What is it About Prayer?

My friend Bruce emailed last week and told me that his partner of 19.5 years has leukemia and is having a bone marrow transplant in a few days. Why is it that my first instinct was to tell him I’d pray for them? My confusion stemming from the fact that I tossed conventional prayer out the window long ago (right along with my Catholicism). So, instead I told him “I’m not the praying type,” but that I’d be holding them both near and dear to my heart in the coming weeks. That’s the absolute truth, but it still doesn’t sound as solid, as comforting, as results-oriented as “I’ll pray for you.”

In his reply, I was reminded of the many people who prayed for me and how grateful I felt for the good energy these folks (many of them strangers) pointed in my direction. He wrote, “it’s been really interesting to see in my circle of friends, near and extended, how many people either say that ‘you may be surprised, but I pray, and I’d like to pray for you.'” Then he told me this story that (with his permission) I’m posting here because I found it really touching. For context’s sake, Bruce and his partner, Stan, live in New York City with Terry, their adopted rescue Greyhound.

A Thai hairdresser who works near here would always stop to admire our dog, saying every time, “Beautiful. Like tiger.” Our dog leaned his head against her a few weeks ago , she looked at his soulful eyes, and said, sort of out of nowhere, “Is he okay? You know, I pray for people healing.” She said she often offers prayers to Buddha for her clients–she sends a donation to the temple in New Jersey she goes to. So I told her a bit about Stan, asked if she would pray for him, wrote his name on a piece of paper and wrapped it in a couple of dollars. (You know, even in cynical New York, this seems reasonable–we’ve seen this woman for well over a year, and she clearly has no interest in hitting people up for money.) so now I’ve got her enlisted too. When I got home, Stan smiled and said, “It can’t hurt.”

My thoughts exactly—it can’t hurt.

Thinking of you Stan and Bruce… And, to all of those who prayed for me, thank you.