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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.
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.