both the soul and the body. If healing is right for the patient, it will certainly be granted; but for some ailing persons, healing would only be the cause of other ills, and therefore wisdom doth not permit an affirmative answer to the prayer.”
No matter what, K.Lynne says, “As I meditate and pray for people that I love, there is also that healing of my spirit.”