The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

We have a limited understanding of our existence in this physical world and perceive time to be linear. So, we act accordingly. But are the effects of prayer confined by space and time — and if God’s power is limitless, then isn’t God’s answer to our prayers limitless as well? We may pray for specific events to occur in the future — or for the patience to cope with certain events in the present. But have you ever prayed for a particular situation that has happened in the past?

Peer-reviewed research published in 2001 in the medical journal BMJ  found that retroactive prayer produces remarkable results.

“researchers found that remote intercessory prayer said for a group of patients is associated with a shorter hospital stay and shorter duration of fever”

Researchers randomly divided nearly 3,400 adult patients who had a bloodstream infection into a control group and an intervention group. Nothing was done for the control group, while, according to the study, “A remote, retroactive intercessory prayer was said for the well-being and full recovery of the intervention group.” Neither the patients, nor the medical staff were aware of this study, and none of the researchers knew any of the patients in that hospital. 

The researchers found that “remote intercessory prayer said for a group of patients is associated with a shorter hospital stay and shorter duration of fever in patients with a bloodstream infection, even when the intervention is performed 4-10 years after the infection.”

This raises the question of what time is then, and how does this relate to our understanding of how the universe functions?

The Baha’i Writings explain that our perception of time will change and expand when we ascend to the next life. Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith said, “Time with us is measured by the sun. When there is no more sunrise, and no more sunset, that kind of time does not exist for man.” (Abdu’l-Baha in London)

So, while we are living in this earthly realm, time may be merely an illusion, which means that the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously.

Professor Max Tegmark is a physicist and cosmologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and serves as the scientific director of the Foundational Questions Institute.

In a 2015 interview for the public television and multimedia program, “Closer to Truth,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist Max Tegmark explained that we could think of our reality in two ways. It’s either a 3-D place where events happen chronologically or a 4-D place “where nothing happens [‘block universe’] — and if it really is the second picture, then change really is an illusion, because there’s nothing that’s changing; it’s all just there — past, present, future.”

“So life is like a movie, and space-time is like the DVD,” said Tegmark. “There’s nothing about the DVD itself that is changing in any way, even though there’s all this drama unfolding in the movie. We have the illusion, at any given moment, that the past already happened, and the future doesn’t yet exist, and that things are changing. But all I’m ever aware of is my brain state right now. The only reason I feel like I have a past is that my brain contains memories.”

Our experience of time is only dictated by our minds, which is what determines our reality. The Baha’i Writings explain the reality of humanity:

The reality of man is his thought, not his material body. The thought force and the animal force are partners. Although man is part of the animal creation, he possesses a power of thought superior to all other created beings.  – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks

We can use this power of thought to connect, pray for each other, and aid in each other’s healing, understanding that our unity with and influence on each other is not bound by space and time. The Baha’i Writings say:

This limitless universe is like the human body, all the members of which are connected and linked with one another with the greatest strength. How much the organs, the members and the parts of the body of man are intermingled and connected for mutual aid and help, and how much they influence one another! In the same way, the parts of this infinite universe have their members and elements connected with one another, and influence one another spiritually and materially. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions

Let’s allow our mind to expand beyond the self-imposed constructs that we’ve placed on it, and see what we can do.

8 Comments

characters remaining
  • Robert Rogers
    Apr 10, 2020
    Thanks for your insights, Radiance! I am still pondering the meaning of writings such as this one, from 'Abdu'l-Baha in 'Tablets of the Divine Plan': "Not only men now living on the earth, but all in the spiritual world as well, are parts of one and the same organism and these two parts are intimately dependent, one on the other. Spiritual communion one with the other, far from being impossible or unnatural, is constant and inevitable." My daughter died from cancer in 2017, and this quote plus your writing illustrate that my daughter's and our grief ...at her leaving behind her 3 young daughters is transformed as our souls commune across many so-called "boundaries", if we are open and loving.
    Read more...
  • Mark Townsend
    Apr 07, 2020
    The Masters Tablet of Visitation is for His life, that is over, in this world.
  • Rosslyn and Steven Osborne
    Apr 07, 2020
    Thank you for this article as I too enjoyed reading it. I am a firm believer in the Holographic Universe theory although I don't fully comprehend it all but I do believe in parallel happenings. We only see, touch and hear what we are taught by tradition. God id bigger than that in my way of thinking.
  • Check Woo Foo
    Apr 07, 2020
    I think the author is over-stretching the analogy between the spiritual and material realms. First, to say that there is no space-time in the spiritual realm is not equivalent to saying that the material realm is 4D. Second, by definition, there cannot be reversal of time when time does not exist in the spiritual realm. Third, the arrow of time is pre-requisite in the material realm and the basis of the law of cause and effect, which is fundamental to all religions. Fourth, the progress of the soul in the spiritual realm is not dependent on the law of cause ...and effect but the Mercy of God. Hence, prayer for the dead is an intercession for the Mercy of God.
    Read more...
  • Mark David Vinzens
    Apr 07, 2020
    Really sweet and beautiful. I sense divine sweetness in your words.
  • Faith Holmes
    Apr 06, 2020
    Thank you so much for this great mind bending story, there is actually a bit of research out there that is addressing this issue and doing scientific research on the effects of prayer, I’m sorry to say I can’t explain it yet, but we do know that time and space does not exist in the worlds of God... neuroscience is delving deep intro this well, I hope someday to be able to have a greater understanding!!! Thank you for bringing me one step closer
  • Apr 06, 2020
    I'm confused Radiance. Don't deny time is not the same in the after-life nor that prayer in that realm can aid us (and visa versa) - or even that prayer in this realm could possibly influence past events (not sure, but open to that), but how would a scientific study determine if prayer after-the-fact has proven efficacy vs. a control group? It seems like something impossible to test.
  • Barbara Talley
    Apr 06, 2020
    Radiance, just wow. I am so happy to see more discussions on the power of prayer and the mind. It reminds us that through focus on higher level thoughts and prayers we traverse the limitations of our physical bodies. You shared one of my favorite quotes which has always filled me with awe, curiosity, and excitement: “Time with us is measured by the sun. When there is no more sunrise, and no more sunset, that kind of time does not exist for man.” While most are familiar with the power of the physical senses, few understand ...our spiritual powers. Imagination is a spiritual power and we use this spiritual power to imagine the worse and create it. Now, your insightful article is guiding us to imagine that prayer has no limitations. WOW!!!!
    Read more...